Before my girlfriend purchased a new car, she was always careful to refuel her old car before the gas gauge dipped below a quarter of a tank. I’ve been living on the edge, letting my gauge drop to one-eighth of a tank or less before refueling. Her concern was that the gauge didn’t seem very accurate; the needle traveled from one quarter to empty much faster than it moved from full to three quarters. No one wanted to be stuck on the side of the road without gas in the tank.
Consumer Reports offers some tips to avoid the damage you could cause to your car by letting the fuel tank approach empty.
- Keep your gas tank no less than one quarter full.
- Fill up before heading out on a long trip or to work as you could get stuck in traffic and have a longer ride than intended.
- Don’t rely on your car to tell you how many miles are left, as those range numbers can be deceiving and run down quickly, depending on how you drive.
- We all want to save money at the pump, but instead of driving miles away to the gas station, use online tools or even smart phone apps to find the cheapest gas near your house.
In addition to these tips, the article explains the mechanical problems that could result after not applying these suggestions. Of course, you could avoid some of these problems by moving from gasoline fuel to electricity. Electric cars may not be perfect replacements right now, but they do offer a way to distance a driver from oil companies and gas stations. In addition, electric cars will benefit from the newly designed EPA window stickers.
The new stickers have more numbers to understand. The sticker pictured here applies to gasoline vehicles, but electric vehicles have a sticker with even more numbers, including a measurement called MPGe, the equivalent MPG in a gas-powered car. The best electric cars get 99 MPGe.
These new stickers allow you to compare an estimated annual fuel cost as well as how much you would save per year compared to the average car in any particular vehicle class. What’s even more interesting for technologically savvy buyers is the QR code. Each sticker contains a QR code that can be scanned by mobile phones. When the code is scanned, it will bring you to a government website where you can use the car’s data to customize the calculations of cost based on your personal usage and driving habits.
The EPA stickers for gasoline-powered cars include a new calculation called gallons per 100 miles. This can be a more effective calculation for comparing vehicles because it takes into account the fact that a one mile-per-gallon difference between gas guzzlers is more significant than one mile-per-gallon difference between more economical cars. For example, while the difference between 20 MPG and 25 MPG is the same as the difference between 35 MPG and 40 MPG, if converted to gallons per 100 miles, the difference between the less fuel efficient cars (5 GPHM vs. 4 GPHM) is more than the difference between the more fuel efficient cars (2.86 GPHM vs. 2.5 GPHM). This type of calculation makes more sense when you consider that most people have a constant driving distance. People don’t base their driving on the gallons they’d like to use, so that is a variable. The constant belongs in the denominator; in other worse, GPHM is better represents the reality of driving.
Published or updated May 26, 2011.