Half Full Or Running On Empty?

Many years ago, one interesting thing I discovered about my mother-in-law was her view concerning the gas tank of her vehicle.  She was obsessed with never letting the gas gauge of her car fall below the one-half tank mark!  Any time my mother-in-law and I went anywhere, we always began our trip with a stop by the gas station!  Most of the time, she’d ask her husband to go and fill up with gas, prior to our trip.  I always found it amusing that she found it necessary to buy gas when the tank was already at least half full.  Her reply was, “I like to keep plenty of gas– in case of an emergency.”

I suppose my mother-in-law’s view could have come from years of living close to a busy highway, where someone was forever running out of gas.  There was always a constant stream of people stopping by her house to “borrow” gas, or use the telephone.  Occasionally, this still happens.  In fact, someone ran out of gas just last week!  Ed gave them a ride to town.

How well I remember hearing my mother-in-law fuss and complain when one of her sons would borrow the car, then bring it home with an empty tank!  Ed admits he was guilty of bringing home a car with an empty tank, too,”because there wasn’t any place open to buy gas.”  In his defense, back in our dating days, most, if not all, of the gas stations around here closed at dark.  There were no convenience stores back then–only an occasional truck stop at the far edge of town.  As teenagers, we spent a lot of time “riding around”.  By the end of the evening, the car was usually low on gas!

When I first met Ed, he was driving a car his parents had passed down to him.  It was a 1961 Mercury, and it was pink!  Don’t you think it takes a “real man” to drive a pink vehicle?  I did!  That car had a few “quirks”, one of them being a gas gauge that didn’t work anymore.  Ed never shared his mother’s vision of keeping plenty of gas in the tank, so you guessed it–one day, while on a date, he and I ran out of gas!  Fortunately, we ran out of gas near the home of a cousin of mine, so we walked to her house and used her phone to call someone to bring us some gas.  Following that experience, I began having my own fear of running low on gas!

I didn’t get my own car until age 26, but from day one, I never let my gas gauge fall below one-fourth of a tank.  It’s a rule I still follow today, and, in fact, I feel myself beginning to panic once the hand actually touches the quarter of a tank mark!   If you want to see me get irritable and break out in sweat, just put me in the car with my daughter.  She rarely worries about getting gas until the warning bell sounds in her vehicle!   We’ve had a couple of close calls while traveling together.

I nearly fell off my seat the other day, when Ed said he was going to start keeping his car “half-full” of gas at all times–in case of an emergency!  What?!  I guess some of his mother has finally rubbed off on him after all!  A chip off the old block…

What are your thoughts?  Do you like to keep plenty of gas in your vehicle, or do you only buy gas when the warning bell sounds?

By the way, did you notice the fuel gauge photo at the top of this post?  I find it sort of humorous, especially in these difficult economic times.

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Published in: on October 16, 2012 at 10:40 am  Comments (7)  
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  1. Your story made me laugh. My hubby is the same way as your mother-in-law (and now your husband) with wanting the gas tank filled all the time, and never letting it get down past the halfway mark. He also starts off a trip getting a full tank. It seems silly to me to do this because in reality sometimes you have to stop twice instead of once on a trip.

    Both of my daughters let their tanks get WAY down low, waiting for the light to come on, because 1) they hate stopping for gas especially if it’s an area they are not familiar with, and 2) because they hate to spend the $40 to $50 it takes to fill the tank. Now that both are working they certainly know the price of gas!!

    I dont’ think either daughter has run out of gas completely, but I’m guessing they would not tell me about it if it happened! They would know my reaction!!!

  2. My dad was like your mother-in-law – half-full. He used to leave the car with us (the family) at Cape Cod during the summer and I was the driver since my mom didn’t drive. He’d take the bus bcak up from NY every 10 days. One Sunday we went to pick him up at the bus station and noticed the tank was down to 1/4. It was either stop for gas or be late for picking him up and then late for church. I chose foregoing gas and being prompt.
    I cringed and shut my eyes when he took over at the wheel. Know what? he never mentioned it!
    As for me, I’m a 1/4 driver but in a pinch I’ve gone down to the warning light.

  3. I keep my gas tank so close to E that I’m surprised I haven’t run out of gas before now. Hubby puts gas in the car because I really don’t even think about it! He also pays the fee for AAA (just in case)

  4. My hubs likes me to keep it half full. I have run out of gas before so probably a legitimate concern on his part : ) my girls had the habit of never having more than fumes in their vehicles. I had a serious talk with my oldest who lives in DC. Should anything happen and the city be evacuated she would not have time to fill up the car. Mom paranoia kicking into overdrive, maybe? Sad sign of the times? She listened though so it’s all good : )

  5. I have an embarrassing record with that gas gauge issue. Post-stroke I am not driving and gas is just one more thing I DON’T worry about. Hubby is a drive it till it is almost dry, but he is also great about estimating when we need to fill up to avoid complications. Enjoyed your look back.

  6. I guess that’s not a bad idea. Maybe I should change my ways. I always wait for the light to come on but sometimes it has come on driving up the hill to my house which means if there was some emergency we wouldn’t get very far in my car. Food for thought!

  7. I hate pumping gas, but we only have one car so I let H2 do it. He’s pretty obliging about that…most of the time.


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