What to do if you run out of petrol

Running out of petrol can be a frustrating situation, especially if you’re in a dangerous area or you’re in a rush. If you suspect you might run out of petrol, remember that your safety is a top priority.

“Safety is your biggest concern if your vehicle runs out of petrol, especially if you’re driving on a highway,” advises Barend Smit, Marketing Director of MotorHappy, a supplier of motor management solutions and car insurance options. “If you think you’re about to run out of fuel and you’re driving on a highway, drive in the lane closest to the emergency lane. If your car starts spluttering, turn on your hazards to alert other drivers.”

Conserve petrol by turning off the air conditioner and try to drive at around 30 to 45km per hour. If you have an old car, it might make sense to put the car in neutral while you ‘coast’ along, but for newer cars, this is not necessary or even advisable. 

If your car is about to stop, make sure you’re parked safely in the yellow lane and keep your hazards on. Immediately contact a friend or family member to let them know where you are. If you drive a petrol vehicle, ask a friend to bring you at least five litres of petrol, or arrange for your Roadside Assistance to do so. If you drive a diesel car, its best to call roadside assistance rather than filling your car.  “In addition to contacting friends or family, contact your insurance company or a roadside assistance company. Many insurers include this service as part of their offering,” says Smit. 

Is it bad for your vehicle to run out of fuel?

The more times a vehicle runs out of fuel, the higher the possibility of damaging the vehicle’s fuel pump system. The age of the vehicle is also very important. This is because older cars eventually build up old fuel debris at the bottom of the fuel tank, which is usually blocked by fuel filters. When your vehicle runs out of fuel, it drains every bit of fuel and can get the old dirty fuel particles in the fuel pump system, which could cause it to clog the whole fuel system. If the fuel system is blocked, the vehicle will struggle to start once you put in more petrol. “Generally, if the vehicle does not start then the fuel lines and fuel pump will have to be checked by a professional,” advises Smit.

Remain vigilant of your surroundings while you wait for help to come. If you leave your car, be sure to alert the roadside assistance vehicle of your whereabouts.  Above all, stay calm if you find yourself in this situation. Prevention is the best approach – always check that you have enough petrol to complete your journey and make sure your phone is fully charged so can call for help if necessary.