Whether by design or by accident, it is likely that at one time you have yourself running low on fuel. For some people when this light goes on, it makes them anxious, and they immediately begin to search for the nearest gas station. For others, it is an opportunity for them to test how far they can really push their car before the tank becomes empty.
It is a fact that most automobiles can continue running even when the fuel light shows the car is empty. In most vehicles, the car can continue running for about 40 miles under perfect conditions. However, if caught in gridlock traffic, this can present a major issue. The car’s engine will still be running, and it will continue to burn fuel, which will reduce its mileage.
It is likely that most drivers would agree the fuel light usually comes on at the worst time. For instance, you may just have passed a fuel station an hour ago only for the fuel light to come on with no gas station in sight. It could cause you to run late for an important meeting or force you to leave your vehicle by the side of the road as you go to find fuel.
It is important for you to try to find out how far your car can go when running low on fuel. Either you can check out what other drivers have experienced on the Internet, or you can carry out a test yourself in a safe area. That way, the next time your car shows empty, you will know what to do.
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It is best not to push your luck when low on fuel, especially in an unfamiliar area. Always ensure that you stop and fill up before your car gauges hit the “E.” It could save you not just stress but time as well.
Dangers of Running Low on Fuel
One danger of running low on fuel is that debris and dirt are more likely to become suspended in the fuel. As a result, there is a high chance this matter will block the filter. Besides that, when fuel is low, the fuel pump is not suspended in the fuel. Thus, there is a danger that it could overheat. In some vehicles, the low fuel can affect power steering and the braking system. In general, it is never a good idea to be low on fuel.
If you do not want to make costly visits to the mechanic to fix the filter and other damaged parts, it is important to keep the fuel at about a quarter full at all times. In heavy traffic, running out of gas can be dangerous. If you have to suddenly slow down in heavy traffic, there is a chance someone could crash into you. To get over this problem, map out all the gas station when going on a long trip. That way, you can tell if your fuel can get you to the next gas station. If you know anyone who runs low on fuel, encourage him or her to stop that practice.
How a Fuel Gauge Works
Here are the main types of fuel level sensors you are likely to find in most cars.
Level Sensor for Liquids
Most fuel gauges use a level sensor for liquids. This device has a float at the bottom made of foam, which is fixed to a metal rod. At the other end of this rod, there is a variable resistor. When the fuel tank is full, this rod ensures that there is very little resistance. That, more current is sent out. This electrical current is what causes the panel to show that the tank is full.
However, this design has a major flaw. As the rod moves closer to the top, it reaches a maximum height beyond which an increase in fuel makes no difference to the reading. This is because either the rod or the top of the tank limits its upward movement. It only starts showing readings when the fuel level drops off.
This effect is repeated as it reaches the bottom of the tank. This is because the float is not designed to scrape the bottom. This is the main reason why most people can still drive the car even when the fuel indicator shows there is no fuel in the tank.
Besides that, the shape of the fuel tank can play a role. Most modern fuel tanks are not a simple rectangular prism shape. They are usually molded to fit around tight spaces and to increase fuel capacity. Thus, when the gauge reaches the halfway point, there may be half of the fuel remaining or less because of the odd shape of the tank.
A pressure transducer is another popular method to measure the fuel level in fuel tanks. However, even this method has its challenges. For one, it cannot be placed at the very bottom of the tank. As a result, there will always be some extra fuel even when it shows empty. Besides that, it can be a bit inaccurate when the vehicle is on an inclined plane.
Use of Processors in Fuel Gauges
Modern fuel gauges are combined with digital processing technology to give an accurate fuel reading on an LCD screen. These processors receive information such as the tilt of the fuel tank, the shape, the total volume it can hold and much more to make their calculations. These processors are usually fed with instructions on how to make readings, which are more accurate.
If you have always wondered about why your fuel gauge always seems so inaccurate, now you know. However, the best thing to do is to ensure that your fuel never goes below the quarter level indicator. By doing so, you may be saving yourself from a lot of unnecessary stress and possibly extending the working life of some of the parts in the vehicle such as the filter.