Empty gas tank


#1

My darling husband has this thing about running the car down to fumes before he’ll put gas in it.

I’m talking light on, almost stalling kind of fumes.

Other than the sticker shock of filling the tank from dead empty, is this a bad thing?

2009 Nissan Versa.


#2

Yes. The fuel in the tank helps cool the fuel pump. Tell him to stop or start saving for a premature fuel pump replacement.

Then, of course, there is the danger aspect. I don’t want to be around when it does finally run out of gas - just as he’s riding down the highway at 70MPH with a semi bearing down on his bumper.

And then there’s the - what’s the point? Its just dumb. There are only downsides.


#3

Thank you. I keep telling him “I’ll drive while you push the car, dear. &/or I’ll sit in the car while YOU walk to get gas.”

Oh & he knows exactly, down to the nano mile how far he can drive when the light comes on.


#4

This can be potentially harmful to the car, and even more harmful to the operator. If the car actually runs out of gas, you obviously won’t be going anywhere and will either have to grab a gas can out of the trunk, walk to the nearest gas station, and deliver fuel to the car, or call someone for help. If friends or family are not available, you will need to call a wrecker to either tow your car to a gas station or deliver fuel to you at a grossly inflated price. My brother used to perform road service for semi trucks, and said they charged no less than $150 (usually more since the $150 job was less than half a mile away from the service station) to deliver 15 gallons of diesel fuel to a rig that ran out of fuel, and towing companies will probably be priced similarly. Mechanically speaking, fuel starvation (i.e: running on fumes, literally) will force the engine to run very lean, causing preignition (pinging) which could damage pistons and combustion chambers over time, and damage the catalytic converter(s). There is also speculation that chronically running the tank below a quarter tank could cause the fuel pump to overheat since the gasoline acts as a coolant for the pump, leading to premature failure of the pump, but it is a topic of debate amongst mechanics and has not been proven or disproven. I would suggest keeping more gas in the tank for peace of mind and to avoid being stranded over something perfectly preventable.


#5

Good points. Not worried about running out of fuel at 70 MPH as another poster said.

We live in the middle of nowhere in upstate NY. I make sure he has his cell phone with him.

The thought of him being out there in -20 degree weather waiting for someone to bring gas for the car scares me.


#6

Running out of gas is harmful to your fuel pump.
Running low on gas shouldn’t hurt anything.


#7

I hope neither of you ever needs a trip to the emergency room when the car is running on fumes and a stop at a gas station is needed in order to get there.


#8

“Running low on gas shouldn’t hurt anything.”

Running low can cause damage, allowing the pump to over heat, getting gunk from the bottom of the tank mixed with the new fuel and possibly clogging the fuel filter etc.

Getting fuel a little more often will not cost a penny.

It is foolish to knowingly run low.


#9

Hi Joseph:
I’d like to respectfully ask these two questions:

Doesn’t a pump’s cooling and lubrication come primarily from fuel flowing through it? (Far more than any cooling benefit from being submerged?)

The pump’s pickup screen is stationary, near the bottom of the tank. How does a low fuel level allow it to pickup gunk that it wouldn’t otherwise pickup?


#10

Oh & he knows exactly, down to the nano mile how far he can drive when the light comes on.

Until something goes wrong and it starts using more gas than he’s used to. . .


#11

I think lots of cooling comes from being immersed. The flow rate is pretty low, but the volume of gas in the tank is huge by comparison. Regardless, running a tank low is exactly the wrong thing to do. There are many car problems that start out “I ran out of gas, but now that I filled it up the car won’t start (or runs poorly).”

Even if he doesn’t kill the pump and doesn’t run out of gas, he’s increasing his chances that he’ll get stuck without access to a gas station. This just happened to me on Tuesday. Driving up the the freeway after a long trip, figure I had enough gas to get to the station near my house. What I didn’t know was that a semi flipped over 2 miles in front of me, shutting down the freeway. It took an extra hour to get out of that mess, with the gas gauge dropping uncomfortably low. And shutting off the car wasn’t an option, it was 112F at the time!

So he’s skating on thin ice, at some point he’ll fall in…


#12

I agree with all the reasons why it’s foolish to drive with a low tank of gas.

What I’m having trouble with is telling the OP that her husband is doing damage to the vehicle if the fuel pump never gulps air (ie runs out of gas).


#13

I’d like to respectfully ask these two questions: You have been very respectful.

Doesn’t a pump’s cooling and lubrication come primarily from fuel flowing through it? (Far more than any cooling benefit from being submerged?): Good question. I have never thought about that.

The pump’s pickup screen is stationary, near the bottom of the tank. How does a low fuel level allow it to pickup gunk that it wouldn’t otherwise pickup?: When a tank is low the fuel can slosh around and mix gunk from the bottom of the tank up to the pick up.


#14

I agree that 10 gallon of fuel will keep a fuel pump cooler than 3 gallons. But I think the difference would be a small amount. Most fuel pumps that I have removed in the last 15 years are inside a module/reservoir. The returned fuel from the pressure regulator keeps the reservoir full. I haven’t seen any gunk in the tanks, I don’t work on Studebakers.


#15

When a tank is low the fuel can slosh around and mix gunk from the bottom
of the tank up to the pick up.

OK, but if that is true, how would it be different than the gunk that will be sloshing around the pickup screen when the tank is more full? Is the point that, with a low tank, the concentration of gunk would be greater such that it will now plug the pickup?

My belief is the pickup screen is always subject to the tank’s debris sloshing around it. The concentration of the debris may be higher when low on fuel, but that increased concentration shouldn’t trigger a problem that wasn’t happening before.

I’m open to new data that would change my opinion.


#16

Imagine being REAR-ENDED while you are stalled but properly parked ON THE SHOULDER.
Should never happen, but does.

Imagine headwind or rain causing moresistance to forward progress, and you run out of fuel when otherwise you would have made it to the gas station.

Fuel supposedly cools the fuel pump. Keep it immersed and cooled.


#17

I see the situation a bit differently–as a non-automotive issue.

If–as I assume–the OP’s husband is of at least average intelligence, non-psychotic, and blessed with normal hearing, then he is obviously aware of the multiple, reasonable requests that his wife is making (or perhaps, pleading) and he is choosing to ignore/defy her.

In essence–I believe that this stand-off may represent one or more issues:

The first possibility is a “control issue”.
(You can tell me what is logical, reasonable, and correct, but you can’t MAKE me do it.)

Secondly, he may be one of those people who enjoys constantly “living on the edge”.
An innate desire for risk-taking is related to addictive behaviors in many cases.


#18

And if you just barely have the pickup screen submerged in the gas and you park on a hill the screen may suddenly be unsubmerged.


#19

THANK YOU VDCdriver! I do believe you hit it on the head!

He’s been going through cancer treatments.

He can’t control that, but he can control the darm gas tank.


#20

Thank you all! After I told him about your [fantastic] responses, he talked to…

The “GUYS AT WORK” & the “GUYS AT WORK” agreed with you (eye roll)!

We filled the tank today & it was only 1/2 empty!

The guy at our favorite gas station was AMAZED!

WHAT? You only put $25 worth of gas in the car? Are you only 1/2 filling your tank now?

Yes, we are now filling the tank when it only 1/2 empty.

He said: This is a good thing. It is not good to run the tank that low. It is a nice car & it would be a shame if it broke down.

Thanks again folks.

If nothing else, you got him to talk to the “GUYS AT WORK”. :):):):)!!!

I’m thinking that maybe our gas mileage will go up.

Not that 39 mpg is bad…I’ll keep you posted

cncop