Motor Insurance

Why you SHOULDN'T let your fuel light come on in your car: 'Expensive to fix'

Drivers are being warned not to let their fuel levels run below their vehicle warning light as they risk paying out up to £1,300 for expensive repairs.

Trying to use up every litre of fuel in a car can harm a vehicle's fuel pump and filter, and it's a bad habit drivers should avoid, according to Motorpoint.

The car sales website found 42 percent of drivers wait until their fuel light comes on before filling up with petrol or diesel, while another 16 percent try to use up as much of their tank as possible before putting topping up. If its poll results were applied to all drivers in the UK, 5.3 million drivers could be at risk of running out of fuel, Motorpoint suggests.

Not only does this leave drivers at risk of breakdown while driving, it could also draw air or debris into the fuel system.

Tim Rodie, driving expert at Motorpoint, said: “As your fuel level starts to run low, any debris that has collected at the bottom of your tank can be picked up and run through your fuel system. Over time, this debris can clog your fuel filter, limiting the amount of fuel that makes it to your engine, potentially causing a failure.”

If air is pulled into the system it can also cause a vehicle to stall or refuse to start. Without fuel running through the system, it can also overheat, Mr Rodie said.

The cost of replacing a fuel pump could be £680 for a Ford Transit van according to Car Docbut could be up to £1,200 due to the type of fuel pump needed and how difficult it is to change.

A new filter could cost another £80 on average, according to Click Mechanic.

It is not illegal to drive with low levels of fuel, but if you break down and cause an obstruction or crash this could be seen as "careless and inconsiderate driving" according to the Highway Code. This could see you handed up to nine penalty points and there is also an unlimited fine, according to the Daily Express.

Car fuel light distance

Although there is no exact science to estimate how many miles you can drive once the warning light comes on, it usually indicates fuel is below 10-15% according to Motorpoint.

How far you can make that stretch depends on your car's fuel efficiency and how you drive.

Motorpoint advises refilling your vehicle when levels fall below a quarter.

Mr Rodie added: “You don’t need to wait for the fuel light to come on to visit the petrol station – it’s something I would encourage drivers to get out of the habit of doing.

“No one likes holding their breath and wondering if you have enough miles left to get to the nearest petrol station, so always having some fuel in your tank is the safest way to drive."

Read more:

Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.


Car Insurance

  • You could save up to £530*
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars**
  • Quotes from 100+ providers

Motor Insurance Reviews

NimbleFins Newsletter

Get deals, tips, news, and more!