Petrol Run Out of Petrol? Don’t Panic – Here’s What To Do

Driving a car that’s running on fumes can be scary. Nobody intends to run out of petrol, and sometimes it can be out of your hands.

If you find yourself running out of petrol, don’t panic. It’s not the end of the world, and you can likely find a way to get back on the move without too much effort.

This guide will explain what to do when you’re running low on petrol, or stranded on the road with nothing in the tank.

Running Low on Petrol

Running low on petrol can be a nerve-wracking proposition. You might be inclined to drive faster to get to the station as soon as possible.

Driving fast is actually counter-intuitive, and so are a few other strategies you may employ. In this section, we’ll give you a breakdown of the steps you can take when you’re running out of petrol on the road.

Slow Down

Avoid the urge to speed up to find the nearest station when you’re about to run out of petrol. Remember: saving time does not save petrol.

In fact, speeding up will use more petrol and cause you to run out of petrol faster. You might be able to make it to the nearest station by driving at or below the speed limit. When you start exceeding the speed limit, you run the risk of losing more petrol rather than saving it.

Move to a Safe Position

Highways are the scariest place to run out of petrol since all the cars around you are moving so fast. If you fear that you’re about to run out of petrol, move to the left lane if possible – closest to the shoulder.

That way, if you do run out of petrol, you’ll be able to pull into the shoulder safely without crossing traffic.

When your car is extremely low on petrol it may start to slow down, especially if you’re on the highway. The lack of acceleration can cause you to go slower than the rest of the cars around you.

For this reason, it’s essential that you’re ready to pull over as safely as possible. Crossing traffic while going slower than most other cars is extremely dangerous.

Locate the Nearest Petrol Station

If you have a passenger ask them to help you using a smartphone or GPS. If you have signal, they can use a navigation app, fuel finder app, or GPS to locate the nearest petrol station.

If you are alone, follow any highway signs to the nearest petrol station. If necessary, you may need to pull over, stop the car, and use your smartphone if possible to look up the nearest station.

Petrol prices are high in Australia right now, but the cost of fuel isn’t a priority when you’re running on empty – you don’t have to fill up your tank.

If you have a roadside assistance service, make sure you have your membership information on hand. They will be your first option if you run out of petrol.

Close the Windows and Turn off the AC

Turning off your air conditioning can save valuable petrol in dire situations.

Air conditioning adds stress to the engine, which uses fuel. If you’re close to running out of petrol, then you should shut off the air conditioning unit in your car.

Additionally, closing the windows reduces the amount of drag your car has. Drag slows you down and causes you to use more petrol to maintain the same speed. Closing those windows allows you to go further and faster without using as much fuel.


Run Out of Petrol

Depending on where you are, you may find yourself stranded on the side of the road. In some cases—such as in a city—it might be possible to walk to a petrol station.

However, in regional areas of Australia you may be a long way away from the nearest fuel stop. If you have phone signal, it’s time to call for assistance. If you don’t, you may need to stop a passing motorist.

Here are some options you should exhaust before deciding to walk a long distance or hitch a ride with a stranger.

Roadside Assistance

Roadside assistance can be a smart investment. Not only can it help when you’re stranded without petrol, but you can also get towed if your car breaks down unexpectedly.

There are a variety of roadside assistance services in Australia that can offer 24/7 roadside assistance to members. These include:

  • WA: RAC
  • SA: RAA
Call A Friend

If you have any friends available for a quick pickup, give them a call. It’s worth calling a friend or two for help if you don’t have roadside assistance. This will likely save you money, time, and hassle compared to some of the alternatives.

Ridesharing App or Taxi

Ridesharing companies like Uber can be a massive help when you’re stranded without petrol. If the nearest petrol station is not within walking distance, but you’re in an area with a ridesharing service, this is a viable solution.

Access to your phone gives you a variety of options, one of which is the potential to use a ridesharing app or taxi service to get out of trouble.

Sure, this strategy costs a bit more money, but it will be worth it if your only other option is a long walk. Use Uber or a taxi service to drive you to the petrol station and bring you back.

Hopefully, they’ll be understandable and won’t have a problem with you sitting in the backseat with a jerrycan of petrol.

No Service Options

Most of our suggestions revolve around having a phone when you break down. Breaking down in a remote area means you might not have service, and there’s always a chance your battery dies.

If this is the case, you should stay in your car with the hazard lights on while you wait for help to arrive. In many cases, you will still be able to call 000 from your mobile phone if you don’t have service.

There are also two secondary emergency numbers:

  • 112: Available from all GSM or GSM-enabled phones
  • 106: Text-based relay service for people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or have a speech impairment

Filling a Container

Below is an infographic that walks you through the process of filling a petrol container.

Should I Keep A Full Container of Petrol Handy?

This depends on the type of driving you are doing. If you’re covering short distances around a city, the answer is probably no. Keeping a full container of petrol in your car is dangerous for multiple reasons.

The container could spill and cause a fire hazard. You also run the risk of inhaling the toxic fumes whenever you go for a long drive.

On the other hand, if you’re driving long distances through remote areas, you may carry petrol with you in a jerrycan. Some cars or trailers are equipped with an external storage space for jerrycans, making it safer to travel with a full container of fuel.

If you are traveling with fuel, take care as there is still a level of risk when doing so.

Of course, prevention is the smartest way to avoid running out of petrol. Compare petrol prices in your area to find the lowest price for the fuel you need.

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