Have you ever been stuck in a traffic jam only to realise it was all because of a car, or as is the case nowadays, a number of cars, breaking down? Apologies for asking such a rhetorical question, because, of course, you have. And in fact, some of us unfortunate souls have even been on the driver’s seat of a broken-down vehicle.
Here’s where I’m going with this – every year, millions of cars break down because of something as basic as lack of fuel. Women are much smarter in this matter though. Call them over-cautious if you will, but it’s a fact that men have been more optimistic when it comes to the fuel tank, thus bearing the brunt of a broken down car.
So what are the risks? What do you do if you find yourself in a situation where there’s no petrol pump in sight? What are the best ways to conserve those last drops so that you’re not stranded?
1. First things first, fuel gauges are NOT PRECISE INSTRUMENTS.
Even in the most advanced cars, the level in the fuel tank is measured by a float. Something very similar to the plastic ball we find floating in the flush of our pots. The height of this float is then transmitted to the gauge, either electronically or via metallic strips and coils. This also explains how, sometimes, the amount of fuel in your car varies depending on the kind of terrain you’re driving on, or on whether you’re going uphill, or downhill.
2. Different cars have different burn out points.
Of course, the distance your BMW can travel after the warning light comes on, will be a lot more than the distance your Maruti Swift can.
3. Not taking your car to a petrol station immediately after the warning light can cost you more than you think.
I’ve seen people do this a lot. They’ll much rather wait to cross the state, just so they can save on that Rs.2 difference. Fair enough. But do remember that exactly that can end up costing you a lot more later.
Exhausting your petrol can damage your car, and in turn your wallet, pretty badly. It’s a lot worse for diesel engines where the bills can run into tens of thousands. Great news for the service center, but not for you. The seals, pumps and injectors in a diesel engine can be damaged by the engine drawing just on air, rather than a rich, oily mix of diesel and lubricant. You may just get away with it, but you’ll be causing expensive problems down the line.
Petrol engines fare a little better running empty, and are less likely to suffer severe damage. But there is little to be complacent about — even if you do have petrol in the boot, or get some from a garage, you may find the car still won’t start.
4. Modern cars are trickier.
Newer cars have a much shorter tolerance rate, and are more sensitive. Also, when you’re low on gas, the brakes require a lot more pressure and the steering wheel starts feeling like the one Freddy Flintstone used to have. Try driving with a minimum of a quarter tank of fuel.
5. So what does one do if they are low on gas?
Well ideally, fill it! But jokes apart, try driving as ‘fuel efficiently’ as possible. This means maintaining a steady average speed of 50-60 kmph, if it’s legal. Avoid sudden braking or acceleration. Try keeping the car steady at a gear which keeps the engine running between 2000-3000 rpm.
Most modern cars use less fuel when the engine is in gear as long as the accelerator isn’t depressed. When you put your car in neutral at a red light, it goes into ‘tick over’ mode, which uses more fuel. Turning the car off makes sense, but only if you’re stopping for more than a minute. Starting a car uses about a minute’s worth of fuel. But above all, try keeping a spare 3-5 litres of fuel with you. It might come in handy.
Seriously, there’s no point saving Rs.1000 now, if you have to shell out Rs. 1,00,000 later.
H/t: Daily Mail