Running on Empty - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Running on Empty

(WFLX) - With gas prices shooting sky high, many more drivers are using every drop before filling up. "It's horrible. Gas prices are horrible. I can't even believe it," said Matthew Kendall.

"It was $3.81 yesterday. Now, it's $3.99 today," added David Cole. "So we wait until the last minute just to hope to get 10 cents change."

Kendall barely made it to the pump. "Coasting. It was like, 'Am I gonna have to have somebody bump me?' You know, I was fixing to flag somebody down with a truck just to say, 'Hey, come on man. Help me out here 'cause it's horrible.'"

But running on empty to save a few bucks now can cost thousands more later. "This is a typical centrifugal fuel pump that lives in your gas tank," explained mechanic Bob Mullen.

Without enough gas in the tank, the fuel pump can fail. "If you run your fuel low, then the fuel drops down below the pickup on the bottom of the pump."

With so little gas in the thank, even just turning a corner or parking on a hill can cause what's left to slosh side to side -- exposing the pump to air in the tank. This can cause the pump to suck sediment and debris into the fuel system.

"It can damage this pump, sometimes, catastrophically," said Mullen.

Replacing the pump, buried deep inside the tank, isn't cheap. "To replace a pump like that on an average car would run anywhere from $500 to $1,500, sometimes more. You really do not want this thing to fail," he said.

If it does or you just run out of gas, there's even more to worry about. "Not only does the engine die, but you lose your power steering and your power brakes, so if you're in heavy traffic or on the highway, this could be quite dangerous."

Reason enough for some drivers to change their ways. "Keep that in mind, I guess, and fill up sooner than later," said Juan Torres.

AAA recommends keeping your tank at least a quarter full. Even if you can't fill it up, put in a few dollars now to save thousands later.

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