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Old 06-08-2015, 06:47 PM   #1
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Refueling: GASOLINE TANK- Half EMPTY or Half FULL?

My thoughts, while pulling a trailer, is watching the gasoline gauge very closely... when it begins to drop to Half Empty or Half Full.

In Nevada I read a large sign that says "Next Gas Station 150 miles". That was this Spring traveling in Nevada. I believe it was from Caliente, NV to Tonopah, NV. Someone might know exactly this sign and clear it up some. The sign DID get my attention. Figuring what my gasoline mileage was at that time, we calculated there was enough to get us to Tonopah. Otherwise I would have had to turn back and go a different route.

In Idaho there was a mining area I wanted to visit along the Nevada/Idaho border. After filling up at an Indian Reservation gas stop, we could not possibly make the round trip without dropping off the trailer or carrying gasoline before draining the gasoline tank.

Driving south from Denver to Albuquerque, NM was difficult as the headwind was so fierce that our mileage was around 6mpg and not the usual 9 to 12mpg with a light cross winds or best... a tailwind. The low fuel light went on before reaching our regular gasoline stop. It happens. Often we will wait out the wind and look for a tailwind. It does make a bid difference in your planning.

I do not think this will be a controversial subject.

I recall as a youngster sleeping overnight in our vehicle, outside a gasoline station at Crow Agency, Montana, where my parents and two siblings were driving on anything but vapors in the gas tank. Even your "timing" of the day could be bad in some small towns in the west that open after sunrise and close before sunset. That morning we ate at the restaurant and the jukebox was playing "Please Mr. Custer", which being next to the Custer Battlefield, was appropriate and I will never forget the song or waiting for the station to open.

Travelers from more populated regions will discover in the Rocky Mountain States, once you are off the Interstate Highway system, having convenient 24 hour Truck Stops every hundred miles or less... there are the... off the Interstate system's 12 hour stations, if any, at many locations. Do not expect to find a replacement tire, as well.

I found a gasoline pump for unleaded ONLY at Horse Springs, NM that took credit cards 24 hours a day. There were some abandoned buildings next to the pump and a weathered ranch house across the highway. It might be Old Horse Springs, NM on Highway 12... but do not expect any lighting to let you know you have arrived. When you are getting ready to turn into the National Forest... I want my tank to be 100%.

If we get into a position that we could run out of fuel before getting to a gasoline station... I would detach the trailer, lock the hitch and drive to the nearest town to top off the tank. That has not happened, yet, but that thought had crossed my mind.

Now with a Honda generator holding a full tank before we leave and a two gallon gas container... there is a slight relief knowing an emergency three gallons can be found in the back of the pickup.

Magdalena, NM has a Conoco station along the highway through town. We stopped there around noon and they were "out of fuel". All the pump handles had paper bags over them. So we now fuel up at Socorro, NM and keep going to our next known gas station. (There is a second station on the north side on Magdalena, but I have not seen it, but was told it does exist.)

To many this is not even a concern. The Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada country will snap the memory of this Thread into focus. Just be aware that there are some small towns that have NO service station. They must have someone haul it and fill holding tanks as many Ranches/Farms do on their premises. When you are counting each mile to the next big... town, you will begin to perspire from your forehead and back. You know that it is going to be a close call. All of these options will run through your head. The "low fuel light" comes on and you carefully watch the RPM and pay attention to the MPG!

Out West:
Consider if you are driving through No Wind, Cross Winds, Head Wind or Tail Wind. It does affect your gasoline mileage.

Consider the possibility of no gasoline for 50 miles, 100 miles or 150 miles. Plan how you are going to make this part of the trip puling your Airstream.

Consider the possibility of turning around and topping off the gas tank at the last pump you "passed" before the gasoline gauge needle began to drop like the temperature after sunset on Pikes Peak.

I cannot be the only person who learned some lessons from "sweat equity". A newbie trailer owner will run up against these situations a bit less prepared.

Anyone care to comment? I am half confident I cannot be the only driver pulling a trailer that through the grace of gasoline peddle conservation at times, saved the day.

