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Question Of The Day: What’s Your Best Ran Out Or Almost Ran Out Of Gas Story? These Two Are Great.

Question Of The Day: What’s Your Best Ran Out Or Almost Ran Out Of Gas Story? These Two Are Great.

When Scott posted on Facebook about nearly running out of gas, and playing the coast and careful throttle game to make it to the pump, it made me laugh as I’ve done the same thing so many times I’m sorta known for it. It got the two of us talking as we figured that there have to be jillions of similar stories that all of you have. So share them with us after reading Scott’s escapades below. The first is from Facebook. The other is even more colorful and is from his days as a limo driver. It is epic. Read it. I promise it is worth your time.

(Words and Photos by Scott Liggett)

Running Out of Gas Story #1

After work, I was racing up to the north end of town to run errands. The Kearney Expressway is a four lane road that is more a highway. I was hauling the mail, about 70 mph and 3000 rpm, when the engine started cutting out. I didn’t panic. At first, I thought it was just another old car thing, a vacuum leak, points going out, or spark plugs fouling again. Then I realized I had no idea when I last filled the car with gas. No the gas gauge still doesn’t work. I was more than a mile away from any gas station. My mind began to race to figure out how much I drove the car lately since that unknown date I last gassed up.

I left off the gas and the car slowed and it started running right again. Not to take any chances, I changed my route towards that nearest gas station. This required a hard left around one of those stupid round abouts. The car sputtered and coughed again. Then settled back down as soon as I straightened out the wheel. Yep, I was running out of gas. No doubt now.

I had a straight shot about a mile away to the gas station. No stop signs, no street lights. I accelerated slow and smooth to gain speed in case I wouldn’t make it. The car wasn’t happy, but kept going faster. I was doing close to 70 at this point, which would allow me to coast a 1/4 mile if it ran dry. I made it about halfway when the car coughed and sputtered again. I shoved in the clutch and it caught again, so I let out the clutch. It went a bit farther before repeating the cough and sputter. I tried to give it gas and it backfired. Not good.

The car was still running, sorta, when I got to the driveway of the gas station. What would have normally been a slow turn into the driveway, was far more kamekazi. I flew in, hitting that transition hard enough for everything in the trunk to hit the trunk lid and slam back down. The suspension and I am sure much of the frame bounced off the concrete leaving behind sparks and dust. I roll up to the nearest empty gas pump when the engine coughed one last time, then sneezed back through the carb before it croaked. Every one outside the gas station witnessed this. I just hopped out with a big smile. Takes too long to explain.

Whew!!! I made it. The 20 gallon gas tank took 19.9 gallons.

Running Out of Gas Story #2

You don’t have to be a die hard gearhead to have been there. That moment when the car suddenly dies, cranks, but won’t start. Then you heart sinks when you realized you ran the gas tank dry in your heap. If you are like me who drives 50 year old rusty pieces of crap where the gas gauge doesn’t function, and probably never will again. Or, you are one of those people who think the “E” on the gas gauge means another 100 miles of driving. We all love being passengers in these vehicles and their drivers. Ever ridden with someone on a road trip, look over at the gas gauge and see that warning light on? It is not a good feeling.

This past Monday, on the way home from work, Project Mud Bomber ’64 Galaxie started coughing and sputtering on the highway doing about 70 mph and 3000 rpm. I managed to keep the car running and, more importantly, moving 5 miles to the closest gas station. With the car was coughing, sneezing and even backfiring from not liking only having fumes to inhale, I flew into the gas bouncing the frame off the driveway, skidding to a stop in front of the nearest available gas pump.

It was a total win, even though everyone who witnessed my entrance to the gas station was thinking I was some kind juvenile hoon. It is always a win when you make it to the gas station without having to walk several miles to the get there, or bust out your AAA card to call for a rescue.

While standing there pumping gas thinking of how I dodged a longer night than I wanted, I was reminded of a time that I used years of saved up luck to make it into a gas station. It was back in the late 1990’s when I was a limo driver living in Sacramento, CA. I was still fairly new at the job, still making mistakes, and learning from most of those mistakes. The company I worked for at the time had a fleet of white Caddy limos like the stretch in the picture below. Most of these were backyard hacks at best, where a regular Sedan De Ville literally got cut in half and the stretch part of the stretch limo was added. They had patched together wiring, two piece drive shafts, and then were stuffed with seats and bar equipment that looked like they bought at Brothels Are US!.

