How Full Do I Need to Keep the Fuel Tank at Any Given Time?

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While some people don’t think too hard about how empty their fuel tank gets or about how much they fill their tank when they do fuel up, others are convinced that there is some magical fuel level that will keep the fuel pump running forever. Some swear by the quarter-full rule, while others say at least half a tank is needed at any given time. Is there a correct answer?

Why does the fuel level matter?

The fuel pump, which is responsible for getting fuel out of the tank, can generate heat when working for long periods of time. Most fuel pumps are designed to be cooled by the fuel in the tank acting as a sort of coolant. If there is not very much fuel, then the fuel pump can get hotter than it should, shortening its life.

As the fuel tank empties, air replaces the used fuel. Air usually has at least some water vapor in it and the combination of air and water will cause corrosion on the inside of metal gas tanks. The debris from that rust will settle at the bottom of the tank, and if the fuel tank is run dry the debris will end up in the fuel system. Most modern cars don’t have this problem, as they don’t use metal fuel tanks. Fuel still occasionally contains contaminants that settle to the bottom of the tank, and these can be stirred up and sucked up into the fuel pump if the tank is run low.

The optimal fuel level:

  • For short trips and regular commutes, keeping the gas tank at least half full is a good habit to get into. Getting it mostly full is ideal.

  • For longer trips, try to keep it above a quarter-tank and be aware of how far the average distance between gas stations is in the area you’re traveling through.

Keep in mind:

  • Fuel gauges are not always the best judge of fuel level. Try to get a feel for how your own vehicle uses fuel and how much you put in each time it says ¼ or ½ full.

  • A diesel engine can be damaged by completely running out of fuel.


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Pardeep

20 years of experience
648 reviews
Pardeep
20 years of experience
Subaru Outback - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - San Jose, California
If I could give 6 stars out of 5 I would. Very friendly and accomodating. Please retain and take care of Pardeep.
Honda Odyssey - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - San Jose, California
Great service. Timely, efficient, and friendly. Also gave good advice on services I actually needed.

Andrew

14 years of experience
236 reviews
Andrew
14 years of experience
Ford Escape - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Portland, Oregon
Andrew has come to fix my car on two occasions and both times he was on time for the appointment, professional , and extremely thorough in his examination of my car and diagnosis. He is honest and straightforward as to what my vehicle actually needs done immediately, and what I can hold off on for awhile. Money can be tight sometimes, so I do appreciate that. I highly recommend this mechanic!

Christopher

19 years of experience
152 reviews
Christopher
19 years of experience
Honda Pilot - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Land O Lakes, Florida
Would book again. On time, knowledgeable and friendly. Will definitely have him on my next appointment.

Theodore

15 years of experience
1132 reviews
Theodore
15 years of experience
Subaru Outback - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Renton, Washington
We have had previous work done by Theodore. Really appreciate his thoroughness and professionalism!

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