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What to Do If Your Car Runs Out of Gas | Driving Safety

DirectAsia Insurance_Man pumping petrol

4 Essential Steps to Take If Your Car Runs Out of Gas

Reading time: 3 mins

It’s unlikely that you’ll find yourself in this situation often, unless you overestimated the distance your car could travel with a nearly empty fuel tank, or if you have accidentally missed the exit to  the nearest petrol station on the highway. 

However, it’s best to know how to handle the situation if you ever get stranded without accessible help. We’ve laid out a 4 step guide that details what to do when you run out of fuel.

What Happens When Your Car Runs Out of Gas?

Do you know what to expect when your car runs out of fuel? You might assume that the engine will stop running abruptly. However, it doesn’t exactly happen that way.

In reality, your car will start displaying signs and symptoms of fuel starvation. The most obvious sign is that the fuel gauge will point to ‘E,’ as shown in the image above, which signals that your tank could be almost empty or is drinking up its fuel reserve. 

Besides that, here are some other signs to look out for to confirm that your car has run out of gas:

  • Loss of Power – If you find that you can’t accelerate even though you press the gas pedal all the way, then it’s very likely that your car is about to come to a stop.
  • Engine Coughing – If you start to hear what sounds like coughing of your car’s engine, this is also an indication that your car can’t go on any further. This happens when air gets trapped in your engine because of insufficient fuel.
  • Jerking – This is another sign you’ll experience due to inconsistent fuel supply. Your car will feel like it’s doing the shuffle, with abrupt stops in between, while it struggles to move forward.

If you see or feel any of these signs, you should immediately head to a petrol station to refill your fuel tank. But, if there’s no station in sight, you should take note of these essential steps:

Step #1: Navigate to Safety & Turn on Your Hazard Lights

As soon as you notice the signs that your car is low on fuel while driving, you should instantly steer your vehicle away from traffic. Find a spot to park by the road shoulder, and turn your hazards light on. Do not attempt to try and push it any further and risk your car completely stalling in the middle of the road. The last thing you want is to inconvenience other road users and cause an accident. 

However, if you are unable to ease your vehicle safely to the road side, then switch on your hazard lights immediately, slowly bring your car to a stop and turn off the engine.

After that, exit your vehicle carefully and place the warning triangle (that should be in your car) about 10 feet behind your vehicle as a cautionary sign to oncoming drivers. Once that’s done, find a safe location to stand, away from traffic, while you go through the next steps.

Step #2: Assess the Area

Next, you should figure out where your car has stalled. To be able to seek or call for help, you’ll first need to know your precise location. The most accurate way to do this is by taking note of your GPS coordinates. But, if your phone has no signal, you should quickly look around for the name of the highway (if you’re not familiar with it), significant landmarks and the nearest road signage to pinpoint your whereabouts.

If you run out of gas in a remote area, it’s best to wait in your car for help to arrive. If you have to leave your car, stay close to it and do not wander off alone. 

Step #3: Find the Nearest Petrol Station

This step is applicable if you can see a petrol kiosk at a safe walking distance from where you’re stranded or if your phone app indicates that it’s not too far away. You definitely should not take the risk of walking too far in the dark to get to it.

If you’re in a reasonably accessible area and there’s other cars passing by, you could try to hail a taxi or call a ride-sharing service to take you to the nearest gas station.

There are two reasons why you should try looking for a petrol station. The obvious one is to fill a jerry can (if you have it on hand) and the second is to get quick help from someone there (either to fill your car or to make a quick phone call, if your phone has died too). Bear in mind that the container you fill should be robust without any holes that can cause leakage. If you do not have a proper jerry can, don’t attempt to fill petrol in a flammable plastic bottle. 

Step #4: Call for Assistance

If there is no one that can help you get to the gas station, try calling a friend and see if they are able to bring some fuel to you or take you to a gas station. If you can’t get in touch with someone you know, then you can try calling a tow truck service to help you tow your car to the nearest workshop. However do bear in mind that the cost of towing your car can vary among different companies.

Better yet, call your 24-hour roadside assistance, if you have this as part of your comprehensive car insurance policy. This Optional Benefit is meant for emergencies like this and can be easily accessed through your car insurer’s emergency hotline. So, if you’ve signed up for the program, make sure to save the number to call (+6 6665 5555) on your phone.

Plan ahead to avoid your car running out of gas

Of course, it’s best to avoid this situation altogether. Practice refilling your tank once it’s about three quarters empty and maintain your car to keep it fuel efficient.
If you’re going on a long road trip, plan ahead of time to ensure you get onto a long highway or expressway with enough fuel. Nowadays there are various apps you can download to help you locate gas stations along your route. This will ensure you don’t unknowingly pass the last gas station for several miles and that you get to your destination quickly and safely.