Oracle of Delphi

Frugal drivers don’t top off tank, run out of gas

23 posts in this topic

Brent Saba had just dropped a church group off at Philadelphia International Airport on Sunday morning and was heading north on Interstate 95 when it happened: His 15-passenger van ran out of gas.

Saba, a 24-year-old church pastor, made it to the shoulder just past the Ben Franklin Bridge and waited more than 30 minutes for someone to stop and lend him a cell phone. Then he waited a while longer for AAA to arrive with fuel.

With gas prices hovering at $4 a gallon, motorists like Saba are putting less fuel in their tanks — then coming up empty on the highway.

Though national statistics on out-of-gas motorists don't exist, there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that drivers unwilling or unable to fill 'er up are gambling by keeping their tanks extremely low on fuel.

In the Philadelphia area, where the average price for a gallon of regular broke $4 on Friday, calls from out-of-gas AAA members doubled between May 2007 and May 2008, from 81 to 161, the auto club reported.

"The number one reason is they can't stretch their money out from week to week," said Gary Siley, the AAA mobile technician who helped Saba.

"Some of them are embarrassed. ... They say, 'I was trying to make it till Friday,' and they couldn't do it," said Siley, who has assisted numerous out-of-gas motorists.

Saba blames himself for not paying enough attention to the fuel gauge, saying he doesn't normally let the tank get so low. But he said the spiraling cost of gas has led the church to reduce its use of the fuel-guzzling van.

And when he does get gas, he puts in only a half-tank.

"If the prices were lower, I'd probably just fill it up," Saba said.

Research from The Nielsen Co. shows that drivers have been making more frequent trips to the pump but limiting how much they put in the tank.

Convenience stores, which sell about 80 percent of the nation's gas, are seeing fewer fill-ups, said industry spokesman Jeff Lenard.

"When the pump hits a certain dollar amount now, you're seeing more customers stop," said Lenard, with the National Association of Convenience Stores. "They're purchasing fewer gallons."

And that means playing Russian roulette with the gas gauge.

In Dallas, Courtesy Patrol — a roadside assistance program operated by the sheriff's department — reports a doubling in the number of daily fuel calls from stranded motorists in recent months. Sheriff Lupe Valdez herself recently came to the aid of a mother and her two children who had run out of gas along an interstate.

In some cases, motorists have gotten stuck in the middle of the highway, creating a dangerous situation, said Lonnie Lankford, a Courtesy Patrol shift leader. "It's just breaking the backs of the people, these gas prices," he said.

Transportation officials in Oregon and Tennessee also report increasing numbers of stranded motorists in need of gas.

AAA Mid-Atlantic, which has nearly 4 million members in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia, reported a 15 percent year-over-year increase in calls from members with empty tanks.

"We're seeing a lot of frustrated motorists who are trying to cut corners, and this is one way they're doing it," said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Catherine Rossi. "But they're shooting themselves in the foot, or the wallet, in the long run."

That's because perpetually running on fumes can damage a car's fuel pump — requiring repairs that make a full tank of $4 gas seem like a bargain.

As for Saba, he was just thankful he made it back to North Philadelphia in time for his 11:30 a.m. church service.

"What I was thinking to myself was, at least the weather's nice," he said. "It was beautiful outside and that made things a lot better."

Link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24920462/

Edited by Pontiac Custom-S
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I haven't filled my Pathfinder up in quite a while. It's just as well, since I'm not commuting to DC anymore until August.

I just putter around Baltimore, looking for deals on used cars to get before '09 rolls around.

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I'm guilty of cutting it close on occasion...

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Pretty silly to put it off. Gas prices are going UP, putting it off means you will likely pay more for it once you do fill up...

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I'm guilty of cutting it close on occasion...

Me too...I try not to though...quick way to kill the fuel pump....

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The annoying thing is having to pay twice at the pump since the cost of a full tank can now exceed the pre-auth.

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I still top off the tank every time. If I don't buy it now, I'll still need it later and who knows where I'll be in relation to a gas station at the time. Plus the prices are just going up, so it's most likely going to cost more later too.

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I always know the limit, and have never run out of gas. Interestingly, I just filled up yesterday

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I always fill up when it gets down to a quarter of a tank. Which is about $60 these days.