On the night in question, I had a pair of couples who wanted to go up to Reno to hit the casinos for some gambling and see a show. To say it was a long night was an understatement. We left Sacramento with the remnants of the evening rush hour still out on the roads. And, we didn’t leave Reno to head back until after 3 am. I had caught a few winks here and there in between running the clients between different casinos. I was dead dog tired when we hit the road, but was excited we were heading back.

If you ever witness a limo going way beyond the speed limit late at night, it is probably heading back to the barn. Just like the horse that knows he is on his way home, the driver pushes the big pedal harder to get their sooner. This is especially true after a long hard day dealing with less than sober customers.

I was coming down I-80 from Donner Pass well past the 65 mph posted speed limit. My clients were all sleeping peacefully in the back of the limo as I tried my best to move swiftly and smoothly. It would have been a nice quiet ride with the exception of the one gentleman who was sawing logs about loudly as a broken chain saw. It was an awful sound that was definitely keeping me awake.

There is a section of I-80 between Donner Pass and the mining town of Auburn that is very lonely at that time of night. Very few exits have any sort of services. Even fewer were open all night. This is where the engine literally died and the gas gauge way past the wrong side of empty. This is also where I also remembered that I never filled the gas tank since we left Sacramento 11 hours before. I was out of gas and coasting down hill. I had two choices, pull over and wait a very long time to get help with angry customers. Or, just keeping going. There is a 6000 ft elevation drop between Donner Pass and Auburn, it was all down hill. I had gravity on my side. I shoved the car into neutral and kept right on going.

I-80 isn’t exactly straight in this section and it isn’t all down hill either. There were plenty of places where I had to climb hills. My only chance to make it the next gas station was to keep the speed up as much as possible. That meant that 65 speed limit wasn’t going cut it. I just let that limo run as fast as it would go to make it up those rises. I had to do this without the power steering, nor the power brakes. Stopping a 6500 lb Caddy without the benefit of the vacuum assisted power brakes would require serious leg power and a whole lot of empty space. About those curves, those stretch limos do not handle like a European sports car. More like a school bus on a hockey rink. Gawd awful.

As I sped along with only sound of the wind, the tires on the pavement, and Mr. Client’s snoring, I was passing most every vehicle out there. I was watching way far ahead down the road as I had to plan my reactions way way ahead of time. Thankfully, it was very late and we had very little traffic to contend with. But, I did pass several semis along the way going almost double their speed. Any shred of being tired was long gone by this point. My adrenaline was pumping as fast as my heart. It was winter, cold out, and I was sweating bullets.

I knew there was a very long and steep incline coming up soon. I knew I had to really get the speed up to make it over the crest of that hill. The only problem was a sweeping left hand turn that had a giant yellow warning sign that read 45 mph. I was doing 80 when I flew into it. Normally, when throwing a big tank like this into the corner, you slow down before entering, then using the big engine to power your way out of it. I just went into that turn like a big white cruise missile. The tires were not happy at all and were protesting the abuse even louder than my snoring passenger. I came into the turn on the left shoulder with the tires skirting the center island’s dead weeds. I used up every inch of concrete in that curve, coming out the other side on the right shoulder with the door handles scraping the steel guard rail.

As soon as I came out of that turn, amazed I didn’t fly off the road into pine trees and big rocks, the incline hit that heavy car like an anchor being tossed out the back. It slowed almost instantly. It wasn’t looking good that we would make it the crest of that hill. Not at all. I was rocking back and forth in the seat hoping to keep the momentum up. I was chanting “C’mon baby. C’mon baby!! The car slowed to less than 25 mph but it made it over and slowly started gaining speed again.

We kept this up for near 15 miles when I saw that Chevron sign glowing in the distance. It was the station at Colfax!. I knew it was open 24 hrs! Almost there. I only had a steep off ramp and very hard right turn, a very hard left turn, then up the steep driveway. Then there was that stop sign at the end of the off ramp. How fast can I go and still make the turn. How much speed do I need to get up that hill to the gas station’s pumps? I don’t know.

