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Officials warn against driving till empty

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Fuel meter

WAUSAU (WAOW) - While it may be tempting to make that last gallon of gas left in a tank stretch just a little bit further, it may do more harm than good. 

At Olson Tire & Auto Service, they said driving a car until empty can cause a lot more damage than one would think.

"Most vehicles won't burn up with the first time, but you can severely damage your fuel pump," said Evan Olson, a manager. "It's designed to pump fuel not air, so you don't want that running completely dry." 

It's not just the fuel pump that's at risk.

"The components in your vehicle are not designed to operate without fuel," said Olson.

Running out of gas on the roads can be dangerous for cars and people.

"We have been seeing more people running until very low gas, which is not an ideal thing," said Olson. "Suddenly you're driving on the freeway at 60, 70 miles an hour and no gas, that's obviously bad for you, and a moment of panic or potentially crashing." 

So what should drivers do if they run out of gas on a busy roadway?

"Pull over to the side of the road, as far away as you can get, turn your emergency four way flashers on, and then jump on your cell phone and give 911 a call," said Trooper Brandon Karlen, of the Wisconsin State Patrol.

He said drivers should be sure to stay in their vehicles, unless they absolutely have to get out. 

"The number one thing we see is people getting out of their vehicles, and maybe hanging around their vehicle or sitting on their hood," said Karlen. "Number one thing, stay in your vehicle, stay safe." 

So when should drivers be filling up their car? It's before the little red or orange warning light comes on.

"The biggest safety rule of thumb is fill up at a fourth of a tank," said Olson.

Even though filling up a tank fully right now may hurt, it could end up saving drivers in the long run.

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