What Do I Do If I Run Out of Gas?

You just noticed the low fuel light out of the corner of your eye, and realize you don’t know how long it’s been on. Your car slows to a crawl, no matter how hard you push on the gas pedal. You’ve just run out of gas – now what?

Running out of gas can be stressful, especially if it happens in an area where refueling could be difficult. In some cases, running out of gas can be dangerous, particularly if you’re in a crime-ridden area or you’re on the side of a busy highway. Running dangerously low on gas also has other inherent risks – for example, you’ll lose your power steering, which will make maneuvering your car to the side of the road more difficult. Controlling your vehicle will take extra effort, and reducing your risk of injury will require following some basic safety practices.

Take the following steps when you run out of gas:

  1. Pull over to the side of the road. You might be running dangerously low on gas when you notice the smell of burning fumes or steering becomes more difficult. If you notice these symptoms, pull over as far to the side of the road as you can, as soon as possible.
  2. Turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers to your presence.
  3. Call a family member or friend who may be able to bring you a gallon of gas.
  4. Remain in your vehicle.
  5. Call your roadside assistance program, if you have one.
  6. If no one is available to help, find the nearest gas station with your smart phone. Exit your vehicle carefully, being mindful of oncoming traffic.
  7. If you’re in a remote or dangerous area, call the local authorities for assistance.
  8. Do not accept rides from strangers. If you feel uncertain about a good Samaritan who stops to check on you, tell them that help is already on the way.
  9. Be mindful of your cell phone’s battery life. It can be tempting to surf the internet while waiting for help to arrive, but preserve your battery in case you need it. Use your phone only when absolutely necessary.
  10. If it’s safe to do so, walk to the nearest gas station. Do not walk in snowy, rainy, or icy weather.

Preventing an Empty Tank

Obviously, the best approach is to avoid running out of gas in the first place. Reduce your risk of an empty tank by observing some basic rules:

  • Don’t wait for the low fuel light to turn on – always fill your tank when it reaches a quarter full.
  • Don’t always trust your gas gauge. In some cases, you’ll burn gas much faster, like if you’re traveling through a hilly countryside or running the air conditioning full blast. In these cases, stop and fill up more frequently.
  • If you’re planning a long trip, plan on topping off your tank more frequently, especially if you’re driving through the countryside. If you pass a gas station and your tank is at a quarter, stop and fill up. You have no way of knowing how far the next fill station is.
  • On long trips, keep a government-approved sealed container of gas in your trunk in case of emergency.
  • Even if the weather is bad, don’t put off filling up your tank. It might be inconvenient, but running out is even more so.
  • Consider setting an alert on your phone to remind you to fill up.

Running out of gas is preventable by following some basic practices – but should you find yourself in that position, exercise caution and keep yourself safe.