What actually occurs when you exhaust your fuel supply while driving?

Title: Running Out of Gas While Driving: What Happens and How to Handle It


Running out of gas while driving can be a stressful and inconvenient situation. This article will explore the consequences of running out of gas, the potential damage it can cause to your car, and the best steps to take when faced with this predicament. We will also discuss the importance of preventive measures in avoiding such situations.

Section 1: What Happens When You Run Out of Gas

When a vehicle runs out of gas, it does not come to an immediate stop. However, there are warning signs that the fuel is running low, such as engine coughing, spluttering, intermittent power surges, and even engine backfiring. If your car depends on power assist for steering and brakes, these systems will shut off when the engine stops, making it more difficult to maneuver your vehicle.

Section 2: Potential Car Damage from Running Out of Gas

Running out of gas can have detrimental effects on your car. Even being extremely low on fuel is not ideal, as the fuel pump can suck up debris and sludge from the bottom of the tank. This can lead to clogged fuel filters, damaged fuel pumps, or clogged fuel injectors. Additionally, the fuel pump requires fuel for lubrication and cooling, meaning a complete lack of fuel can result in pump damage. Debris from a damaged pump can also contaminate the fuel system, while air may be drawn into the fuel lines.

Diesel cars are particularly vulnerable to running dry, as their high-pressure direct injection systems cannot tolerate air in the system. This could necessitate priming the entire system and pose a risk of damaging the diesel injection pump and fuel injectors.

Section 3: What to Do If You Run Out of Gas

In the event that you run out of gas while driving, there are several steps you can take to handle the situation effectively:

1. Admit Defeat and Stop Early: If you notice the fuel gauge dropping and anticipate running out of gas soon, it is best to pull over in a safe location before the tank is completely empty. This reduces the risk of damaging your car and increases the chances of starting the engine again once fuel is added.

2. Safety First: When coming to a stop, ensure that you choose a safe location away from traffic. Activate your hazard lights to alert other drivers that your vehicle is immobilized.

3. Seek Assistance: Check if you are a member of a car club or roadside assistance provider who can come to your aid. If you are not a member, some roadside services may still assist you, but inquire about the associated costs beforehand. Additionally, call the nearest gas station to inquire about their charges for a rescue service.

4. Consider Walking to the Nearest Gas Station: If you are within a reasonable distance of a gas station, you may choose to walk there and purchase a jerry can. Fill the can with gasoline and transport it back to your vehicle.

5. Potential Damage: It is important to note that if you have already damaged the fuel pump, clogged the fuel injectors, or introduced air into the system, adding gas may not immediately solve the problem. In such cases, it may be necessary to have your car towed to a mechanic.


Running out of gas while driving can be a frustrating experience. Understanding the consequences and potential damage it can cause to your vehicle is crucial. By being proactive, ensuring regular fuel refills, and having a plan for emergencies, you can avoid the inconvenience and potential damage associated with running out of gas on the road.