Why You Shouldn’t Drive with the Low Fuel Light On

Ever noticed you were low on gas but decided you had enough to make it home…..to work, to the gym, and every other place around town? Some of you might wear it as a badge of honor to know the exact mileage left when your gas light turns on.

For others, this can be a very stressful situation, especially when either funds are tight, or your trusted gas station is nowhere near you.

Trust me, you are not alone when it comes to this excitement or stress. This is a very common phenomenon for many people but below are 5 reasons this may not be the best idea.

1. Your fuel gauge is a fibber!

Yes, I said it. Your fuel gauge isn’t the honest Abe you thought it might be. The fuel gauge, in most cars, is simply a float within your gas tank. This float is constantly moving and does not always give accurate readings.

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Now, don’t go yelling at your car calling it a liar just yet! In most cases, the fuel gauge is fairly accurate, but you should never fully trust it to be 100 percent exact. Sometimes, you might actually have more gas than the gauge tells you but that is no reason to drive with your gas light on.

Continue reading below to learn more.

2. Your Fuel Pump is a Cuddler

Your fuel pump, which is the part of the system that delivers fuel to your engine, likes to be swaddled. Swaddled in gasoline!


Your fuel pump contains an electric motor and, just like any other motor, gets hot when being used (which in the fuel pumps case is often). Many cars only have one fuel pump which has to pump the fuel from the rear of your vehicle (where your gas tank is located) to the engine. This requires a ton of constant energy considering the majority of us have fairly heavy feet.

When your tank is full, the fuel is not only used to keep your engine running but is also used to keep the fuel pump cool. When driving with the fuel light on you force the pump to work all alone without the comfort of its dear friend, gasoline.

When this happens, the pump can get angry, overheat, and fail overtime. You are then looking at a much bigger problem. Below are the average costs to replace a fuel pump for some common vehicles.

Fuel Pump Cost

Source: https://www.buyautoparts.com/howto/how-much-does-a-fuel-pump-cost.htm

3. Air in the Line

Another possible issue you might face is air in the fuel line. In the “rare” case you were wrong and actually ran out of gas, attempting to start the engine without fuel forces the pump to push air into the line. This is why it is never good to continue trying to start your car if you have run out of gas. Air in the fuel line prevents fuel from reaching the engine.

If you manage to get air in your line, you must then get a mechanic to bleed or purge your fuel system. In other words, you are going nowhere soon.

For my diesel friends out there, the damage can be catastrophic if you end up pumping air instead of fuel. Without fuel you risk damaging many of your internal engine components since they rely heavily on the diesel to stay lubricated and function properly. This repair can costs thousands.

4. Dirt in the Line

I am sure many of you know what happens when you share a drink and you get to the bottom of the bottle. I won’t go any further (if you are not sure what I am talking about google “backwash”).

Similarly, your gas tank begins to collect contaminants and grime overtime. This grime settles in the bottom of the tank. When you decide to drive with your fuel light on your fuel pump is forced to use the dirtier fuel. The grime and contaminants make your pump work harder because of the higher density of the fuel. As mentioned before, this can cause your fuel pump to wear prematurely.

This grime can also prematurely fill your fuel filter causing dirt and grime to make it to your fuel injectors. When your fuel injectors collect grime, they become clogged and no longer function properly (click here to read about the effects of dirty fuel injectors).


The main reason you should not drive with your gas light on is because you might actually run out of gas. I think I need to say that one more time, YOU MIGHT ACTUALLY RUN OUT OF GAS!

LandscapeRunning out of gas might seem like a big inconvenience but it can also be extremely dangerous. The fact that you never really know when your car is on its last drop, you always run the risk of running out of gas in very dangerous places such as the middle of the interstate, a blind turn, or, even worse, right in front of a tornado (ok maybe not the last one).

One of the biggest risks is the fact that some cars will not deploy the airbags when the car turns off putting yourself and your passengers in grave danger.


Based on the five reasons above, I hope I have convinced you that it is not a good idea to drive with the fuel light on. This light was designed to let you know when it is time to get fuel and should be handled in that manner.

I know it can be difficult to make it to the pump sometimes; but, if you have the opportunity to get gas, you should definitely take it. Some quick suggestions to keep your fuel light off:

  1. Keep your tank filled to at least a quarter of a tank
  2. Note where the different gas stations are before you get on the road
  3. Make sure to fill up before you go on a long road trip
  4. Use your smartphone or GPS to find the nearest gas station when beginning to run low
  5. If gas stations are limited where you are traveling, keep a small gas can with you

If you have any questions or comments, drop them below or send us a message here. We’d love to hear from you. And remember – knowledge is the key to a fair repair.


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