The 2024 Guide to Being Stranded with No Fuel

The sudden realization that your vehicle is running on empty can provoke a mix of anxiety and frustration (and maybe echoes of a parent telling teenage you, "don't forget to check the gas gauge"). But if it does happen to you, it's important to know what to do next, to stay safe, fill your tank, and get where you're going.

In the event your vehicle does run out of gas, Curbside SOS can quickly connect you to local professional roadside assistance providers, through our nationwide network of more than 4,000. But before you get to that point, read our comprehensive guide, filled with essential knowledge and strategies to calmly and safely handle the situation when you're stranded with no fuel.

In this article:

Signs You're Running Low on Fuel

Modern vehicles are equipped with a variety of indicators designed to alert drivers well before the fuel tank hits empty — from dashboard warning lights to detailed messages on the vehicle's display screen. Still, it's entirely possible a driver might miss these critical reminders to refuel, or else misjudge their window of opportunity. It's easy to underestimate how quickly the last few gallons can run down, or overestimate the distance to the next service station.

Familiarizing yourself with your vehicle's specific alerts and understanding its average fuel consumption can help prevent running out of fuel. Most vehicles also provide an estimated range, indicating how many more miles you can drive before needing to refuel. Keeping a keen eye on this indicator and planning fuel stops accordingly, especially on longer trips, is a practical approach to avoid running dry.

What to Do if You Run Out of Gas

If your vehicle does run out of gas or the gas gauge registers “empty”, pull over to the side of the road as soon as possible, and shut off the engine. Don't try to squeak out a few more thousand feet or even miles to make it to a gas station — your engine could stall while you're on the road.

Once you're safely pulled off the road, turn your hazard lights on, to alert other drivers that you're stopped — and also to make yourself visible to roadside assistance, once you request it. As always, follow basic roadside safety rules:

  • If you have reflective triangles or flares, place them around your vehicle to warn oncoming traffic to slow down and pass your vehicle.

  • Once you've requested roadside assistance, inform family or friends about your situation. Let them know where you are and that help is on the way.

  • If another motorist stops to offer assistance, practice caution. It's okay to communicate through a slightly opened window rather than opening your door, and it's also okay to politely decline their help, if you're uncomfortable.

What Happens When a Vehicle Runs Out of Fuel

Running a vehicle's fuel tank dry can harm the fuel pump and other components, as these parts are designed to operate with a constant supply of fuel. Gasoline and diesel engines operate differently and have distinct needs, especially when they run dry. A diesel engine, for example, may need to have any air trapped in the fuel system "bled dry" before it will start again.

In the event your vehicle does run out of fuel, knowing the vehicle's requirements and communicating them accurately to roadside assistance will ensure they provide the correct solution, getting you back on the road quickly and safely.

Using Roadside Assistance for Fuel Delivery

When you find yourself stranded with an empty tank, roadside assistance services can get you moving again. Curbside SOS will connect you with nearby providers that offer fuel delivery services for both gasoline and diesel vehicles, ensuring that all drivers receive the correct type of fuel to get back on the road. The process is typically straightforward: upon contacting the service, you'll need to provide your location, vehicle information, and specify your fuel type. Within a short period, help arrives, supplying enough fuel to reach the nearest gas station.

This convenience is especially useful in remote areas or during adverse weather conditions when locating a fuel station on your own could be challenging or unsafe. Additionally, roadside assistance providers can offer guidance and support beyond refueling, and can help you restart your vehicle if needed.

About Curbside SOS

Curbside SOS is an open marketplace for motorists who require roadside assistance & towing help but don't want all of the costs & complications that come with road club memberships. We connect motorists in need with emergency assistance professionals to allow them to directly quote how much they would charge for the job in real time with more transparency and tracking than alternatives, getting you back on the road as quickly as possible, for less than you'd think.

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