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#1 (permalink) Old 03-12-2012, 10:34 AM
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Question Won't start without fuel :-/

Grabbed your attention, didn't I?

Symptom: when car is low on gas, it won't start.

This happened to our rav twice, once to me and once to my s.o.
All is well, drive around, guel gauge gets lower and lower, low fuel lights up, you think, sure there's reserve, will last me couple of days worth of short commute. The next morning it doesn't start, not even a sputter.

Fuel gauge shows below zero, fuel low light is on, starter turns happily, engine won't start. Walked to nearest filling station with largest disposable container in the household, namely 1.5L soft drink bottle, filled it up, emptied in the fuel tank, car still won't start.

Went to the gas station with larger container, a mop bucket, refilled car with 9L of fuel, starts happily after 10 seconds or so spinning the starter.

What gives? How come 1.5 liters of fuel is not enough?

That same car survived a trip from Kerrville to Fort Stockton, where gas stations are very far between, and got us to overpriced Exxon with 64 miles past Fuel low light. Yet it cannot get over 15km x 2-way commute? My previous car managed 2~3 days of commute when low on fuel.

Note that car never ran out of fuel on the road, it seems to have run out of fuel while parked and switched off.

Different locations, unlikely someone nicked last drops of fuel, also both times it was rather cold, below freezing.

Ideas so far:
  1. Fuel pump/lines/filter/injector total volume is way over 1.5L
  2. Hot engine runs on fumes, cold cannot
  3. Bottom of fuel tank is flat, fuel sloshes around and gets to the pump while car is in motion, last pools of of fuel cannot be accessed when car is stationary
  4. Fuel disappears or evaporates when car is parked
  5. Remaining fuel is measured so exactly on modern cars and it's just bad luck
  6. Toyota has a clever system (akin to gas/brake fiasco) that doesn't let you start the car when you are so low on gas you might be stranded
We both learned our lesson and fuel the car soon when needle gets close to zero. Inquisitive minds want to know, is there a scientific explanation?
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#2 (permalink) Old 03-12-2012, 11:18 AM
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7. Parked the car on a gradient so the remaining fuel all drained to the end away from the fuel supply hose?

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#3 (permalink) Old 03-12-2012, 11:55 AM
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I've had problems with cars not starting or running poorly due to condensation of water in a low fuel tank in cold weather. After pouring in an alcohol-based fuel additive to absorb the water, the car would immediately start. If you possibly had that condition, adding just the 1.5 liters of fuel may not have been enough to sufficiently dilute the amount of water present in the tank.

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#4 (permalink) Old 03-13-2012, 12:25 PM
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@hoovie, 2 different places, one graded, one not.

@cmrj I was wondering about the possibility of that. Is there any way to test this?
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#5 (permalink) Old 03-13-2012, 02:39 PM
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If the weather is below water's freszing point and there is condensed water in the fuel tank which has gotten to the level of the fuel pump intake the problem may be that the water freezes, blocking the intake. When some gasoline is added even though its temperature is above freezing there may not be enough to thaw the frozen water, but when adding the larger quantity of fuel that may be sufficient to thaw the condensation and unblock the fuel pump intake.

Also, I've heard of people having that problem when I lived in Minnesota, and they used the alcohol-based fuel additive mentioned by cmrj. They poured the additive into the tank and had to wait for some time for it to work. I used to routinely use that sort of additive once every three or four tanks full as a preventative measure, adding it before pumping the gasoline.

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#6 (permalink) Old 03-13-2012, 05:10 PM
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I know I'm not a 4.3 person, but just do what I do--try as hard as possable to NEVER let the guage go past half way. Problem solved, no matter what the problem is.

Sound good to anybody?
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#7 (permalink) Old 03-13-2012, 05:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dimaqq View Post
@hoovie, 2 different places, one graded, one not.

@cmrj I was wondering about the possibility of that. Is there any way to test this?
A sample would probably have to be analyzed by a lab. Water is heavier than gasoline so it could accumulate at the bottom of the gas tank. I always fill up at about the halfway mark. It's urban legend I suppose, but I have heard that condensation can also accumulate in a service station's gasoline storage tanks and that it is possible to get some bad gas if the level of the stored gasoline is near the bottom of the tank.

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#8 (permalink) Old 03-13-2012, 05:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CPD View Post
I know I'm not a 4.3 person, but just do what I do--try as hard as possable to NEVER let the guage go past half way. Problem solved, no matter what the problem is.

Sound good to anybody?
I'm sorry but that makes entirely too much sense so it must be cast aside . Continually running it until it's below empty certainly does not make any sense whatsoever.

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#9 (permalink) Old 03-13-2012, 06:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RTexasF View Post
I'm sorry but that makes entirely too much sense so it must be cast aside . Continually running it until it's below empty certainly does not make any sense whatsoever.
Lol. It might not be such a big problem with newer cars and cars with newer tanks, but at least from what I've allways been taught, there's a lot of solids and, for all intensive purposes, sand and dirt in gasoline that builds up on the bottom, and when you run out, or near out of gas, it can clog up your pipes, filters and the fuel pump.

Speaking of the water issue, at least supposedly, if you have a hole in the bottom of your tank, you can pour a little bit of water in the tank, and it'll temporarally help with the leak because the water will go to the bottom, and will reduce the flow to a few drops, since the water is thicker than the gasolene.
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#10 (permalink) Old 03-13-2012, 06:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dimaqq View Post
Inquisitive minds want to know, is there a scientific explanation?
I would love to find out the answer, but I know if would be difficult. Science fair project?
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