Hooniverse Asks- How Far Can Your Daily Driver Run on E? (Pump Week)

gasgauge

As we’re celebrating Pump Week and all things gas station fill-ups, today’s question pertains to what lengths you are able to go to in avoiding them. Specifically, what I want to know is how far can your daily driver go with the gas gauge on E before the car will sputter and die. For some this knowledge is the result of  a game, for others it’s from a mission to wring every last mile out of a tankful.

Knowing that so many risk-takers exist a lot of car makers fudge the gas gauge, still giving you range when pegging the needle past that last cross bar on the E. For some, this deception is frustrating, as they seek accuracy and truthiness out of their dials, not approximation. It’s that sense of unknown that perhaps compels drivers to push their cars to the limit and fuel tanks to Death Valley levels of dryness.

Of course you know it’s not good for your car for you to do so, the low fuel level potentially concentrating tank debris around the intake. It also can leave you stranded which, unless you are going out on a date and had that planned all along, isn’t any fun at all. Still, we all do it. And after a while we get good at reading our cars’ beyond just the gauges, but by actual feel and experience. Today I want you to share a bit of that experience, and let us know how far your car or truck will go after the gas gauge has tapped the E.  

Image: fyidriving

51 Comments

  1. Car: 1997 Altima+Auto trans+ 232k miles…… Usually around 50 or so miles till I get wary enough to fill it up. Any less than 400 on a tank is a letdown.

    1. Lol I also did this with same car as you and same miles. Only I manage to get 345 on my tank and being on E for a good 5 or so miles never risked it again because I didn't know if light ever came on. (This was in 2006)

      1. My light worked for a LONG time. One day it just stopped working despite changing the bulb out. I drive a ton of miles on the highway so my mileage is pretty decent.

  2. My recently acquired Bonneville GXP's gas guage never gets below 1/4 tank. Sure, the gas in the tank gets below a quarter of a tank, but the guage never reflects that. I guess it's a known issue with the motors behind the dash. My '81 Scirocco S will seemingly run 20 miles after reaching the dreaded E, which probably means that there is around a one gallon discrepancy.

  3. I've done some rough math on my Focus (2007, 5-door, stick, 2.0, ~72,000 miles).
    Fuel tank is appox. 15 gallons. Fuel light comes on when needle hits E. Filled up just after light came on. Filled up the tank with 11 gallons. That means I have 4 gallons left when the light came on. Using that math, (the car gets about 30 mpg), I have…
    about 100 miles left in the tank when the car hits E.

  4. I try not to get that low considering that fuel is what cools the fuel pump. Changing fuel pumps isn't fun, even with the "access panel" method.

    1. Me Also – well aware that the fuel in the tank cools the fuel pump in my Cherokee, so try not to let it get below 1/4 or 3/8 of a tank.

  5. My first 244 and my 745 would go below the E line. My 855 had a low-fuel warning light, at which point I had two gallons if I was lucky. My last 244, however, was bone dry at the bottom of the line. Only time I've ever run out of petrol.
    As for the new car, we'll see eventually. Hopefully not today.

    1. Oh wow, I regularly stretched my 855 another 50, sometimes 80 or so miles after that light came on, the manual saying the reserve was only 2.6gal seemed conservative, I never ran out of fuel with it. Even when I felt I should have died miles ago and the trip computer had read '0 until empty' for so long I wondered if it was malfunctioning, or the car was running on literal fumes in the lines, but it always made it without a hiccup. Great car.

      1. I could've sworn the manual said two gallons, but I'm almost certainly misremembering; I didn't have the car long. I always treated it like it had 40 or 50 miles to give, since I averaged 26ish with it.

  6. If running on E was a sporting event, my dad could go pro. You just have to expect to hit a gas station when driving one of his cars.
    My '97 F150 can do about 60 miles on E, but that is going from lead-foot until E to feather throttle and coasting on E. The way gas prices fluctuate around these parts, some times you just want to bide your time.

  7. My Ramcharger has a 35-gallon tank. If I fill it at E, I can generally pump 25-27 gallons into it (unless the pump shuts me off sooner for crossing the $100 threshold). I did once pull into a station as it was sputtering from a scarcity of go-juice, and it took about 32 gallons to top off.
    I'm good for an easy 50+ miles below the last mark.

  8. On the Caddy, with the notoriously unreliable digital gauge, I fill up as soon as I have one bar left and the "low" light comes on. I fried one fuel pump, and over a grand later (it fried the harness too, which – surprise! – is discontinued and impossible to find) I'm not taking any chances.
    Of interest though is the pseudo-wife's 2001 Civic. In trying to figure out her fuel economy issues, it turns out that the needle drops to E and the low fuel light comes on when there's still roughly a quarter to a fifth of a tank left. Honda really doesn't want people to run dry, I guess. She can usually get another 50-75 clicks out of the car (city commuting with a heavy foot) before she caves and fills up.

