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Ask Car Talk Column - running tank to empty

In Sundays column, a writer was concerned about running their tanks empty because of debris in their tanks. You answered that ok, but in my opinion, you could have taken the opportunity to add that running your tank empty is not a good idea on newer vehicles because you could burn out the fuel pump that rely’s on the fuel for lubrication of its bearings. Or am I misinformed?

Nope, that is right. Fuel is the lubricant and coolant of the pump. The pump’s life can be shortened by running the tank very low.

And I remember a few folks over the years that had trouble starting their cars after running out of gas. Something to be avoided, to me.

Two things to remember with newer cars; 1) fill up as soon as the dash light shows a gasoline pump or other icon sign, and 2) when filling, STOP AT TH FIRST CLICK. This avoids gasoline getting into the vapor recovery system, which can cost a lot to repair.

Even before Tom’s passing, Tom and Ray didn’t read this forum, so I wouldn’t expect Ray to read this or respond.

You’re not misinformed about the issue, and Tom and Ray have stated repeatedly on their show over the years that running out of fuel is bad for the fuel pump on a lot of cars because the fuel pump is inside the fuel tank and uses the fuel as lubricant. They’ve also stated this in their columns many times over the years, so I don’t think any loyal readers are going to miss out on this important message because it was not mentioned in this column.