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What Does Driving on an Empty Tank Do to Your Car?

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The fuel indicator light signaling that you are beyond “E,” will induce panic. It’s stressful to wonder whether you will or will not make it to the nearest gas station before your car completely gives out. But driving on an empty gas tank is not only harmful to your health; it can do some serious damage to your car, specifically your fuel pump.


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“Your car’s fuel pump sends gasoline from the tank to the engine. It’s a crucial component in getting your car running, but it has a tendency to fail and leave you stuck on the side of the highway—especially if you like to run your car low on gas,” reports, David Tracy, Jalopnik.com writer.

According to Tracy, the strainer, electric motor, and fuel filter are the most afflicted components of the fuel pump when you drive on empty. Tracy explains that since fuel cools the copper windings of an electric motor, when you deprive your tank of gas, you’re forcing the windings to be cooled by air.

“Since flowing gases tend to have lower convective heat transfer coefficients than liquids, they aren’t able to remove heat from the windings as effectively, meaning the fuel pump electric motor can overheat, melt its windings and ultimately croak,” reports Tracy. “On top of that, fuel acts as a lubricant for the pump, so running air through the system could cause premature wear of rotating parts.”


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Older metal gas tanks are even more susceptible to damage because the sediment that fills the bottom of the tank can adversely impact the strainer or  fuel filter in the fuel pump and, once the sediment poisons the fuel filter, “sufficient fuel will no longer get to the engine, and your car won’t run,” Tracy explains.

To prevent damage to your car and avoid costly repairs, make sure your fuel tank is sufficiently filled at all times.

News Source: Jalopnik