The late Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, “I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.” While that may be an exaggeration, it brings up an interesting question — how low will you let your fuel needle swing before filling up?
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This edition of Autopian Asks was inspired by David Tracy’s recent tempting of fate, eventually filling the 20-gallon tank of a 2005 Toyota Sienna with 19.5 gallons of gas. Given the all-wheel-drive Sienna’s EPA combined fuel economy figure of 18 mpg, the fuel in the bottom of the tank may have given him a range of nine miles. That’s not much of a margin.
My general rule is to never let the fuel needle swing below a quarter tank, primarily because fuel pump replacement sucks and so long as you keep the pump cooled by fuel, the lifespan of the part should theoretically be prolonged. Given how reliable most modern low-pressure fuel pumps are, keeping a quarter-tank on hand feels a bit superstitious, but I’ve yet to experience any adverse effects of having plenty of fuel remaining.
However, I do have two notable exceptions. If I need to do any work that requires fuel tank removal, I’m running that thing pretty much dry. Draining fuel sucks, and the less to drain, the better. In addition, if I’ve been storing a car with a full tank of stabilized fuel, I let that first tank of the season run down to about an eighth of a tank before filling with fresh stuff, just to get the old but hopefully still good stuff out of the system.
So, how low do you let your gas gauge needle go? Are you one of those people who argues with the range remaining readout once it hits zero, do you take a perhaps overly cautious approach, or are you somewhere in between? Whatever the case, I’d love to know.
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