Why drivers should keep their fuel tank at least half full in the winter

While driving in a snowstorm is not advised, there are still some passive measures people can take to protect their car in the event of freezing temperatures and severe weather.

One of the most common adages is keeping a car's fuel tank at least half full during those extreme periods, AAA says.

It may sound like tired advice that parents would tell an uninterested teen driver, but it remains just as true over the years. Doing so can ensure reliable transportation during difficult periods in the winter and might keep a car from suffering long term damage.

MORE: When will the snow start falling in Metro Detroit

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Frozen fuel lines

It takes cold conditions for gasoline to freeze - about -100 degrees Fahrenheit before the fuel in a vehicle becomes solid. Most residential drivers aren't putting their car through those kinds of conditions.

But it doesn't take exceptionally cold conditions for temperatures to wreak havoc on a vehicle and its fuel systems. The components can separate and breakdown, which can obstruct movement in fuel lines. 

MORE: How to drive in a snow storm

In this scenario, the freezing will prevent gasoline from getting to the engine.

Many vehicles have protections against these possibilities, sealing the fuel injection site. But being safe can still save a driver from a lot of stress.


Similar to the fog that appears on the inside of a vehicle's windshield, condensation can also form inside a fuel tank. 

Cold water vapor comes into contact with a warm surface, creating that wet layer on a glass or window. This same thing can happen inside a fuel tank, which can cause its own form of damage.

MORE: Tips for preparing a vehicle for a storm

Water droplets can corrode pieces of the engine after the form inside a fuel tank and sink to the bottom.