Monday, October 5, 2009

Running on Fumes

When the Answer Fella at Esquire magazine wonders if cars really can "run on fumes," he turns to Flint for help:
Ray Rust, mechanical-engineering academic lab coordinator at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, notes that "every time you fill it, gunk gets into the gas tank and settles into the lowest point [and] winds up around the fuel pickup nozzle if that's the only fuel left in the tank. So if you keep running your tank low, you're more likely to suck up small particles and clog up your fuel filter. Also, the lower the tank [level] is, the more work that pump has to do."


  1. I had always heard that 1/2 tank rule, but I've always had that Kramer need to see how long I can watch that fuel light lit before I decide to fill it.

  2. Also, the lower the tank [level] is, the more work that pump has to do.

    I think there's a human metaphor in there, too ...

  3. Ah yes! I saw this! Good to see Kettering get some press.

    And apropos of not much, Esquire is a fantastic magazine. There are so few good ones left.

  4. Condensation in the tank is a factor too. Keep the tank full and the engine isn't having to deal with foreign substance fouling true performance, especially plugs and carburetion. I think there's a human metaphor in there too....unclebuck or so, I've been told.

  5. On the other the proposed approach, the crud goes into the tank a little bit at a time, and accumulates.

    Maybe it's preferable to capture that crud with the fuel filter a little bit at a time, by regularly filling the tank only when it is nearly empty.

    Particularly if it's possible that in that special circumstance (road trip, long distance between stations, misjudgment) when the tank *does* get close to empty, you'll be conducting a high-stakes experiment as to whether the fuel filter can handle it all at once without clogging.

  6. I'll tell ya, people in Grand Rapids *do not* have in-depth discussions about minimizing gunk in fuel lines.

  7. That's because they are about furniture not autos. It's kind of a blood thing....unclebuck


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at