More drivers run out of gas than you may think. However, this fact doesn’t make running out of gas less frustrating. Without gas, you won’t be able to reach your destination, further frustrating you. Whether you’re near a gas station or not, there are certain steps you need to take to ensure your safety.

What Happens When Your Car Runs Out of Gas?

When your vehicle runs out of gas, you will lose control of the steering and braking. Soon after this occurs, your vehicle will stall because you don’t have enough fuel in your vehicle to power the engine.

Once your vehicle has no gas, it will abruptly stop, and the fuel gauge on your dashboard will be at the E or below it. If you run out of gas while driving, pull over to the shoulder of the road and turn on your hazard lights. Verify your current location and request help from a roadside assistance service.

You may want to avoid walking to the nearest gas station, especially if you run out of gas at night. Traveling on the side of the road on foot is dangerous, especially if you’re on a busy highway. Stay in your vehicle and wait for help to arrive.

Once your car runs out of gas, avoid attempting to start your engine. Continuously restarting your engine when there’s no gas in your vehicle can damage your car’s fuel system. Experts also suggest not using your phone to avoid possibly creating a spark that can ignite due to gasoline fumes in the air. If you can, use a roadside assistance app instead of placing a phone call.

What To Do If You Run Out of Gas

If you run out of gas, you can take the following steps:

  • Pull over to the shoulder of the road and ensure your hazard lights are on. Make sure you are not obstructing the flow of traffic and that your vehicle is entirely on the side of the road, especially if it is dark outside.
  • Verify your location by using your phone’s GPS. It’s likely most roadside assistance apps will ask for access to your location to pinpoint where you are.
  • Use a credit card to pay for gas at a nearby station. Although this is not advised, if you don’t have a phone or the phone’s battery is dead, you probably don’t have another way to call for help, so this may be your only option.
  • Call friends and family for help. If you don’t have roadside assistance on your auto insurance policy or use a roadside assistance service through a company, such as AAA, you’ll have to rely on friends and family to come and help.
  • If you have the money, you can call a rideshare company to get you to your destination safely, or to and from the gas station, so you can be on your way.

How to Tell If Your Car Is Low On Fuel

Although this may be a no-brainer, these facts are still good to know. Depending on the make, model, and year of your vehicle, you may not have a low-fuel indicator on your vehicle, making it easier to forget to stop and get gas. If your vehicle is low on gas, you may experience the following:

  • Stalling engine
  • The check engine light illuminating on the dashboard
  • Unresponsive throttle
  • Difficulty starting the car
  • Misfires
  • Lack of power
  • Low performance
  • Poor throttle response
  • Engine shutdown

You can check the car’s manual to determine how much the car’s gas tank holds. Also, keep an eye on the odometer to determine the number of miles you’ve traveled. You can also use a liquid dipstick.

Things to Keep In Mind When Your Vehicle Runs Out of Gas

When your vehicle runs out of gas, you may have more than one problem on your hands!

Fuel Pump Damage

The fuel pump’s job is to ensure your vehicle goes when you press the accelerator by pumping gas to the engine. Your car’s fuel pump relies on gas to remain cool and well-lubricated. This pump can get overworked and become overheated when you run out of gas. To ensure your fuel pump lasts as long as your car’s manufacturer intends, try not to allow your gas tank to go below ¼ full.

Clogged Fuel Injectors

The impurities and airborne debris can create sediment at the bottom of your car’s gas tank. When this sediment collects, it can clog your fuel injectors. The fuel injectors are the small nozzles that spray gas into the car’s engine. The job of your car’s fuel filter is to filter out debris.

It may be difficult to determine that your car has a damaged fuel injector or fuel pump because the symptoms may not be immediately evident. However, if you run out of gas, and the car won’t continuously run after you replace the fuel, the culprit may be the fuel injector or fuel pump.

One step you can take to correct this issue is to refill your gas tank and turn the key in the “on” position, which means you’ll turn your car on WITHOUT cranking the engine. Then, turn the key back into the “off” position to prime the fuel pump. Priming the fuel pump is necessary to remove air that may have been trapped in the fuel lines due to running out of gas. Perform this step a few times to see if you can get your car going again.

However, if priming the fuel pump doesn’t work, you may want to consider having a fuel system inspection and cleaning performed. A qualified mechanic can clean the clogged fuel injectors and restore power to your car’s engine.

Be advised that if the injectors are left clogged for an extended period, there’s a chance you may have to replace them. Most modern fuel injectors are designed to operate for at least 100,000 miles.

Stalling Vehicle

When your vehicle has been depleted from all the gas in its tank, your car will almost immediately shut down as if you turned the car off. In this situation, you need to remain calm but cautious. Vehicle shutdowns are dangerous because they can cause you to become distracted, which can result in reckless driving.

Difficulty Steering and Braking

Although your brakes won’t necessarily stop working when your vehicle runs out of gas, the brake pedal will feel heavier and it will be harder to push down. Your vehicle’s brakes are power-assisted. They use hydraulics to transfer power from the brake pedal to the brake pads. However, when the car’s engine shuts off, this feature does too. Without the help of hydraulics, you’re going to have a hard time stopping your vehicle.

When your car has run out of gas, something similar will happen to your steering wheel. Your steering wheel will remain functional if your engine dies, but you won’t have power steering, so you’ll be using a lot of elbow grease and both hands to get your vehicle to go in a specific direction.

Diesel-Operated vehicles

Have a diesel-operated vehicle? If so, the fuel system must be bled for the engine to restart. Diesel engines have two fuel pumps. One pump is the low-pressure lift pump and the other is the high-pressure injector pump. The low-pressure pump takes fuel from the tank and takes it to the high-pressure injector pump. If the low-pressure pump pushes air to the high-pressure injector pump, you’ll have an air-locked system, which will prevent fuel from traveling to the injectors.

How to Bleed a Fuel System

If you need to bleed the fuel system, begin this process by opening the bleed screw that’s located on top of the fuel filter. You can run the fuel pump with the key or by cranking until the fuel comes from the screw. When this happens, close the bleed screw.

Now you’ll want to back off the fittings on the lines that are connected to the fuel injectors. Next, crank the engine until fuel comes out of each injector. Once this happens, tighten the fittings down again.

If you have one, pull a decompression valve. Pulling this valve will save the battery power during this process and make the engine easier to start.

How to Avoid Running Out of Gas

Avoiding running out of gas seems pretty obvious, but you can never be too safe or prepared. Life happens to everyone. The best way to avoid running out of gas is by keeping gas in your car. However, some drivers are not too keen on this idea, and for good reason. Gas is flammable and if it’s stored in your car, the results of an explosion or other mishaps can be the devastating result.

Whether you’re going on a short or long trip, it’s a good idea to map the gas station locations that are on your route. The rule of thumb in this situation is to not let gas get below ¼ of a tank full. Fill up your car before or after work or before running errands.

That’s it! You now know what to do if you run out of gas and have a few steps you can take to prevent your vehicle from running out of gas. Drive safely!