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Don’t let tanks run on empty, advises automobile club

POSTED May 6, 2011 9:29 p.m.

As prices continue to rise at the pumps, drivers are trying to make every drop count. But, more and more frequently, drivers are running out of gas in their quest for extra mileage.

The Automobile Club of Southern California experienced a 12.9 percent increase in roadside service calls for gasoline in the first quarter of 2011, compared to the first quarter of 2010. That translates into about 15,600 gasoline deliveries each month.

“Higher gas prices may be contributing to more people running out of gas because they are trying to stretch each tank further than normal,” said Steve Mazor, manager of the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center.  “However, as painful as trips to the gas station may be getting, letting your car regularly run on an almost-empty tank can cause even more wallet damage with expensive repairs.”

Sediment, found in the bottom of most fuel tanks, can be sucked into the engine when fuel levels are low, Mazor said. That can damage fuel pump pickups, fuel filters and fuel injectors.

“Secondly, letting the vehicle’s level of fuel run down to empty may cause the electric fuel pump inside the tank to overheat,” according to Mazor.  “The cost to replace this one component alone can be $500 or more in parts and labor.”

Diesel engines are even worse off after running out of fuel, requiring a special priming procedure to get fuel into the pump once again. The procedure can require the assistance of a trained automotive technician.

 

Gas prices still climbing

More drivers may run out of fuel as prices continue to rise at the pumps.

According to ModestoGasPrices.com, which tracks gasoline prices in the Turlock area, a gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline averaged $4.16 per gallon this week – up 2 cents from a week ago. That average is $1.13 per gallon higher than the same day a year ago, and 20.6 cents per gallon higher than a month ago.

“This is the second week in a row that gas prices have moved very slowly upwards,” said Automobile Club spokesperson Jeffrey Spring. “Wholesale gasoline and crude oil continue to trade at high levels, and, so far, we haven’t seen a precipitous drop in those prices, which help determine how much consumers pay at the pump.”

The national average, $3.92 per gallon, has seen similar increases; 7 cents over the past week, 20.6 cents over the past month and $1.01 over the past year.

While the local average sits at $4.16, gasoline can be found cheaper in Turlock, with a little hunting. As of Friday, four retailers were selling regular unleaded gasoline for $4.05 per gallon.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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