jerry can with fuel

What to do if you run out of fuel

29th Sep, 2021

Running out of fuel may not be one of the most common road incidents, but it does happen. Each year, thousands of motorists are left stranded at the side of the road, and the recent fuel crisis has led to a huge spike in incidents, according to the RAC. So if it’s happened to you, you’re certainly not alone! Now, admittedly it’s not great for your vehicle in the first instance, but there’s no need to jump straight to – I need to scrap my car. Let’s go through it right from the beginning.

Firstly, how do you know if your car is running out of fuel?

The main giveaway that your car is running on empty is that you’ll start to hear your car spluttering, which is what’s called a misfire. Misfires occur when some of the cylinders aren’t getting enough fuel to burn sufficiently, which is an important sign that the engine will soon stop altogether. That means now’s a good time to either find somewhere to refuel or navigate your car to the side of the road, or hard shoulder if there is one.

My car has stopped, now what?

As you come to a stop, putting your hazard lights on is the main thing to do first, so that other cars know you are a hazard to be aware of and that they should keep their distance. Don’t be tempted to hover too closely to your vehicle once it’s stopped – instead, stand to the side of your car, away from moving vehicles, and put a high-visibility jacket on if you have one. The next step is to get in touch with your roadside assistance provider, who will then be able to sort your car out and get to your destination safely.

car hazard lights

What damage does this do?

When your engine runs out of fuel completely, it will start to take in air along with the last dregs of fuel, which could stop the engine from restarting as the fuel pump becomes too hot. Furthermore, the fuel left at the very bottom of the tank could contain sediment, which can damage the fuel lines, maybe even damage the engine itself. While this is normally only seen in older cars, it’s something to be mindful of regardless of the age of your vehicle.

Diesel vs petrol cars

When a diesel engine runs out of fuel, and draws in air instead, both the fuel pump and fuel injectors can get damaged, as the diesel lubricates their moving components. You may also need to bleed the system to get rid of the air before you fill it again, likely with the help of a mechanic or car specialist. A petrol engine, on the other hand, works by using a mixture of petrol and air, so running out of fuel isn’t as bad as with a diesel engine. In some cases, you can probably get away with topping up with more petrol before continuing your journey as normal.

When you’re at the side of the road, the main thing is to keep safety in mind at all times – and when it comes down to it, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your roadside assistance provider. If you’re worried about the issue happening again in future, it’s a good idea to keep a jerry can of fuel in the car, so that at least you can put in enough to get yourself limping to the nearest petrol station.

Of course, for some particularly old cars, the strain of running out of fuel might eventually be too much. But if that happens, rest assured that’s where we can help here at Scrap Car Network. Once you’re ready to scrap your car, all you need to do is enter your car reg and postcode into the fields on our site, and we’ll get you an instant online quote before you can say cash for cars. It only takes a few seconds. Curious to find out how much your car is worth?

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