It’s happened to all of us. Maybe you’re stuck in traffic on the freeway or perhaps you’re running late for an appointment when your car’s low-fuel light appears.

You can likely continue to drive after the fuel light comes on, but what does this signal really mean for you and the health of your vehicle?

How far can you really go?  

According to this infographic by Pick Analysis, some popular car models can travel for 30 to 50 miles after the gas light goes on. The average Chevrolet Silverado will continue for 33 miles beyond “empty.” Volkswagen Jettas average more than 43 miles, and the Toyota Corolla tops the list at 47 miles.

Knowing how far you can drive with low fuel may be reassuring, but the effects on your car can be damaging. When your car runs on empty, dirt and contaminates are more likely to become suspended in the fuel and block its filter. When gas is extremely low, the fuel pump is no longer suspended in liquid and can overheat. In some cases, low fuel can even affect power steering and brakes. While this damage is not likely to occur if you drive with the low gas light on once or twice, you shouldn’t make it a habit. For more information on the implications of running your car on low fuel, read this article by Royal Automotive Club.

What about the distance until empty gauge?

Many modern cars come equipped with a distance until empty gauge. This instrument provides an estimate on how far you can go until you run out of gas. While it may be tempting to use this as the rule of thumb rather than relying on the low fuel light, you may want to rethink this approach. Your gauge is merely an estimate based on your average mileage and fuel efficiency at that particular time. However, if variables change, and you suddenly find yourself stuck in traffic or accelerating more frequently, you could be stranded.

Next time you start running low, it’s best not to push your luck. A recommended best practice is to keep your tank no less than ¼ full. Stopping to fill up before your gas gauge hits “E” could save you stress, damage to your car and time spent on the side of the road. With more than 1,450 Cenex® retail locations nationwide, there’s sure to be a Cenex when you need it. You’ll have plenty of fueling options on your next trip if you use our online Cenex locations finder to map out stores nearest you.

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