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How Far Can You Go After the Gas Light Comes On?

We've all played the miles until empty game – that nerve-wracking journey that begins when the needle kisses E, the gas light flickers to life, and you find yourself pondering whether you'll make it to the next fill-up.

Driving on E can induce stress; no one wants to be left stranded without a gas station in sight. But fear not, because 90 percent of the time, you'll likely reach the next fuel pump with miles to spare, even if your gas gauge boldly declares "empty."

It’s Not Actually Empty

First and foremost, the E indicator on your gas gauge doesn't scream, "You're out of fuel!" In the realm of modern cars (built in the past 25 years), E signifies tapping into your car's fuel reserves. It's a gentle nudge that you've nearly hit rock bottom, with a limited driving range left. Despite the initial panic, that gas light serves as a helpful reminder more than a dire warning.

How Many Miles Do You Have Left?

The burning question post-gas light illumination is, "How many miles until empty before my engine calls it quits?" While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, as different automakers trigger the light with varying amounts of gas left, a general rule hovers between 30 and 50 miles. Aim for the lower end of the spectrum and seek a gas station within a 30-mile radius when E makes its grand entrance.

For those with vehicles boasting a multi-function dashboard, you might have a more precise estimate of your driving range on empty. The fuel gauge may look grim, but the calculated distance to empty (sometimes labeled DTE) is likely more accurate. Just keep in mind that the onboard computer relies on the remaining fuel and your recent driving habits for its calculations.

If you find yourself running low on fuel, consider adjusting your driving habits to maximize every drop. Smooth, steady acceleration and sticking to the speed limit can conserve fuel and potentially extend your journey.

Don’t Make it a Habit

Now that the gas light isn't the ominous signal it initially appears to be, the temptation might arise to use it as a regular reminder to refuel. While it may seem convenient, it's not the best practice. Over time, deposits and debris can accumulate in your gas tank due to heat, occasional low-quality fuel, or corrosion from moisture. This residue settles at the tank's bottom, risking the fuel pump sucking in unwanted elements. Regularly running on E poses a potential threat to your engine's efficiency, performance, and longevity.

To safeguard your vehicle, make refueling a regular habit, and strive to keep your tank above an eighth full. It's a simple practice that can go a long way in preserving the health and longevity of your cherished ride.

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Revised from content contributed by NAPA Service Assistant