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What to do when you run out of fuel


We’ve all been there; noticing the fuel gauge has dipped into the red ‘empty’ zone and wondering just how many miles that gives you before you have to refuel. Some of us take pleasure in pushing the ‘range’ function to the limit, only re-fuelling when it’s absolutely necessary, while others feel a pressing need to fill up as soon as they notice the gauge drop beneath one quarter of a tank.

It turns out that more than 70,000 drivers per month in the UK are breaking down after they run out of fuel! That’s 1 million per year chancing the empty zone.

So if it happens to you, what should you do?

Move to safety

The most dangerous position is to be stranded in fast moving traffic, so if you think you’re in the danger zone or your car is starting to splutter, take the inside or slow lane so you can get off the road urgently. Try to navigate your car to the hard shoulder or the side of the road. If the engine is spluttering, it will soon stop completely, so steer it out of the stream of other moving vehicles.

Make yourself known

Switch your hazard lights on straight away and if it’s dark or foggy, leave your side lights on too. Take your Warning Triangle and, if it is safe to do so, put it a minimum of 45 metres behind the vehicle to allow oncoming traffic as much time as possible to manoeuvre around you. If you have one, put on a reflective jacket or arm band.

Contact breakdown services

Contact your preferred breakdown services if you are a member, or a local service if not. If you find you have broken down somewhere remote and it may take some time for breakdown services to reach you, consider calling the Emergency Services. If you have a petrol car, it is also an option to contact a family member or friend to bring you replacement petrol to refuel the tank (maximum 5 litres.) Walking to find a petrol station yourself is not recommended, particularly if you are in a remote location. Instead, stay with your vehicle and wait for someone to come to you. If you have a diesel vehicle, it is likely that the engine will need to be bled before the system will restart so you will have to rely on breakdown services, or a fuel specialist to resolve this.

Be prepared

It’s always smart to keep an Emergency Kit in the car just in case this or anything else should happen when you are driving. It should contain a hazard triangle, high visibility jacket and empty fuel can as well as a mobile phone, spare clothes, food and water.

We would also suggest being aware of your fuel gauge going forward. While you think you may know how many miles you’ve got left in the tank, different driving conditions, heavy stop-start traffic, steep hills etc can all guzzle petrol more rapidly than straight, single-speed motorway driving. The gauge should give you a fairly accurate estimation of how much fuel you have left, but it can be inaccurate up to around 5% and it’s really not worth the time, inconvenience, and risk to be caught out. Always better to refuel when you can, rather than when you absolutely have to.

AbbeyAutoline Insurance Brokers

Our Breakdown Cover means that you’ll never be stuck by the side of the road. From getting a wheel changed or starting the car on a cold morning in your driveway, to being stopped in the rain on the hard shoulder, you will have breakdown cover that covers you until someone can come and help at any time of the day or night.

Please give one of our experienced advisors a call on 08000 66 55 44 for more information about our Breakdown Cover.

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