Do you live for the “E”? Fans of the television show ‘Seinfeld’ might recall the episode in which Kramer takes a car for a test drive with the salesman in the passenger seat and decides he wants to push the car as far as it will go without putting gas in the tank. Hilarity ensues of course. 

Well, if this is you and you like to run your car on fumes before gassing up, you might want to re-think your driving habits. 

According to AAA, your vehicle’s fuel-economy display, which tells you the number of miles you can go before running out of gas, might not be as accurate as you think.  

AAA research reports “Miles-to-Empty” warning system estimates vary significantly among vehicles. But more importantly, those estimates depend upon individual driving habits such as speed, acceleration, and driving distance. 

Most drivers want to squeeze every drop of gas from their tank, especially when prices rise... But by over-relying on these in-car displays, you might be taking unnecessary risks. ~ Mary Maguire, AAA Northeast Director of Public and Government Affairs 


Waiting to fill up, may also impact the health of your car in other ways. According to Mary Maguire, AAA Northeast Director of Public and Government Affairs, filling up when your tank is nearing empty can tax your fuel pump and cause other mechanical problems.

A previous AAA consumer survey reported nearly 75% of drivers use their “Miles-to-Empty” display to tell them when they need to fill up, an action AAA doesn’t recommend. 

With the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA tested several vehicles in simulated driving scenarios to determine the accuracy of fuel-economy systems and “Miles-to-Empty” warning systems. 

Here’s what was found: 

  • Real-world fuel economy displays showed low error margins compared to simulated tests. However, errors varied significantly from vehicle to vehicle, depending upon speed, acceleration, driving conditions, driving style, and distance. 
  • The accuracy of the “Miles-to-Empty” tests also varied among different driving scenarios, such as highway driving, city driving, and idling. 

To maximize fuel efficiency, AAA recommends drivers: 

  • Maintain at least a quarter tank of gas to prevent fuel pump damage that can occur when a gas tank is regularly run down to empty. 
  • Reset the vehicle’s trip mileage systems after each fill-up to see how fuel economy changes as driving conditions change. 
  • Avoid hard acceleration; properly inflate tires to recommended pressure. 
  • Minimize loads and use roof racks to lessen drag. 
  • Consider reducing air conditioning use. 
  • Run multiple errands in one trip, and, whenever possible, avoid times when traffic is at its heaviest. 

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