I was making internal calculations as I hit the off ramp, trying to figure out G forces, drag coefficients, rolling friction of the tires, and the car’s weight versus the gravity and incline of the hills in front of me. I really just guessed to what was needed. I slowed just enough to throw the Moby Dick the limo into the turn at the top of the off ramp. It was going to be rough and noisy and I was risking getting T boned by a truck on the highway overpass. That stupid hard right threw the passengers to one side of the car, then the instant hard left into the gas threw them violently to the other side. Sorry. Can’t be helped!! My internal calculations were spot on and my driving skills rocked as I made it without damaging the car or killing my passengers.

The two hard turns woke them up and were looking around as we pulled into the gas station rolling gently to a stop in front of the pumps. I announced we were stopping for gas liked I had planned it. They smiled, got out and stretched their legs while I pumped the gas. They never knew what happened or why I was sweating like a pig.

Let’s hear about your stories of running out of gas. Or, almost running out of gas.

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18 thoughts on “Question Of The Day: What’s Your Best Ran Out Or Almost Ran Out Of Gas Story? These Two Are Great.

  1. stitchdup

    Not had the “pleasure” of running out myself but I worked in a gas station for a couple of years with a pair of lazy good for nothings. We have a local aggricultural show each year so the week either side is really busy. I took the first week as a holiday but i get a call from the boss asking if i could possibly go to work, and i would be paid double and get the week after the rush off instead. No big deal really cos I wasn’t doing anything else. I arrived at work to find a queue of vehicles blocking the main road with lots of pissed off drivers, every pump turned off and the delivery tanker wedged under the canopy, you could see the canopy actually bending from the strain. As I arrived the gfn’s were about to cut the canopy up to remove the tanker, I yelled them to stop and let some air out of the tyres and got it moved. Turns out the lazy good for nothings had assumed i had ordered fuel for my week off, and then guided the tanker under the lowest lane of the canopy. So I made the lazy gfn’s take a lane each and do full service for cash only sales and the boss went out to fill up for the people that wanted to pay by card. after 3 hours the backlog was cleared and the gfn’s were told exactly how they had messed up. I hate to think what would have happened if they hadn’t called the boss that day.

  2. gary

    My wife bought me a brand new Yugo in ’91 so I’d stop riding my ZX10 Ninja rto work in -19 degree weather. (Great car, BTW! $3,200. brand new, with a bumper to bumper warranty that was awesome, and never needed!) Anyway, we’re driving to church one Saturday night, (we raced the turbo nitrous funnybike on Sundays!) and she looks over and says, “Dont’cha think this thing needs some gas?”, and I said, “Nah, we’ve got plenty, we’ll fill up after church.” About that very moment, the engine sputters and shuts off. She looks at me. I just kicked it into neutral, and kept rolling down 244 in Tulsa. Up the ramp at Garnett, no traffic, left turn, over the overpass, into QT, still never toughing the brakes, it rolls to a stop at the pumps. She says, “You are the luckiest man on earth!” I told her, “Of course, dear, I have you!”

  3. Weasel1

    Had VW bug that had a “reserve” on the gas gauge. The only time we came close was after a Saturday cruising around we parked it in the driveway. Up the next morning to go to the races and would not start, out of gas

  4. Greg Miller

    went out with a girl and ran out of gas at an old apartment building,went out with her sister a couple of weeks later and ran out of gas at exactly the same place. The dude there thought I had a death wish.

  5. 75Duster

    I had just bought my first truck, a 1982 Dodge D150 off of the Hickam AFB “lemon lot”, my gas gauge was reading 1/2 tank when I was driving the truck with my friend Mike to Hawaii Raceway Park for the races.
    I was on H1 when my truck began to sputter, I pulled off of H1 when it ran out of gas. Luckily, there was a nearby church off of the highway doing a Hawaiian BBQ fundraiser, I walked over there and explained my situation to them, they happened to have 5 gallons of gas there. They offered it to me, but I gave them $20 for the gas, then returned the gas can to them and thanked them, many Mahalos!
    We went to the races, then the following week I replaced the faulty fuel sending unit in the D150.

