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Out-Of-Gas Calls Spike With Higher Prices


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Why would any driver delay in the extreme before filling his gas tank?

Probably, in an endless search for a lower price per gallon. But could it go deeper than that, like a repressed death wish or the need to flirt with the dangerous.

Or, it could be the sluggish economy.

AAA Mid-Atlantic says it's receiving more and more "out of gas" calls, as prices continue to rise. The consumer group says that out of gas calls were up 39 percent in Washington DC, 36.8 percent in Maryland, 27.5 in Virginia, and 20 percent in the state of Delaware and the Philadelphia metro area. This was for the first 20 days of April when compared to the same period one year ago.

If you're thinking it’s just an East Coast aberration in our economic malaise, consider California. The Los Angeles Times reported that AAA of Southern California has had an average per month of 15,600 of their members call for assistance when stranded for lack of gas.

The tendency may be to minimize the harm done by this practice--but actually, there is a tremendous downside to running out of gas. Each time such a call is placed, an emergency worker is added to those in harm’s way. The initial people in jeopardy, of course, are the driver and passengers of the out of gas vehicle. In addition, damage is done to the fuel delivery system of the car as it draws fuel from the bottom of the tank, where collected sediment and sludge can lay.

As vehicles are increasingly computerized and receive their cues from the multitude of sensors in the car, it could be that your vehicle will learn some bad habits from episodes of fuel deprivation as the computer attempts to cope with running out of fuel, or with a close call. Like the sludge in the tank, this condition will eventually cost you money.

[L.A. Times & Alexandria News]  
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  1. This idea that your fuel system will only pick up "sediment or sludge" when the tank is low is mostly a misconception. That's because the fuel pickup in the tank is in a fixed position. It always picks up from the same place low in the tank. If it was a floating pickup this story would be more true. Also, in the last paragraph it talks about the computer having to adapt. It takes many reading per second from the oxygen sensors and constantly adjusts the fuel mixture based on this info anyway. That said, running with the tank mostly empty promotes the formation of condensation, which is the most common source of crud in the tank.
     
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