How Much Gas Should You Keep In the Tank?

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The best thing about owning a car is the freedom to take a drive and decompress — to take a short break from work, stress, and family life. I get in my car, put on my sunglasses and crank up the music of youth. There is nothing more relaxing to me than taking a short leisurely drive with no set destination. To feel free.

Now, I can’t even have that. If you’re a car driver, you know that your car communicates with you by making expected or unusual sounds, noises, and motions. I understand how well my car is functioning by the sounds it makes whenever I start the ignition, execute a turn or brake. But now, my relaxing drives are being interrupted by ominous and startling noises coming from my car.

My car’s engine would surge, begin sputtering, or completely turn off during various times of function. I took it to my mechanic and learned that my fuel pump needed replacing. Irregular fuel pump resistance was the cause of the surging. When my engine sputters, its because the fuel pump is struggling to supply fuel to the engine at average pressure levels.

Loss of power is a sign that the fuel pump is slowly beginning to fail completely. This isn’t welcome news for me. The average cost to replace a fuel pump is almost $500, though it can also be as high as $1,000. The worst part of all this bad news is learning that it was all my fault. I am the reason that I needed a new fuel pump.

I was in the bad habit of waiting until my gas tank was bone dry before refueling. In my mind, it cuts down on refueling often. How many times have you taken a road trip and waited for the fuel gauge meter to go to the left of, “E,” to refuel? Well, it turns out that this is the worst and most catastrophic thing you can do to your car and its fuel pump.

The fuel pump ferries gasoline from your gas tank to the engine at optimal pressure. As it functions, your fuel tank heats up. A fuel pump is designed to be submerged in gas as it functions. Fuel acts as a coolant which keeps the fuel pump from overheating. Submersion in fuel also helps the fuel pump to regulate its operational pressure as well.

In other words, the weight of fuel acting against a submerged fuel pump helps it to ferry fuel efficiently and at optimal pressure. Gasoline contains sediment and impurities that sit at the bottom of the gas tank. Such impurities are caught in fuel filters when the gas tank is full. But if you drive on fumes, the impurities and sediment at the bottom of the gas tank get into the fuel pump and can damage it.

Also, if you drive around on a nearly empty fuel tank, condensation can occur inside of it. This can dilute the fuel, which can rust out your engine.

Always keep your gas tank at least a quarter of the way full. This will keep it running efficiently, protect your fuel pump, and extend the overall life of your vehicle. Get out of the habit of driving on fumes. Or, get into the habit of paying your local mechanic regularly.

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