  9. My 96 Nissan Primera has at least 10 litres left in the "red area", no less than 1/6 of capacity. That should make for 120 km, and I have driven 80 of them. I usually drive after kilometres, with a 60 litre tank I'd want to refill between 600-750km driven. Since fuel is cheapest monday mornings I might sometimes refill after just 400 km driven.
    Average fuel consumption, CO2-emission and total fuel costs do I keep track of at Spritmonitor.de

  10. I don’t actually know the answer to the question. When the low fuel warning pops up on the screen, it shows an estimated range of 40-45 miles, but I’ve never driven it down to a range of zero to see how accurate that was.
    I did once drive a 2010 Ford Fusion (company car) for about 3 miles with the range reading zero. I don’t know how far it could have gone before sputtering to a halt, but I was at a gas station, and I wasn’t going to try to make it to the next one.

  11. My Blazer's gauge sweeps too much in both directions. It has a 32 gallon tank, when it shows full there's actually enough space for another 7-8 gallons (close to 100 miles of range). The most gas I've ever put in the tank was about 40 miles after hitting empty. I put 27 gallons in. So I still had 5 gallons sitting in there, so I've got about 100 miles of range after it hits empty.
    The gauge in the Spirit just plain stops working once you get below 1/4 tank. It just drops to the bottom of the sweep and sits there. Once it's at that point I know I need to fill up soon.
    My wife's Jeep makes me mad. The other day, the gas light came on. I don't usually run it that low, but she'd been driving it all week and we took it out Sunday morning and I didn't think to check the gas level. We drove it for another 30 miles or so before filling it up. It has a 19 gallon tank. I put14 gallons in. It gets around 16 mpg, so I burned two gallons after the gas light first came on. That means for a 19 gallon tank, the gas light comes on with 7 gallons left, well over 1/3 of the tank. It's also indicating 1/8 of a tank at this point. I don't like my gauges lying to me, and as new as this is, I'm sure it was designed to.

  12. I can get from work to the 7-11 by my house on E making it about 30 miles.
    That's as far as I'll take it. A few hundred $$$ for a new fuel pump isn't worth being lazy and putting off filling up.
    Now my dad will fill up if he notices the gauge tip below half tank. Before heading on a trip, he will top off the tank even if it's just 1/8 low. I realize I'm slowly turning into my dad but I don't see myself getting worked up on half a tank.

    1. I make it a point to fill up at a quarter tank. If I'm going for a long trip, though, I always fill up before getting going, even if I'm only adding 1/8 of a tank. I don't really know why, I just like to start long trips with a full tank.

  13. I don't like to buy gas unless there is reasonable concern that you may not make it to the next station. My worst performance was in a Taurus X when I sputtered to a stop after only 35 miles from "0 miles to Empty" on the computer. My current Edge will usually go about 75 miles. and still take a quart or two shy of the 18 gallons the tank holds.
    I don't have a lot going on in my life.

  14. When the light comes on in my E30, I know I can do about 20KM more if I keep it under 3K RPM. I really need to keep my foot in check because 3K as that's when the cam comes on and I get all my torque… and then I just want to make glorious noise. I've never actually ran it to the point of stuttering and dying though so I'm not 100% certain how accurate it actually is. Actually for the longest time I was certain the low fuel light didn't even work.
    My old Riviera though. When that low fuel light came on it meant you were screwed and should call a tow truck. Maybe if you were lucky you could make it to a gas station.

  15. I used to own a Ford Tempo AWD. The fuel gauge didn't work, so I relied on the trip meter, which worked fine until my brother borrowed the car. And reset my trip meter without filling it up. I ran out of gas twice in that stupid car.
    Now I get scared and fill up before the low fuel light comes on.

  16. My Silverado has a strange issue that I need to get checked out. When I fill it up the gauge only goes to 3/4 to 7/8 full until the next day, then it shows full. I try not to let it get below 1/8 tank and never go more than 20 miles after the light come on at close to E.
    The last time I ran out of gas was with the Z3 from hell. The gas gauge had quit working (Big surprise a BMW with electrical problems.), so I just used the trip meter and filled up at 200-225 miles. It was sitting at about 210 miles when a guy showed to to test drive it. We ran out of gas about 2 miles from my house. He bought the car anyway.

