We’ve all been driving along when the dreaded red light arrives and urges us to top up our fuel, but how many miles can you travel after it comes on?
One of the most common issues the Granite Breakdown rescue team finds when they arrive at the side of a road to help their members is that they’ve run out of fuel.
And it’s easily done; you join a motorway and notice the needle inching closer to the big ‘E’ and say to yourself, “I’ll stop at the next petrol station.”
Sometimes though, that next petrol station isn’t as close as you need it to be and you’ve found yourself stranded at the side of a busy motorway.
With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about your car’s fuel light.
What does it mean when my fuel light comes on?
When your fuel light first comes on, it’s your car’s way of saying, “I’m really in need of some petrol/diesel, top me up ASAP!”
Flashing fuel light: what does that mean?
If your fuel light starts flashing, then this is your car pleading with you, “Seriously, if I don’t get some petrol/diesel right now, we’re both in serious trouble!”
How many miles can I drive after my fuel light comes on?
Just like every human is different, every car is different too; there’s no single answer to the question.
And the waters are muddied further by other factors including your gear choice, tyre pressure and road conditions.
Therefore, two exact same car models could cover different distances with the same amount of fuel, which, of course, adds to the confusion.
But by looking at user-generated data from car owners on the Tank On Empty website, it seems that most of the popular models of cars last anywhere from 30 – 50 miles after the fuel light comes on.
For example, drivers of a Volkswagen Golf report their car driving an additional 44 miles once the fuel light comes on.
A BMW 3 series is reported to last around 44 miles once the fuel warning light comes on.
And a Ford Fiesta has around 37 miles of driving left after the warning light comes on, according to drivers of the model.
What should I do if I don’t think I will make it to the next petrol station?
If you’re convinced you’ve travelled close to 30 miles with the fuel light on and don’t think you’ll make it to a petrol station then the safest thing to do is pull over on to the hard shoulder and put your hazard lights on.
If you’re close to where your friends or family live, call them and ask them to fill a jerry can full of petrol/diesel and meet you, where you can then put it into your car.
Don’t be tempted to start walking to the nearest petrol station; motorways are hazardous places for pedestrians.
If you’re not close to friends or family, then call Granite Breakdown on their 24hr helpline: 028 90 029457. Granite Breakdown are a local Northern Ireland based breakdown provider and will collect you anywhere in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
How will I know if my car has run out of fuel?
If you’ve kept on driving your car until your fuel tank is empty, your car will usually start stuttering or jerking when you try to accelerate.
You’ll hear odd spluttering and gurgling noises too as your fuel pumps desperately try to feed the engine with fuel but instead picks up dirt from the bottom of your petrol or fuel tank.
Letting your car run very low can damage your car if it picks up too much dirt from the fuel tank.
NEVER let your fuel run low to prevent any unseen damages to your car.
Get into the habit of refuelling the car when you have a quarter engine. This way if something unexpected happens you are never low on fuel.
Over 20,000 Northern Ireland members trust Granite Breakdown.
You can get an annual membership today for only £60.
For more learner driver advice see our getting started section, theory test help or practical test help to get you started. We also offer advice on buying a car, explain different insurance types and tips on staying safe.