GREENSBORO, N.C. — This time last month, drivers were beginning to worry.
The Colonial Pipeline was in shutdown mode, and its impacts were becoming apparent. Drivers rushed to the pumps to fuel up, amplifying fuel distribution problems from Texas to North Carolina and up the east coast. Some drivers who didn't fill up early had to make a choice -- find a station with gas (and wait in long lines) or take the chance and drive down the fuel tank (and pray for the pipeline's quick restoration).
In light of the pipeline fallout, WFMY News 2 viewer Lori Powe commented, "I heard it is not good to keep your (gas) tank lower than a 1/4, because of sludge or trash that could harm your car. Don't know how true that is though."
Well, Lori's question comes from the theory that sediment from gas settles at the bottom of your fuel tank, and when you don't have enough gas in your tank to stir up the sediment, it's likely to enter the fuel line. Is that true?
Both certified auto technician Cynthia Roy and petroleum analyst Patrick De Haan conclude the claim Lori heard is -- false.
"That's something that may have been more accurate decades and decades ago, back when filtration and quality control was a little lax, back maybe in the 60s and 70s," De Haan said.
He explained technological advancements in the industry have helped with quality control.
"Since then, there's so much filtration now. Your car has a fuel filter. Stations have filters on pumps. Oil refineries are checking every batch of gasoline shipped for impurities. So, it's not impossible that you may pick up a few microns of foreign substance every once in a while, but that shouldn't amount to much. There's really no danger now, even running out of gas," De Haan explained.
Roy noted, "The pick-up screen for the fuel pump actually sits at the bottom of the fuel tank, so it picks up from the bottom to the top. Meaning, if there is any sludge anywhere in the tank, it's already getting picked up, regardless of how full the tank is. That is what the fuel filter does. It removes any non-fuel elements before the fuel goes to the rest of the system."
The claim Lori heard is false. It is not bad for your car to let your gas tank get below a quarter. But, it could be bad for you, if you're running on 'empty,' and there's no gas station nearby.
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