  17. I've driven my Chrysler minivan 25 miles after the DTE (Distance To Empty) calculation hits zero. Haven't had to guts to try for more.
    My 96 Chevy Silverado, though. . . when it hits E, it means E. I made it into a gas station once on momentum alone, having run outta gas a half mile away.

    1. I did not do the half mile coast, but about a block, twice. The first time I coasted to the pump, ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE CAR. I was sitting there all happy with myself too before it dawned on me. I did not make that mistake the second time 😉
      Also, I can go something like -3/16 tank on my current car, that's the second one it happened with, before I figured out it never goes down to E before it's really empty.

  18. Ive been told that my 98 s-70 has a 7.7 liter reserve when the light first comes on. I tend to believe it because I can get about 70 km untill it runs dry. luckily its all downhill to the station here in town and I can coast down to it. As I have had to do on one occasion.

  19. My 9-2x fuel light comes on when the gauge needle hits the red zone. It's a little over 35 miles of remaining distance, by my calculations.
    Our other car, a Honda Pilot, has an incredibly sensitive needle. The fuel light will come on when the needle hits the red zone, but the needle will continue to fluctuate for the next 75 miles (especially going up and down hills). It will frequently fall below the E, but rise as much as 1/8 tank. I have put as much as 20.5 gallons in it, and it is apparently a 20.4 gallon tank.

  20. Fun fact: There are no gas stations open after 11 p.m. between Dafoe and Yorkton on Highway 16.
    I discovered this fact when I left Wynyard at about 11 with a quarter tank. "Huh, the gas station is closed," I said. "There is surely one open in Foam Lake!"
    There was not.
    By the time I got to Yorkton the low fuel light had been on for at least 30 kms.

  21. 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, Manual, 38k miles.
    It has a digital fuel gauge which I am certain is crazy inaccurate, but when it gets low enough to pop up the big yellow triangle warning icon and the fuel pump icon starts flashing incessantly, I fill up. The range estimator goes from 30 to "—" when low, and I've chanced maybe 20 miles. I'm not adventurous, sue me!

  22. It's pretty easy to figure out. Just bring a gas can with a couple gallons in it and drive.

    1. 2003 Saturn Ion, 94.6 km after the alarm goes off, that's as far as I've tried it so far!

  23. My fuel light comes on when there are about two gallons left in the tank. I've never pushed it past about an estimated twenty miles to empty.

  24. The guy that sold me the truck explained the consequences of running the truck out of fuel were that the in-tank fuel pump would lose the cooling effect of the gasoline and almost immediately burn out. Resulting in a costly tow and repair bill.
    Consequently, I don't run below 1/4 tank. (As I said yesterday, I really would rather not run below 1/2.)

  25. According to the manual, my 2005 Mazda3 has a 14.5 gallon tank. I routinely drive until the needle is 1/16" below E and I've never put in more than 13 gallons. Another 1.5 gallons would take me about 40-45 miles plus the distance I drove in that last 1/16" of travel. I'd say 75-80 miles past E easily.

  26. Anywhere from 3 miles to somewhere over 30. I swear the car delays the warning light if it's cranky with me…

  27. I drive a 2000 Plymouth Voyager base (2.4L Chrysler EDZ, 3 speed torqueflyte automatic.) Has a 22 gallon tank.
    When the gas gauge is on E, the tank is Empty. Reserve light comes on when there's about a gallon left in the tank, which is roughly 25 miles if I draft every truck I see, while going downhill, with a heavy tail wind.

  28. I ran out of gas for the first time since I was 17 last weekend. I usually get about 400 miles out of a tank around town. We had gone to Vermont to get our son from school. I filled it before we left to get him. My husband drove and the light came on on the return trip. We were 20 miles north of Boston when the light came on in heavy traffic. We put gas in about 20 miles south of Boston. He only put 10 dollars in because it was right off the highway and pricey.. About 3 gallons. Instead of filling up when we got home (just another 10 miles), we went back out to dinner, get the dog from the sitter, etc. In the morning, I headed to the gas station and didn't make it. 571 miles since the last fill. My husband brought a 5 gallon tank and I went two miles to the gas station and filled it. It still took close to 29 gallons for a 31 gallon tank.

  29. I don't remember, but I can tell you how far a 77 El Camino will coast from 25MPH on a level road when it runs out of gas, thanks to its cheap college driver.
    About 20 yards.

  30. My car is calibrated to have a four gallon reserve when the gauge is at empty (4 gallons is pretty common with Fords). That works out to about 100 miles of interstate travel. I could drive to Lincoln from Omaha and back if I had to.

