Van Nuys Auto Repair & Service Center

When Hybrids run out of Gas

hybrid runs out of gas

It’s happened to everyone: you’re rolling down the highway, blasting the radio, when the low fuel warning light catches your eye. There are no gas stations or rest stops for miles, and you don’t have a can of extra gas in your car. You’re about to run your tank dry. When a conventional engine runs out of gas, it’s just an inconvenience. All you need to do is get some more as and you’re on your way. But when your hybrid runs out of gas, it can cause long-lasting engine problems. If you own a hybrid vehicle, you need to be aware of the risks.

When A Hybrid Runs Out Of Gas

If your hybrid runs out of gas, you might assume that giant battery will help you out. However, most hybrid engines simply weren’t designed to operate on electricity alone. They aren’t electric cars after all: the gas engine and propulsion battery are engineered to work in tandem, not on their own.

Every hybrid engine runs a little differently, so every hybrid vehicle will respond to an empty gas tank in a different way. Some hybrid vehicles, like the Chevy Tahoe and Nissan Altima, won’t operate at all once their gas tank is empty, even if the battery is fully charged. That’s because running the engine on electricity alone can cause severe damage to the hybrid system. Run out of gas in these cars, and you’ll just need to call a tow or set out for the nearest gas station on foot.

When A Prius Runs Out Of Gas

The Toyota Prius, one of the most common hybrid vehicles, is built differently. You will probably be able to keep your Prius on the road after its gas tank runs dry—but don’t count on being able to go very fast or far. Although Prius owners have reportedly driven several miles with no gas in the tank, the engine won’t be able to reach speeds higher than 18 mph. The Ford Fusion also works in a similar fashion.

If you need to call a tow truck for your Prius, be sure that it’s only towed with its front wheels off the ground. Flat-towing a Prius will engage the front wheels’ generators, feeding electricity back into the engine and potentially causing it to overheat.

Once you reach a gas station and fill up the tank again, you might encounter another big problem. If the ignition battery is drained and no longer supplying charge to the engine, adding fuel won’t do anything. You might need to get your hybrid car serviced to recharge your battery with a specialized machine. Some Prius owners have even reported that running the car without gas is treated as a warranty-risking event by Toyota service centers.

As with most car issues, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The better care you take of your hybrid battery, the more miles you will get out of it before it needs to be replaced or repaired. Of course, all batteries will eventually run out. When yours reaches the end of its life, bring it to AutoAid for our hybrid battery replacement service.

Have A Backup Plan And A Good Mechanic

In the end, your best policy is never to rely entirely on your hybrid’s electric motor. While it might seem like a reliable backup plan, it’s much smarter to plan ahead and avoid that dreaded low fuel light than to risk damage to your engine.

Plan long routes, pay attention to your fuel gauge, and always keep a clean gas can in your trunk when traveling long distances, just like you would in a traditional vehicle. Don’t count on your hybrid battery to get you home safely. And if your hybrid runs out of gas, or if you need a second opinion on your hybrid system, call AutoAid at 818-305-6632. We have the knowledge and expertise to get you back on the road in no time!


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