Running on empty: Do cars get damaged if you let the fuel get low?

By DPA | 11 February 2019

BERLIN: While on-board computers in modern cars are highly effective at warning drivers in due time that they are running low on fuel, what happens if these warnings are ignored?

In older vehicles, carrying on with your journey until the fuel tank is completely empty often results in damage to the fuel system, with broken injectors and fuel pumps not uncommon, explains Torsten Hesse from German vehicle experts Tuv Thueringen.

Likewise, in older diesels, which have a mechanical injection system under the bonnet, a complex manual venting of the fuel system is required after such dry runs.

According to manufacturers, modern car engines are largely immune to the effects of running the tank dry. However, experts still warn motorists against letting it happen.

That's because clean fuel combustion can no longer be guaranteed after a dry run - despite the use of fuel filters, dirt particles that are deposited in the fuel could wreck havoc.