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What to do when you run out of gas

Man calling roadside assistance because his car is out of gas

Despite the best-laid plans, at some point you may find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being stranded by the side of the road with an empty gas tank. Knowing ahead of time what to do when your car is out of gas can help make the best of an unpleasant moment.

Of course, planning ahead and not letting your gas tank dip below the half-full mark is the best way to avoid such a situation. (That will improve your gas mileage, too.) But when it’s too late for that, there are some simple ways to handle the situation properly. Here is what you can do when your car runs out of gas:

Turn on your hazard lights and pull over

As soon as you realize you’re running out of gas, turn on your hazard lights and get over to the side of the road as safely as possible. Put your car in park and leave the hazard lights on.

Do you have roadside assistance?

Nationwide offers a 24-hour roadside assistance program designed for emergencies like this. If you’ve signed up for the program, make sure to keep the toll-free number in your car at all times so you’re prepared if your car runs out of gas.

Some new cars come with roadside assistance programs as well, so know what you’re paying for and whether or not they can help you if you run out of gas. In some cases, their program may only tow your car to the nearest dealership, so you need to know exactly what you’re getting.

Call a friend

What kind of action you take usually depends on where you are when you run out of gas. If you’re on your way home from work or school and have friends or family nearby, you can call them and ask them to help you. They can take you to a gas station, where you can buy and fill a five-gallon container of gas—which should be plenty to get you back on the road.

Find the nearest gas station

Another option is to use an app on your phone to find a gas station that’s near you. Walking may be an option if the station is nearby, but don’t take risks such as crossing a busy highway or freeway, or walking in dark or unsafe areas. It’s better to take your time and wait for help to arrive.

You also could use a ride-sharing service to take you to the nearest gas station.

What to do if you run out of gas in a remote area

If you run out of gas in a remote area, it’s best to wait in your car for help to arrive—particularly if you aren’t familiar with the area. Stay in your car with your hazard lights on and the doors locked until help arrives. If you’re not able to get a signal on your phone, you should still be able to call 911 to ask for help.

Plan ahead before your car runs out of gas

To avoid running out of gas on a long road trip, download an app on your phone to locate gas stations along your route. Pinpoint ahead of time when and where you’re going to stop. That will keep you from passing the last gas station for several miles and ensure that you get to your destination quickly and safely.

Planning ahead and being prepared can help you avoid getting in the situation to begin with. However, knowing what to do if it does happen to you is important as well. A little knowledge goes a long way, and can help make a stressful situation safer and less intimidating.

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