Things every driver should know before pulling into a gas station

We all know why it is prudent to keep our vehicles filled with enough gas. Personally, I usually try to keep about a half-a-tank.  Sometimes, I get down to a quarter-a-tank, but I never like to go much lower than that.  After all, who can predict when you will be stuck in traffic?  I am sure that everyone has been in this predicament at one time or another.  The last thing you want to happen is to run out of fuel!  Then, who would be responsible for holding up traffic?

One reason why experts warn drivers to not let the gas drop below the quarter-tank mark is that the gas in the tank helps keep the fuel pump cool. Keeping the tank empty can burn out the pump.  An electric motor, if exposed to air and if there is not much fuel for that coolant effect, can cause the motor to overheat. Some carmakers have recently improved fuel pumps to where they can better withstand empty tanks, but there are more issues to consider.

Condensation can get inside the gas tank if we are always leaving more air in there.  As I mentioned before, you never know when you will be stuck in a traffic jam.  Your commute might take twice as long as you were planning on. Do not get stuck on the freeway without enough gas to get off.  Just fill it up all the way and you’ll be good to go!

You could also be burning money if you are not buying the right gas for your car. A recent AAA study found Americans waste $2.1 billion annually buying higher octane premium gas their car does not need.

“AAA ran a test,” explained AAA spokeswoman Rolayne Fairclough. “They put cars up on a treadmill and tested for emissions, fuel efficiency, and horsepower – all those things. And it found higher octane fuel in a car that only called for regular gasoline had no benefit at all. So, what you’re doing is just wasting money.”

Conversely, pumping regular gas into a car that needs premium fuel for a high-performance engine can cause problems as well.  Putting too low of an octane in an engine, could cause the fuel to ignite before the spark plug ignites it, resulting in a pinging sound that can be pretty harmful.  If you are not sure if you should gas up with regular, mid-grade or premium it is best to refer to your owner’s manual.   

For drivers who just cannot bear to leave the pump a few cents short of an even dollar, you may want to reconsider topping off. That extra fuel can build up enough pressure in the tank to push gasoline into a car’s vapor collection system meant only for vapor.  If there is liquid in there, it is not going to like that. It can cause the emission control system that controls the vapor canister to detect a malfunction and you will get a check engine light.  

And my last tip…have you ever gone to get gas, only to realize you are not quite sure what side that fuel door is on? Here is an easy fix. Look at your fuel gauge. You will see an arrow next to the gas pump icon. It actually points to the side where you will find the fill door.