Running on empty

The dangers of driving when your vehicle’s fuel tank is empty.

It’s time to confess – do you regularly top up your vehicle’s fuel tank or wait for the empty light to come on?

Last year, 10,996 RACQ members ran out of fuel and called us for Roadside Assistance.

RACQ’s Head of Technical and Safety Policy Steve Spalding has warned motorists not to run a vehicle’s fuel tank on empty as it can lead to more expenses down the track. 

“There are dangers in two ways, one is that the sediment and rubbish that's in the fuel tank can end up in the fuel filter and that in itself requires some servicing work,” Mr Spalding said.

“But more of a risk is the fuel pump which can be very expensive.

“It could easily cost $500 to $1000 and if you run a fuel pump dry, there's a fair chance that it won't be recoverable and then you'll end up in expensive repair and a tow.”

Mr Spalding said the best way to manage your fuel is to top up when you reach a quarter of a tank and check out RACQ’s Fair fuel price app to find the cheapest fuel near you. 

Last year’s RACQ Annual Fuel Price Report revealed that Brisbane is the most expensive of the five largest capital cities in Australia, reaching a record monthly high retail ULP price of $159.3 cents per litre in October 2018. Within the month, 12 October 2019 saw retail ULP sold in Brisbane hit a record high daily average of 169.0 cpl.   

“One of the problems when you run the tank right down is that you're limited in your options and it almost becomes a desperate fuel purchase,” Mr Spalding said.

“If fuel stations are charging a lot then you have to pay a lot.

“So, if you can top up regularly when the prices are down, overall you're able to just keep those fuel costs down.”


Fuel saving tips

  • Drive economically.
  • Get your car service regularly.
  • Inflate your tyres correctly.
  • Check your wheel alignment.
  • Check your load and travel light.
  • Use the smaller of two cars.
  • Download the RACQ Fair Fuel Price app.

RACQ members can save four cents per litre on fuel at participating Puma Energy stations.