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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Fabrice

18 years of experience
133 reviews
Fabrice
18 years of experience
Toyota Yaris - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Orlando, Florida
My appointment was late in the day, so being late was expected. Fabrice notified me ahead of time about his tardiness. When he arrived, he was apologetic, courteous and professional. He got to work right away and let me know of other work that was needed for future appointments

Oreste

12 years of experience
111 reviews
Oreste
12 years of experience
Nissan Frontier - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Miami, Florida
The best ever!!!! Will not use anyone else in future .. very knowledgeable and explained every thing to me .very professional, well spoken .

Breck

18 years of experience
527 reviews
Breck
18 years of experience
Jeep Patriot - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Houston, Texas
Becks was very informative about things that I didn't know needed to be looked at with my car. He fixed little hick ups quickly and had me ready to get back on the road sooner than I thought he would.

Miguel

19 years of experience
63 reviews
Miguel
19 years of experience
Audi allroad - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Fair Lawn, New Jersey
Miguel is very professional mechanic. He called me in advance about his coming. He brought the quality parts (brakes pads and rotors) and done his job quickly and of great quality. I tested the brakes after the replacement and they were efficient and very silent. I would recommend him very much.

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