posted by Matt W on July 2nd, 2014

Yesterday, I was driving home with my son, and noticed that I was fast approaching empty. As my current car has a “miles to empty” feature, and I have gotten to zero on more than one occasion and not ran out of fuel, I wasn’t worried.

Every extra mile I drive on a tank of gas is one more mile I get to go without fueling. If I were a race car driver, I would be the guy that wins every once in a while by taking one less pit stop than the rest of the field. The perfect fuel scenario for me would be to fill up my empty gas tank until I can just see fuel about to spill out on the pavement, drive until I am literally on fumes and coast into the gas station to fill up the bone dry tank again.

Now I realize there are numerous flaws in this dream scenario, including the high probability that I will run out of gas, sediment in my filters, blah, blah, blah, but the biggest thing holding me back from doing this more often is the probable divorce it would cause. While over the course of my life, I’m sure I have saved hundreds of hours of fueling time by waiting a few exits before each refueling, I’m sure my wife would counter that there is a 1 to 1 correlation between hours saved and hours taken off the end of her life by all the stress it has caused.

Fairly early on in our marriage, on a particular tank of gas, I was getting incredible mileage. I had a diesel Peugeot at the time,  while I typically got 450+ miles to a tank, for some reason, I was approaching 450 but my fuel warning light still hadn’t gone on. Awesome. Things like this are interesting to me, so it made perfect sense to pass the first diesel station and keep flying down the highway.

The warning light flickered on and off as I whizzed past the next exit with a diesel station. When the light turned a solid yellow, I calculated 500 miles on this miraculous tank. I formulated all the possible reasons for this unexpected driving bonanza. Of course this meant, now I just had to find out how far this tank would take me and I passed the next station.

As we were still newlyweds, and I had never run out of gas with my wife in the car, she kept quiet. I knew of a station a few miles down the road and like Captain Ahab chasing the white whale I decided to push it one more exit to set a new personal record of 525 miles on one tank of gas. I ran out of gas less than two miles from that exit. Cool.

My wife was actually fairly calm as we walked the two miles together. We filled up the gas can and I got us a ride back to our car with a trucker. We ran across the Interstate to get back to my Peugeot. Perfect.

After fueling the tank, I got back into the car wanting to talk further about our 525 mile experience, and then the dam broke. She apparently did not think it was “worth it” to get a ride with a “scary” trucker, or scramble across the interstate on foot, just to see if I could pass 525 miles on one tank of gas. Really? I would have done each of them again in a heartbeat (Well, the trucker was a little scary.). Needless to say, the rest of the drive was rather icy and to this day I don’t think she has completely thawed on that topic.

Back to yesterday, it was at 6 miles to empty when the engine sputtered. I immediately went into action. First, I put it into neutral and turned off the engine to conserve fuel. I put on my warning lights, and moved onto the shoulder to get out of people’s way. I remembered that I could coast to the exit ahead, but unless I timed the light perfectly, I would need a little bit of power to get through the intersection and up the incline into the station. I gauged the light as I approached, and thought I was going to make it but then it turned red. I pulled over to the side, waited until the light turned green, turned over the engine and had just enough fuel to start it and get through the intersection. I coasted up to Pump 1 as the car choked to a halt. Perfect.

After I filled up, I got back into the car and asked my son what the moral of this situation was. He was about to say, “Fill up the tank sooner,” when it hit him what I was looking for. “I need to remember to turn off the car to conserve fuel,” he said as I left the gas station.

“And never lose momentum if at all possible,” I added.

19 gallons of gas in an 18 gallon tank, $70.00.

Pissing off another generation of wives and mothers, priceless.

File Under Jack of all Trades