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Why running on empty could be damaging your car

Experts say miles to go number in newer cars might not be accurate

We've all been there -- cruising along and the low fuel light turns on in the car.

But you can make it further, right? Maybe not.

Even if your car has a display that shows how many miles you have left, mechanics warn that number isn't always accurate.

It really depends on three things: road conditions, your car and driving habits.

If most of your driving is on the highway, the distance meter is probably not accurate when you're stuck in traffic.

And if you have a lead foot, you're burning fuel faster too.

RELATED | This is how far you can really drive on empty

The experts at the car repair site “Your Mechanic” came up with a chart listing the ranges of miles different vehicles can drive once the empty gauge comes on.

Regardless of how far you can make it, running your car on empty is not only dangerous but could also be bad for your car.

“The misconception a lot of people have -- they don’t think it’s going to do any harm. They think they’re going to get to the next gas station, you know, ‘I got enough. I’ve done it before, so I know I can get home and back a few times,’” said Aaron Nelson, owner of Aaron’s Car Care. “Don’t do that because there are things that you’re going to damage along the way that maybe you won’t have the opportunity to get to the next stop because your car will just quit.”

Nelson said the fuel pump is the most obvious part of the car that can suffer damage because it’s running hotter.

“And that's just one thing out of many,” Nelson said. “It can cause catalytic converters to overheat from running lean. Catalytic converters can be $2,000 or $3,000 to repair them. Also, you get sediments at the bottom of the tank. And when it's sucking to get every last bit of fuel out of the bottom because you're running so low, you're pulling a lot of those contaminants into your system, clogging up fuel filters, fuel injectors, all kind of stuff like that."

Nelson recommends that you keep at least a quarter of a tank of gas in your car at all times. And if you do have to run off empty, just don’t do it often.