  6. Loren

    On The Vacation From Hell we ran out of gas. But first: On the initial night out leaving from San Diego CA the car, a’70 El Camino BB/4spd, with two kids in a camper shell and pulling a small fiberglass travel trailer that looked like a marshmellow, we overheated at the Nevada state line when the connection at the heater core failed. Two hours later in heavy traffic on the Vegas Strip (during the early-’90s construction boom) we hit a hidden ditch in the asphalt so hard I about saw stars then the clutch linkage failed. The side streets were barricaded and we had to drive for blocks by starting the car in gear to move and shutting it off to stop. Re-adjusting the linkage by feel in a dark parking lot seemed to fix it. The next day in Zion we set up camp in the rain and were soaked when the rangers showed up and forced us to move to an RV lot between two running generators all night. Despite a weekend of cleaning and new carpet our “new” (free) trailer smelled of mouse pee so bad we could barely sleep in it. Next day on the road the two kids, our daughter and a friend, took to fighting and wouldn’t stop. Leaving the National Park the passenger door latch jammed and could not be repaired, causing my 5 mos. pregnant wife to climb over the stick shift to enter/exit for the rest of the trip. We were nearly run off the road by a truck that lost it’s brakes and we don’t know what wound up happening to them. Then it turned out the clutch pivot ball had broken off the block in Vegas and the z-bar rode against an oil pressure line fitting until that wore through and started dumping oil onto the headers. We rolled into a small-town repair shop on virtually no pressure. In Wyoming I burned the crap out of my arm on a BBQ. I drank enough beer to not feel it and the next morning had a terrible headache. Loaded up and ready to leave, turning the ignition key produced only a whiff of smoke. Running the HEI on the windshield wiper circuit, we stopped in Salt Lake City where I may have offended the tourguide at the Tabernacle then later, going down a long grade on I-15 in Utah, the engine inexplicably quit. It didn’t even stumble first. Wife and I looked at each other, I don’t remember what was said. Maybe nothing.

    It was hot as an oven outside. I coasted for what seemed like five minutes in neutral, at the bottom of the grade there was an overpass and I braked to a stop in the shade. I crawled under the lowered car, in dirt I noticed was made of basically sandy filth and old roadkill particles. Sliding around, I broke my burned-over arm skin open into it. Eventually I determined there was no gas in the tank, the fuel gauge had quit in the quarter-full position and I was fooled. I had no gas can. With new shoes eating into my ankles, hungover and very pissed, I set off down the highway to find a gas station. I thought it was maybe three miles.

    After a mile or so a nice older Mormon couple picked me up in their new Oldsmobile. It turned out to be fifteen miles to the station. I waited in line to buy a gas can, waited in line to fill it, waited in a third line to pay. I trudged back up the freeway in the heat with a full can hanging off my arm and a shoe filled with paper napkins. People stared at me and drove on After maybe 2 miles a nice younger Mormon couple picked my up in their new Buick, seemed to be a pattern. During some awkward conversation the wife offered from a bag of cheese puffs, I reached forward without thinking and put my filthy puss-smeared burned arm right in front of her face. She literally reeled back. Soon she had a change of heart and wanted me out of the car. I didn’t want to leave, every second gliding along in that air-conditioned polyester velour back seat was saving me so many footsteps out in the heat carrying that can. Shortly she had worked herself into a panic and nobody was believing my story of having a wife and two kids on the side of the road a few miles up ahead. They were getting more forceful about having me out while I was getting equally forceful about not, I’m afraid, but in any event they weren’t actually pulling over. When we got to where my car was and I pointed it out on the other side of the freeway and asked out now, they about drove right past it. They then realized that they were not being held hostage by a dirty disheveled nut and pulled over, were overjoyed, then apologetic. They were waving as I trotted across the freeway. I remembered to bring the gas can with me. It was good to be in a state where people are willing to help strangers despite possible misgivings.