Human Bean
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Old 06-08-2015, 06:58 PM   #2
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After overlanding across Utah, I just carry extra fuel. Period.

Family of 4 living, working & exploring the USA in our Airstream.
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Old 06-08-2015, 08:18 PM   #3
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"In Nevada I read a large sign that says "Next Gas Station 150 miles". That was this Spring traveling in Nevada. I believe it was from Caliente, NV to Tonopah, NV."

I remember that sign from 16 years ago, put 11000 miles on in a month. That was without a trailer. Stop for gas often out west.
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Old 06-08-2015, 08:56 PM   #4
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I remember in my VW bus camping days going across southern Missouri when traveling from Kentucky Lake to Branson. Once I crossed into Missouri I knew I had about 260 miles to go. I passed up a few chances to fuel up but heck I had 3/4 of a tank and the bus was pretty economical. I figured I'd get gas on the way. What I didn't count on was the fact that the highway was not only curvy but hilly, thus using more fuel. All I was doing was downshifting to keep up speed. The crowning blow was it was Sunday, and at the time Missouri had a blue law that closed many businesses on Sunday. As it ended up every small town we went through that had a gas station was closed. We got to Branson on fumes and I leaned a lesson about traveling on rural routes on Sunday.

Fast forward to today and my stop point for gas is about a half a tank. Part of that reasoning is not only the availability of gas, but the fact that with a van pulling a 31' trailer, many stations are not conducive to me safely accessing.

I've seen access to stations with large dips that will drag my bottom, to pumps positioned in such a way that I'd have difficulty leaving due to parked cars. In other cases exiting the station into traffic is awful due to traffic and the number of lanes I'd have to cross.

I've even had to make a right turn out of a station instead of a left, to find an intersection where I could make a safe left turn into a parking lot so that I could get the trailer turned around and back onto the road heading back to the Interstate. I've also exited highways only to see that at the bottom of the ramp that getting back to the highway is almost impossible. In that case I go straight back on to the entry ramp and save my stop for a future exit.

Having a half a tank of gas gives you a lot of choices when getting fuel.

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Old 06-08-2015, 10:16 PM   #5
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I do my best to not let the tank (26 gallon) get below a half tank. Even with modern technology the gage does not accurately represent the actual amount in the tank.
My advice is to learn about your TV. When the gage reads half. Pay attention to how much fuel you put in to fill it. Also remember. Just because the TV manual says
the tank is 26 gallons for example. It doesn't mean you can draw the full 26 gallons before running out.
Many modern TV fuel pumps are located inside the fuel tank. Because it is easier to push the fuel than to suck it.
Some fuel pumps will fail do to overheating because they are not submerged in the fuel.
It is good practice to "never" let the fuel level get below 1/4 full. Don't wait for the light to come on. Even when not towing.
My Dad always told me. "I doesn't cost any more to keep the top half of the tank full than the bottom half" "So ! Don't call me if you run out of gas"
There are many places "out West" where it is a long drive between fuel stations. And no guarantee the station will be open when you get there.
When in doubt, keep the tank topped off. It is much safer and quicker in the long run to take 10 minutes to top off the tank. Than to run out in the middle of no where.

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Old 06-08-2015, 10:52 PM   #6
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I've had fuel pumps burn up for not having enough "coolant" in the tank. Chevy 3500.
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Old 06-08-2015, 11:30 PM   #7
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I added a 45 gal tank in the spare tire spot on the f250 truck it also runs on diesel.
the side tank is 29 gal for a total of 74
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Old 06-08-2015, 11:39 PM   #8
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That is a lot of weight to be hauling around. 45 x @8= 360 pounds plus the 29 gallons. ~= 600 pounds of fuel. WOW!

