Ran out of gas for the first time

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I knew I was pushing it with the light on. However, I've been getting fairly poor fuel economy with new tires and 0W-40, and I was thinking I'd have barely enough to make it to a particular gas station before getting home. I had choices along the way, but was hoping I didn't have to use any of them. So on the freeway I can sense the hesitation as the fuel delivery is iffy, and it seems like the fuel is momentarily cutting off and then pumping again. I get off where I know I can find a gas station and just hope that I can barely limp in. It's about four miles and it sort of seems like that scene in Top Gun where the low fuel warning is blinking - only it's the engine that's telling me that. The hesitation is getting worse when I'm right at a left turn lane less than 60 ft from a gas station and I'm completely out. [censored]. Maybe I just wait until the police come and maybe push me into the gas station. I turn on my hazards, get out of my car, and politely explain to the guy behind me - sorry I'm out of gas - so he doesn't just angrily honk at me. Strangely enough, one guy gets out of that car and offers to push. I thank him for the offer and initially he gets me about 5 feet before the left-arrow turns red and he just waits while I'm on the brake to keep it from backsliding. We wait a couple of minutes for the next green-arrow and he single-handedly pushes me right to the closest pump. I thank him and want to at least ask his name, but he just walks away and wished me luck. I prepay for the gas (this place has cheaper cash prices), add $20 worth, and my car starts like nothing had happened. So - any thoughts on how bad this was for the engine and fuel system? And how lucky I was that there was someone willing to help.
 
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Not sure if you did any damage- You're certainly not the first person ever to run out of gas, so I wouldn't lose any sleep over it- Be thankful for the help and remember it the next time someone else is in need.
 
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It happens and be glad you got some help and the car started again. What kind of car? With some cars that have fuel pumps that rely on the fuel to cool down the pump motor, running out of gas can shorten it's life as it could overheat it.
 

y_p_w

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Originally Posted By: gregoron
It happens and be glad you got some help and the car started again. What kind of car? With some cars that have fuel pumps that rely on the fuel to cool down the pump motor, running out of gas can shorten it's life as it could overheat it.
2004 Subaru Impreza WRX. I've never run out of gas ever, including times when I really thought I was pushing it. I've gone 60 miles after the low-fuel light went on, although that time I was in the Sierra Nevada and going downhill towards Fresno. I'm getting odd fuel gauge readings now, as if all the markers I'm used to are different. This time it was all freeway and I only made it about 45 miles once the light went on. It did occur to me to at least put in a couple of gallons, but I'm so used to getting at least 55 miles on the freeway when that light goes on. I'm also getting a squealing on startup and sometimes even after it's warm. Originally I thought it might be a loose belt that's slipping, but after thinking about it maybe a bad bearing or tensioner connected to the accessory belt? It tends to squeal and then quiet, then squeal again. I was thinking that as it was getting worse, it could be impacting my fuel economy with a high parasitic loss. Power steering is weak near idle but gets better if the revs are up and better if it's warmed up near idle.
 
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YPW, Your fuel gauge and low fuel light will fluctuate if you drive on hills / inclines. If it does that on level roads, you might have a faulty gauge. I also fill up when my LF light turns on. But, I reset the mile counter to 0. I know my tank has around 2 gallons in reserve so I can do around 50 miles since the car gets around 26 mpg. I never push it over 30 though. I only top up 10 gallons each fill up so I know my mileage when the light turns on again.
 
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<span style="font-family: 'Verdana'">They say the fuel pump can burn up if there's not enough fuel around it to keep it cool.</span>
 
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Some cars feed the tank float reading through a computer to linearize it, especially if the tank is funny shaped. I don't think your impreza has a bladder in the tank (like priusses) for EVAP/smog reasons. Long ramble short, something might have been relearned, and your gauge may in fact be different.
 
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I was towing my travel trailer once and got caught with too little gas and ran into a gas station on fumes. This was with my 1996 Buick Roadmaster Station wagon. I was doing regular UOA's on it at the time. Gas light came on (leaves me with 2-3 gallons), then the check engine light came on (getting 6.5mpg on this tank towing) while about a mile from the gas station on the toll road, then the car started slowing down and was at 15mph pulling off at the exit. It kept going until I got to a pump, but was just creeping. Never really sputtered. UOA had 34ppm of aluminum that time, normally it is in the 6-7 ppm range. Probably was running lean and burned the aluminum pistons a bit. That was around 130k miles on the odo. UOA's went back to normal after that and it still runs great 5 years later with 186k miles on it. Is it hard on your car to run out of gas? Sure, but not necessarily enough you'll ever know.
 
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I just make it a point to fill up when it gets around 1/2 a tank. I never have to worry about running out, and I don't have to hope that I can get somewhere while a low fuel light is on, I don't have to worry about possible damage, and I don't have to rely on someone else to bail me out of a preventable situation.
 
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Originally Posted By: Pop_Rivit
I just make it a point to fill up when it gets around 1/2 a tank. I never have to worry about running out, and I don't have to hope that I can get somewhere while a low fuel light is on, I don't have to worry about possible damage, and I don't have to rely on someone else to bail me out of a preventable situation.
+1!!!!! I thought running out of gas was something only women did. I own several motorcycles with out gas gauges and I've never run any of them out of gas in 30 years of driving/riding.
 
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Everybody is mentioning getting 30 to 60 miles after the Low Fuel light comes on. My truck goes at least a hundred miles after the Low Fuel light comes on. I have never let it run out of gas but I have done the 100 miles/ 160 km. My tank is huge, at 34 US gallon/ 128.7 l and I can go 1000 km plus on one tank.
 
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Originally Posted By: Merkava_4
They say the fuel pump can burn up if there's not enough fuel around it to keep it cool.
This is true. Be especially careful running low on a hot summer day. When the light comes on, put some fuel in. Even if you have to pay a little more because it's an "expensive station", it's cheaper than getting towed or having to replace your fuel pump.
 
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I gas up at 1/2 tank or every Friday. I start to get nervous by the time I get to 1/2 tank, by 1/4 tank I'm about having a panic attack. I have never run either of my vehicles low enough on fuel to see the light.
 
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I often go to the light. Well, sometimes I'll top off before a trip, inspite of being 3/4 or so full. But I drive 100 miles a day normally. Filling at half a tank would mean every 2 days if I commute in the truck! Flip side is, I usually know a day or so in advance and figure out where I want to fill up. I'd say I normally fill up around 1/8th tank or so. I keep hearing about how fuel pumps are cooled by the fuel. That works for short trips I guess. But what about long trips where you drive for hours on end? Whole tank is going to heat up, if it heats up at all. Wild guess says some setups may well have issues with heating. But given how many people run to the fuel, another wild guess says it's not an issue. I wonder if one can get a fuel cooler if worried. My Jetta has one (factory, but it's a diesel, they have odd things like that). My vintage Jetta is known for flakey lift pumps. Made it to 255k despite driven to the fuel light. I had it replaced and plan to continue my driving habits. My wife though will wait for the light to come on... and then wait a few days... Toyota's seem to leave rather generous amounts in the tank at E. I'm kinda glad she doesn't drive my VW, as hitting E means "time for Exercise".
 
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I've only run out once, and that was when the float stuck at 1/4 in the Neon... Now we always set a trip meter when we fill up so we can track mileage or we also know when its time to fill up even if the gauge fails again. I'll run it to the light to get to the cheap station on my commute, but mostly I try to buy early in the week, to avoid the weekend gouging...
 
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