    The trailer door had quit working, another damn door on the same trip. Wife and kids were perched on the concrete under the overpass. I put in my couple gallons of gas then inserted the daughter through a trailer window to get sodas from the cooler. My wife asked if we could just go home now. Ten or so non-air-conditioned hours later in Victorville CA she offered to drive as I was exhausted. Going down the pass I was just dozing off in the passenger seat when we hit a traffic cone sitting out in the lane (BAM!) and it jammed under the car at speed. At the next place to exit I pulled the smoking sticky mess out from under a muffler and there would be no sleep for me after that. We made it home around 3 am.

    I didn’t fix the gas gauge for six years. I had to cut the latch out of the stuck car door from the inside with a gas torch while my m.i.l. held a garden hose to the outside. I gave the disgusting mouse-piss marshmellow trailer back to the guy I got it from and we still hate that-style trailer. My daughter and her friend never spoke again. The Wife would deliver a healthy 2nd daughter, now 23 and travelling through the Middle East w/ relatives, last pic sent was from an Air BnB bedroom/bomb shelter.

  7. Kim Welch

    Only ran out of gas once and it wasn’t my fault. In high school 1970 I had a really cool VW. 1835 engine, weber carb, Cragars, wide oval tires. Over Christmas vacation I crashed the bug. An older lady made a left turn in front of me in the rain and I T boned her right in the door. Destroyed the front of the VW. At first the insurance company said it was totaled but a few weeks later said that they were going to fi the car. That drug on for almost three months and I was furious, in high school and no car for three months. They cut it off at the windshield and floor and welded on a whole new front end. I finally got the call that the car was done. I rushed down to pick it up, signed all of the paperwork and drove off. The VW engine went silent a few blocks away. The gas gauge said 1/2 tank. I opened the hood and everything looked OK. I worked the throttle a few times and no gas squirted inside the carb. So I went up front to look in the tank and see if there was any gas. I opened the front end and guess what. No Gas tank !! I walked back to the body shop and went around back into the shop and said “hey do you guys have an extra VW gas tank laying around here”. Sure enough over in the corner is my gas tank. The VW had started and run for a few blocks on the gas that was in the carb fuel bowls,lines, filter and pump.

  8. Chris L.

    My very first old-school project car purchase turned into a ran-out-of-gas nightmare right after driving away from the seller\’s house.
    I had just bought a \’64 Falcon with a built 351W from a 70+ yr old guy in San Leandro, CA who had had the car sitting on his front lawn in the grass for ( what evidently turned out to be ) quite some time.
    Upon paying him and pulling away with my \”prize\” (btw, what a TURD of a car that turned out to be, and singlehandedly turned me off to old Ford products in general, but don\’t get me started!)– I noticed that the tank was really low, so I had my wife follow me in her VW Golf around the corner to put a few gallons of gas in the tank for the 15 mile trip home.
    Unbeknownst to me, the tank bottom evidently was rusted through to the point of being like tissue paper. Soon as that fresh gas hit the rusted metal it started pouring out all over the ground at the gas station.
    Not wanting to risk blowing us up by firing it up, I pushed it in neutral as far out of the filling bay as I could. However, when it came to rest like 50 feet away from the pumps I noticed a homeless guy sitting there on a curb ritght next to the car smoking a cigarette. I told him to please put it out, but he refused. He muttered something along the lines of imploring me to engage in an anatomically impossible sex act upon myself, at which time I just about lost it.
    My wife calmed me down and called AAA for a tow. Fortunately we had the 100 mile tow option on our policy.
    Finally made it home like 2 hours later.
    Moral of the story– always look carefully at the underside of an old car BEFORE you buy it– even if you live in California!

  9. Mopar or No Car

    I had a ’91 Imperial with the overhead digital readout up by the rear view mirror. I ran down the tank until it told me I had -1 miles remaining to empty. Math is hard.

  10. Spaceman Spiff

    My friends funeral in 2001. Nice day out. My daily driver was a 70 chevelle. Driving in the funeral procession, I’m about mid pack. Long line of cars.
    Now, my gas gauge was pretty accurate, read 1/4 tank. Well… that day, it lied. Run out of gas. Pull over. Mind you, it’s a nice day, I have all the windows open. Had to jump out and try to get into someone’s car, that wasn’t full of people.
    Having no time to close the windows, I just got in a car and was off.
    After everything was over, a bunch of us went to go eat. So we are sitting in the restaurant, and the sky starts to get dark…and then the monsoon came….and all my windows are open… had to spend the next day taking the interior out.