  31. 2002 Chrysler Neon – My gauge has an 1/8th inch wide red zone, followed by a final white line. The warning light will come on as soon as the needle points to red, but the car will continue for another 30-40 miles before the needle's past the last line and on the 'park' pin. At this point, I can still travel 20-30 miles. Then the fuel light begins to flash constantly. The manual says there are 20km (13miles) worth of fuel left at this point. Well I tested it till I chickened out once. I went about 22 miles till I found a station. Never coughed or sputtered. I wouldn't be surprised to get 100 hwy miles from when it first hit the red zone.

    1. My previous car was a 2000 Dodge (therefore, Daimler, therefore, Chrysler) Neon, and once during college I got the flashing "WOAH BUDDY BETTER PUT SOME GAS IN" light. I passed three gas stations as I went through town on the way to my regular, typically cheaper station. The total trip was maybe four miles. I didn't make it. Ran out of gas right in the shared center lane, maybe twenty yards from the station. Sadly, the station was on an incline and no amount of pushing would help. So I had to go to the local Walmart, thankfully located just behind the station, find a gallon gas can, purchase that and the requisite gas, and walk into the middle of the road where my thirsty, hazard light-ed Neon was. There was no walk of shame I've ever performed before or since that was quite as harmful to my pride. A line of about seven cars had formed behind mine, and let me tell you those people were less than enthused about our shared situation.
      I was a little scared when the fuel pump didn't immediately deliver enough fuel to get the engine to turn over, but after another attempt all was well. It's the kind of mistake I intend to never perform again now that I have my Evo.

  32. During normal commute and and driving around town I fill up when the gauge is at half. I spent a lot of years driving around on E, and asking for gas cans ect. I don't have the resources to drive a new car, or a big hp behemoth but my tanks topped off when ever I feel like it. Non ethanol 10 cents extra but I don't care cause I'm baulin in my sohc focus.

  33. I've known how far I have before I'm walking for every vehicle I've owned.
    In fact, for the 1991 Honda ST1100 dedicated long-distance rally bike, I tweaked the float and the low fuel light to reflect both accurate readings, from the gauge, and when the light came on, I had 1/4 of a gallon left. About 15-17 miles in ultra-conservative riding mode. 45 MPH, max, if that's safe. 32 MPH if there's not anything in sight might get you 20-22 miles…maybe.
    Said bike had an auxiliary tank on it, adding three gallons to the 7.4 gallon OEM tank.
    Regardless, I managed to run it dry not once, but twice. Yeah, I know…
    The W124 and W126 had the MOST linear and accurate fuel gauges. Low fuel light means you have about 2.3 gallons left before you're walkin'.
    Every GM I've had…if the gauge isn't moving and pegged at 'full', you have between 5/8 and a full tank.
    Moving between 1/8 and 7/8, you have between 1/8 and 5/8.
    On 'E' and not moving…you'd better be looking for fuel.
    The 2005 RWD STS I have even has a DTE and a low-fuel warning message which pops up at a calculated 50 miles left.
    Regardless, I've run it dry one time. 50 miles, in that case, equaled about 24. Thanks, GM. I was taking it easy, too.
    Now that I've had it a few years, I can get an easy 350 from the 17.5 gallon tank, and I semi-routinely put between 17 and 18 into it.
    FWIW, pumps have been designed to somehow not rely solely on fuel to cool them for a while. I've never cooked an electric fuel pump, and I've always owned relatively high-mileage vehicle and run from F to E.
    Sometimes just E to the first mark, depending on how much spare change I could find.
    Another quickie. Death Valley was mentioned… A few years back, my wife and I bailed off I-15 around Baker because it was closed SB due to a tractor-trailer flip & fire, and went through Death Valley.
    We were about halfway through when the low fuel light came on.
    I don't drive her RX300 all that often, and didn't know how far I had before hoofing it, so I backed off to 50 MPH, kept the A/C on, though, 'cause it was like 115F out there.
    Turns out, I had plenty left 'cause Toyota made the tanks on the later models about 2.5 gallons larger, but they didn't adjust the sensors. Still had 1.5 gallons when we came out the other side.
    Thankfully, with the ISB-powered 40' motorcoach, I have a program which reads injector pulses. I've put 88 gallons in the 90 gallon tank, and wasn't worried one bit. The fuel gauge on it was obviously designed by a group of drunk GM engineers.

  34. With the way gas prices go up in minutes…but take weeks to go down, I have taken to topping off my tank anytime that I see gas as cheap as or cheaper than the last time I bought it. I also have to laugh at people who have ADVANCE notice of a weather related catastrophe coming, but ignore the warnings, and then besiege gas stations to fill up empty tanks in order to get out of town!!!
    Having said that, I tend to get VERY anxious on the rare occasion that my low fuel light comes on!!!

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