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Old 06-09-2015, 07:07 AM   #9
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I am 68 years old have run out of gas once coaster into gas station but have put 75 gallons in a 75 gallon tank.
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Old 06-09-2015, 07:45 AM   #10
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My truck, a Dodge 3500 diesel, has a 34 gal tank ( I think). I find that after filling up it takes a long time for my gauge to start moving southward BUT when it does it forever after moves quickly. So, with that in mind, I look at the halfway point as my early warning system and start looking. If I'm in parts of the country where services are more readily available I may stretch it a bit but not a lot. Must have something to do with the shape of the tank in my case.
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Old 06-09-2015, 08:20 AM   #11
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my refueling story

Ok, I HAVE A STORY to TELL not Airstream but a refueling nightmare:

When I was an undergrad at a school in Tenn. I was asked if I could take some riders back to school from FL. They were identical twin women and I knew their family from our church. I said, "sure, that will be great. We can trade off driving some." I had a VW Rabbit just paid for and dropped full coverage insurance that week during the Christmas break before returning to school .

We left at around 4am New Year's day for our trek to Nashville. One of the girls asked to drive first. I told her that we would need fuel just past Tampa on the north side so watch for a station about then. I took a nap. The next thing that happened was unbelievable.

When I woke there was all this commotion. The car was running out of gas and she did not stop. We were in what I called the "dead zone" for back then there was little out there 20-30 miles out of Tampa north. I asked her why she did not stop and she said the gauge was ok. She was looking at the temperature gauge! Add to that, when she pulled over she ran over a dead cow carcass and the rib cage was stuck under the car! Yes, this is TRUE!

So, we tried to push the car to release the carcass and head for somewhere. There was little to no traffic at 6ish am on New Years Day. The smell was gross. We finally managed to get it out from under the car- most of it. I car started coming toward us. I waved and told them that we should all stay together for safety. Some hippy dude in a minivan pulled over. I got my gas can and he took me, alone, to the gas station. The girls decided they would stay with the car. The guy had a doberman in the back of the van (removed seats) that growled at me the entire time. We got some gas, went back and got to the station to fuel up.

I drove all the rest the way UNTIL we were 60 miles or so from Nashville. We finally stopped to eat lunch and gas up. The OTHER girl asked to drive. I made a joke about the gas gauge and then let her drive. We left the exit and got near the Murfreesboro exit when the unthinkable happened. She changed lanes then went to change back and there was a car in the other lane. Her sister said, there's a car! She overreacted and steered the car into the median. We were bouncing all over the place. Then she cut across the lane of same direction traffic. We went down an embankment tore through a fence and off a small cliff. The car hit head first into a stream then rolled on its side. Water and mud came in all over. We crawled out the sunroof. People stopped- 37 colleges in Nashville so many were on the road. At the truck stop the girls called their boyfriends and they came and got them leaving me there. I had to stand outside for about two hours as the freezing rain started. The police wanted their report, the car was impounded and all of our stuff, including my wallet was in the car. They took her license information before we left. Then came the big ah ha. I HAD NO WAY to the college! Needless to say it was a nightmare. Point is, know your vehicle, have a gas can and don't let crazy people drive your vehicle!
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Old 06-09-2015, 08:31 AM   #12
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Now, that could have been the story line for a John Candy movie. Thanks for sharing. I hope you've kept that one for the family history lessons.
Roger in NJ

" Democracy is the worst form of government. Except for all the rest"
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Old 06-09-2015, 09:11 AM   #13
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Where ever I am , when the gauge has been on 1/2 for a bit ,I start thinking about fuel, I stop to to move about every 2 hours anyway....
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Old 06-09-2015, 12:19 PM   #14
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"Anyone care to comment? I am half confident I cannot be the only driver pulling a trailer that through the grace of gasoline peddle conservation at times, saved the day."

Just made the run south on I-25 thru Wyoming last week (Ray, we went thru Castle Rock on Sunday) and the big electronic signs Wyoming said something to the effect "Expect 40+ mph winds next 100 miles." Of course they were headwinds, and after topping off in Buffalo we were ready for more when we hit Casper. Figure we were pulling close to 8 mpg when we would normally be pulling 12+.

Yes, once again, Ray is right on about traveling in the west.

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