How Far Can You Drive on Reserve?

It is always a good idea to fill your vehicle’s fuel tank before it gets close to empty. However, many motorists wait until they have about a quarter tank of fuel or less before they drive to a petrol station. Sometimes they’ll even wait for their fuel light to activate on their dashboard before going to a petrol station – That is even riskier.

The fuel light is a warning light indicating you have a low amount of fuel in your petrol tank. The low-fuel warning light symbol usually looks like a fuel pump image or something similar. It is supposed to warn the driver to fill up their tank with more fuel before running out completely.

After all, you wouldn’t want to get stranded on the side of the road for the simple mistake of not filling your tank up with fuel. Then you’ll have to go through the trouble of walking to a petrol station to get a can of petrol or paying an emergency roadside service provider to assist you. Of course, some people may not have the ability to get fuel if they’re short on funds or driving in a desolate location. That is why you should plan your trip by ensuring you have enough fuel to last until you can get to a petrol station again. Don’t assume your petrol tank has enough fuel reserve to make it to a fuel station after the fuel light illuminates on your dashboard.

Each model vehicle is programmed to activate the low-fuel warning light differently. For instance, some vehicles are equipped with fuel-level sensors that illuminate the warning light after the fuel level reaches a certain point in the tank. So perhaps it’ll activate when you have 10% or 5% fuel left in the tank. Check the owner’s manual to see if it tells you when the low-fuel warning light will turn on in your vehicle.


Don’t Waste Time Unnecessarily

Even if the owner’s manual tells you when the warning light turns on, don’t leave it to chance because fuel sensors often malfunction and miscalculate how much fuel is in the tank.

Watch the fuel gauge closely because it is more reliable than the fuel sensors. By the time the needle gets to the one-quarter mark, you should prepare to find a fuel station before it gets any lower. Although fuel gauges are pretty reliable, they are not 100% reliable when your tank is nearly empty. There is no telling how much longer you’ll be able to drive.

Every vehicle will give you a different amount of driving time after the low-fuel warning light turns on. For instance, the Mazda 3 could let you drive up to 80 kilometres after its warning light activates. But if you’re driving something like the Holden Captiva, you’ll be lucky to go another 40 kilometres after the light turns on.

It is easy to say to go to a petrol station early to avoid the low-fuel warning light altogether. But since some people live on the edge, they need to know how many kilometres they can drive after their vehicle’s low-fuel warning light comes on. If you are this type of person, research your vehicle model to find out how many kilometres it has left on reserve after the warning light is on.

The Risks of Driving with the Low-Fuel Light Activated

Not knowing the actual “distance to empty” is only one of the worries after the low-fuel light activates on your dashboard. There are also things you should be concerned about regarding your fuel pump and engine.

For instance, a typical fuel pump will overheat if it doesn’t have a steady flow of fuel to pump into the internal combustion engine. You might be surprised to learn that petrol gasoline cools the fuel pump as it continues to function for the engine. But if there is low fuel in the engine, the fuel pump will heat up too much because there isn’t enough fuel flow to cool it down. An overheated fuel pump is susceptible to suffering irreparable damage, so you’ll be forced to replace it with a new one.

Another concern of driving with a low-fuel light activated is for people with a diesel-powered engine. For example, if your vehicle runs low on diesel fuel in the tank, it will cause more air to enter the fuel system. When too much air is in the fuel system, an air bubble will form and obstruct the ability for fuel to be injected into the fuel cylinders. If fuel cannot enter the fuel cylinders, you won’t be able to start your diesel engine.

The good news is that it won’t necessarily destroy your diesel engine. However, the bad news is that you’ll need to bleed out the air bubble and prime the fuel system to restore it to its original condition. This process is timely and costly, not to mention the towing costs you’ll incur getting the vehicle to the auto shop for repair.

Follow the Quarter Tank Rule

The best advice is to keep your fuel level above a quarter tank all the time. Then you won’t need to worry about judging the distance to empty after the low-fuel warning light activates. Why put yourself through this stress when you can easily go to a petrol station before you reach the one-quarter mark on the fuel gauge?

And if you’re living on a tight budget, you should consider charging the fuel expense to your credit card to avoid a low-fuel level. After all, a petrol bill is much cheaper than a tow and repair bills. You could easily pay off a petrol bill after receiving your next paycheck because the expense won’t be more than $60 to $120, depending on the type of car you drive. But if you incur towing and repair bills, you could have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Preventative measures are the best way to avoid costly and stressful situations with your vehicle. Add fuel to your tank before the one-quarter mark and keep up with the maintenance responsibilities for your car. As a result, you can drive with peace of mind if you keep in mind all of these things.