5 Steps to Take When You’re Running out of Fuel on the Road

  | 4 min read

What to do when you’re running out of fuel on the road


Whether you are stuck in traffic for longer than expected, or you simply forgot to stop at the petrol station, there may come a point where you find yourself on the road and run low on fuel. In addition to praying and keeping your fingers cross that you make it to a petrol station, here are 5 things you need to do when your car is about to run out of fuel on the road.


  1. Turn off the AC

When you notice the fuel symbol light up on your dashboard, the first thing you should do is turn off the AC. Why exactly?


Well, when you turn on your air conditioner you are increasing the electrical power used in the car as you are also turning on the cabin fan and a fan behind the radiator, all of which add a lot of pressure to the engine and thus burn more fuel.


  1. Don’t use electrical devices

Similarly, also make sure you turn off all electrical devices in the car like the radio and disconnect your phone from the charger. While these electrical devices burn less fuel than the AC, every drop of fuel saved counts during this desperate time.


  1. Drive slowly

Surely you’ve heard of the saying, ‘slow and steady wins the race’. Well, this is especially true when your car is running low on fuel. You may be tempted to speed to the petrol station, but cars are actually the most fuel efficient when they are operating at 56 to 72 kilometres per hour (km/h). If other drivers start beeping at you to move faster, then you should turn on your hazard lights to indicate that your vehicle has a problem. And it does, it’s hungry!


  1. Unload heavy material

If you have a heavy object in your car, if possible, you should unload the object and leave it on the side of the road with one of your passengers. This may seem like a lot of effort, but the additional weight of the heavy material will greatly contribute to the amount of fuel your car burns to keep moving. In short, the lighter your vehicle the better. Though you have to be careful that the area you leave the object is relatively safe, and the person is reliable. Plus, you may end up getting robbed if your car stops – so it may be worth the risk.


  1. Get help from a bystander

Luckily, in cities like Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, there are plenty of boda bodas and bajaji drivers on the road. So if you think you won’t make it to a petrol station, park your car on the side of the road and take a boda boda or bajaji to the nearest petrol station to get some fuel. If you fear for the safety of your car, you can ask a traffic cop, or pay a bystander to watch it for you (don’t be cheap).


However, if your car stops during night time in a deserted area, it may be best to lock yourself in the car and call for assistance from a family member or friend with a vehicle. You could also call the nearest police station for help or try to find the number online.


Bonus tip: Close your car windows


Yes, you should turn off your AC and close your car windows! You see,  when your windows are open, the wind/breeze coming in actually puts pressure on your car and increases its aerodynamic drag. This, in turn, makes the engine work harder and burn more fuel. So, you may sweat 5 kg off but it’s better than being stranded on the road.


The best cure is prevention

The best way to ensure that your car rarely runs low on fuel is to have a fuel-efficient car. Because even if you find yourself running low on petrol, a car that doesn’t consume a lot of fuel will probably keep working until you get to a petrol station. However, it’s important to always be alert of the distance you are travelling, possible delays, and how much fuel you may need to get there – as the anxiety of driving with a car low on fuel is totally not worth it! But if you are currently in this predicament, take a deep breath and hopefully, these tips will help you out.  

Iman Lipumba
A digital storyteller, experienced in creating content that improves website visibility on search engines, enhances the user experience, and nurtures brand loyalty. With a background in the social sciences, an expert in researching complex ideas, and communicating them in engaging language to multiple audiences.