AAA sees more drivers running out of gas

Published: Apr. 29, 2011 at 6:04 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 30, 2011 at 7:00 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – AAA of the Carolinas says rising gas prices seem to be increasing the number of people who run out of gas. Comparing the first three months of 2010 to the same period in 2011, AAA saw an increase in calls for gas of 16.5 percent this year. Comparing Easter weekend between the two years, AAA saw an increase in calls for gas of 25 percent.

Kevin Ouellette of Myrtle Beach said he understands why people run out of gas more when prices are higher. He ran out of gas about a month ago.

"With the gas prices how they are lately I can't afford to put gas in there all the time," he said.

A car that runs out of gas can immediately lose power steering and power braking. It also strands the driver on the side of the road.

Jim Handler with DeFalco's Towing and Automotive in Surfside Beach said getting stranded not only costs time and money, it can also be dangerous.

"A lot of people... I put my lights on. They don't care. I wear the vest. They don't care," Handler said. "It's a scary sight for people."

Running out of gas can cost even more in the shop. Cars using up the last bit of gas can suck trash and water into the engine.

"It doesn't just involve the fuel pump," explain C&G Auto mechanic Barry Abrams. "It involves the whole fuel system - the fuel pump, the fuel filters, the fuel lines, the injectors."

Abrams said those problems are more likely if a car runs out of gas more than once, and the cost can run from about $500 to $2,000 - enough to make Ouellette think twice about stretching his tank too far.

"{I'll} try not make sure I don't run out any more," Ouellette said. "I didn't know it could hurt your vehicle by running it out."

Mechanics say drivers who often let the gas tank get near empty should get a good idea of how far a tank of gas will take them. That can be done by resetting the odometer with each fill-up at the gas pump.

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