  11. H. A. Leal

    I\’ve run out of gas three times in my life and only once did I have to call for help (brother). Another time I ran out of gas half a block from my house and the other time I was out of fuel and coasted off the freeway on an exit and into a gas station at the corner. No problemo!

  12. Eric

    My Car was really low on gas and I had enough to go to work to pick up my pay check, go to the bank, and then fill up my tank. Get to the bank only to find that the Boss forgot to sign the checks, drive back to work to get the check signed and then ran out of gas on my way back to the bank, D’oh!

  13. oldguy

    Easter 1978-whole day was good/bad – ying/yang
    Good – Took a ride from Anaheim out to Elsinore then over 74 to the coast. Bad -Got a flat front tire on my 74 350 Yamaha near the coast -picked up a sewing needle that pin pricked the tube as it went flat and the tire rotated on the wheel . A guy on a pedal bike tried to help but no joy – he had spoons + a pump-that’s how we found out how fucked the tube was. —
    Good – a pickup stopped – hauled me + the bike to route 5 – left the bike at a gas station –
    Good – went to the on ramp -hitched a ride from there to my apt in Anaheim – got in my van and headed south –
    Bad – got a speeding ticket just before the exit where the bike was .
    Then I ran out of gas as I approached the intersection where the bike was
    Good -I got to roll through a red and into the gas station across the street from where the bike was !
    Bad – Didn’t even get to buy gas from them as a courtesy..

    Can I say I still do nothing on Easter Sundays ?

  14. Dick Sappington

    Never done it on the road, or the strip……. ’til …….
    two years ago, at an Eagle Field meet. Cleaned’em off, staged, and she went deader’n the infamous door nail just as the flag dropped.

    Oh well, at least I didn’t jump the flag.

    We rolled’er back and to the side, my buddy legged it for some gas, we topped’er off and I went back up for a consolation pass. 😀

  15. don

    In 1982 I bought a brand new Kawasaki GPZ750. As I was leaving the dealer, they told me it didn’t have much gas in it. Got about 3 miles down the road and it conked out. Had to push it about a half mile to the nearest gas station. No fun. Turned out to be the best motorcycle I ever owned, though.

  16. cyclone03

    Not Car,Bike.
    I was on my 86 GSXR LTD looking at the odometer that I always reset when I fill up amazed I was passing 230 miles and not on reserve yet….as I reach down to check the petcock I find it’s already turned to reserve just as the engine quits. Coasted up the off ramp ,green light,right turn up the driveway right to the pump.

  17. Matt Cramer

    Nothing in nearly the same league as the limo roller coaster story. My best one is about an ’86 Corvette. I had dropped it off at a mechanic’s for some A/C repairs that involved a lot of idling it to circulate the refrigerant. The mechanic warned me it was low on gas, but the trip computer said there was enough gas in the tank to go 20 miles. I wasn’t sure how accurate that was, so I decided to get it to the nearest gas station on my way home, which was about a mile down the road.

    It was then that I learned that when that car’s trip computer said there was enough gas to go 20 miles, it meant there was enough gas to go about 500 feet.

  18. Dave

    Driving our fairly new 1978 Ford pickup with 3 on the tree to get some parts. On the way back while driving through the country the engine bucked and I saw the fuel gauge on empty. Cursing myself for not checking it before my brother and I had left, I pushed the clutch in and saw a house on a 1/4 acre lot just ahead. Coasted up the driveway and stopped just in front of the garage. Hop out and ring the bell. Homeowner comes to door and I say that I ran out of gas.

    The look on their face when they see the truck neatly parked in front of the garage was one of complete suspicion. Until that point I didn\’t think anything of it. But, quickly explaining it happened right by the house and I had enough speed seemed to satisfy. It didn\’t hurt that both my teenage brother and teenage self were quite the baby faces back then.

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