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>>"...drivers unwilling or unable to fill 'er up..."<<

WTF? 'Unable' ?? 87-octane is exactly 1 dollar/gal more than on 06-02-07 (nat'l ave), when no one was moaning & bitching in the least. $1 x average tank of (say) 16 gal = $16/fill. Have mass quantities of citizens really been running SO lean that $16/week (say) vs. last year has so many "unable" to fill their tank they're stranding the,selves on the sides of highways??? C'mon....

I used to run my gas-engined F-150 down so there was black showing between the 'E' mark and the needle (south of the mark) every tank. It helped to have dual tanks, tho. As the Silverado is a diesel, I don't run it down quite that far, but I do fill it to capacity and run it down to a day (or 2) with the low fuel light on; not at all as low on the gauge as the Ford. I figure the less time of my life I spend at the gas station is that much more time I have for something more enriching... or at least more productive.

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Today I saw something I haven't seen since I was a youngster back in the 70's, people turning their cars off at traffic lights and starting them up again when the light turned green. :o

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I remember coasting down hills in nuetral. :lol:

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Does coasting down hills in N save that much gas? Or even after time would you notice it. I am starting to do it. I often shut my car off in a drive through never at a stop light. (Isn't there a law about that if you need to move you car for say a firetruck?)

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I ran the Cutlass on fumes the last week I drove it. No way in hell I was putting gas in it. :P

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Does coasting down hills in N save that much gas? Or even after time would you notice it. I am starting to do it. I often shut my car off in a drive through never at a stop light. (Isn't there a law about that if you need to move you car for say a firetruck?)

I tried running my truck in neutral while coasting downhill, it actually burns more fuel according to the DIC. While coasting in gear the AFM runs in 4 cylinder while in neutral the engine runs in 8.

Remember the best way to conserve fuel is to drive like you are 90: stay at the speed limit and accelerate lightly.

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I remember coasting down hills in nuetral. :lol:

So I guess I am strange for doing this all the time, huh? :P

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lol I sputtered out at the gas station and had to roll my car to the pump. sadly it was an even $100 fill up.

Lately though i have been only taking it down 3/4 of a tank then filling it up again.

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So I guess I am strange for doing this all the time, huh? :P

Not really... I do it all the time too, and I put it in neutral for lengthly stoplights. It works, tho. The First tank on the G5 was 26MPG, I didn't do any of that stuff on that tank. Second tank and now I'm doing this stuff, same driving time and length, and I'm going to get 28MPG out of the tank. Every little bit helps.

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Today I saw something I haven't seen since I was a youngster back in the 70's, people turning their cars off at traffic lights and starting them up again when the light turned green. :o

I've always heard that this doesn't save any fuel since it takes more fuel to 'start up' than idle.

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I've always heard that this doesn't save any fuel since it takes more fuel to 'start up' than idle.

I've heard that too.

Also I coast all the time when there's no need to keep it in gear (coming to a stop, going down hill). Even before stupidly high gas prices...I just didn't feel like downshifting. :P

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Also I coast all the time when there's no need to keep it in gear (coming to a stop, going down hill). Even before stupidly high gas prices...I just didn't feel like downshifting. :P

You too, huh? :P

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Today I saw something I haven't seen since I was a youngster back in the 70's, people turning their cars off at traffic lights and starting them up again when the light turned green. :o

I did that at a traffic jam this morning. Low fuel light had been on for a while (the Fusion is really pessimistic, worse than my Solara was) so it seemed like a bad idea to burn gas for 10 minutes while I waited to move. In only put $20 when I got to a gas station, thats all I had in my wallet) but I have been filling up instead of going a few bucks at a time. I can go 11 days between fill-ups, which isn't too bad.

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I did that at a traffic jam this morning. Low fuel light had been on for a while (the Fusion is really pessimistic, worse than my Solara was) so it seemed like a bad idea to burn gas for 10 minutes while I waited to move. In only put $20 when I got to a gas station, thats all I had in my wallet) but I have been filling up instead of going a few bucks at a time. I can go 11 days between fill-ups, which isn't too bad.

I do that at drive-thrus when they aren't ready right away. Sitting idling while someone takes their time to make my taco just seems silly.

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