I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendous

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BHawks87
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I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendous

Post by BHawks87 » Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:51 pm

I bought a rental car and had a full inspection and test drive by a dealer and they said everything looks perfect. It came with a full tank of gas and its almost empty after only driving 120 miles. This is a Corolla and the gauges say I'm averaging 32 mpg on a 13 gallon tank.

Do rental companies fill their cars with poor gasoline that could cause a dramatic drop in fuel economy? Could there be something wrong with the fuel system? I will fill up a full tank with quality gas and see how many miles I get before I panic but I am a little worried here.

sscritic
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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by sscritic » Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:00 pm

BHawks87 wrote: It came with a full tank of gas and its almost empty
How do you know that? Because the needle pointed at F? How much room is there above the F? And how do you know you reached empty? Because the needle pointed at E? How much room is there below the E?

Run your own mileage test. Fill it to the brim. Record the mileage. Drive. Fill it to the brim again. Record how much gas you bought. Record the mileage. Subtract. Divide.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by tibbitts » Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:02 pm

BHawks87 wrote:I bought a rental car and had a full inspection and test drive by a dealer and they said everything looks perfect. It came with a full tank of gas and its almost empty after only driving 120 miles. This is a Corolla and the gauges say I'm averaging 32 mpg on a 13 gallon tank.

Do rental companies fill their cars with poor gasoline that could cause a dramatic drop in fuel economy? Could there be something wrong with the fuel system? I will fill up a full tank with quality gas and see how many miles I get before I panic but I am a little worried here.
No, there is no fuel that would have such poor mpg and also allow the vehicle to operate properly. You'll need more fillup cycles to determine exactly what the problem is, but there is definitely a problem.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by DSInvestor » Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:03 pm

Agree with sscritic. Our Acura will show full even after I know I've used a quarter tank of gas. When there's a quarter tank left, the gauge fluctuates between E and half depending on the incline (Uphill will show E, downhill will show close to half).
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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by BHawks87 » Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:16 pm

sscritic wrote:
BHawks87 wrote: It came with a full tank of gas and its almost empty
How do you know that? Because the needle pointed at F? How much room is there above the F? And how do you know you reached empty? Because the needle pointed at E? How much room is there below the E?

Run your own mileage test. Fill it to the brim. Record the mileage. Drive. Fill it to the brim again. Record how much gas you bought. Record the mileage. Subtract. Divide.
I will be doing this and I am aware that full doesn't mean full and empty doesn't mean empty but it seems highly unlikely that there would be 8 or so gallons above and below the full and empty on a 13 gallon tank.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by sscritic » Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:02 pm

BHawks87 wrote: I will be doing this and I am aware that full doesn't mean full and empty doesn't mean empty but it seems highly unlikely that there would be 8 or so gallons above and below the full and empty on a 13 gallon tank.
Do you have any friends who live about 120 miles away? Why don't you go visit them tomorrow? By the end of the day, you will have 240 miles on the filled-to-the-brim tank (assuming you fill in the morning), and you will get your answer by the end of the day when you return home and refill. In my case, I don't need friends, I would just go to San Diego for the day; there are a couple of restaurants there that I like. Of course, with gas prices the way they are around here, the drive would add an extra $40 to $50 to the cost of the meal,* but I would have my answer.

* If you take someone with you, that brings the per person cost of the meal down.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by Watty » Sat Oct 20, 2012 11:05 pm

I would not worry; the car likely has at least a powertrain or emission warranty that would cover any problems if there is one. I would assume that there was an emmission test when you bought it which would have also probably have shown any major problems.

I would top up the tank and see how many miles you get on the next tank.

It is possible that someone siphoned the gas from the tank, I've heard if it happening at dealerships by some employee on the back lot since they figure that people will not miss a couple of gallons.

Occasionally the automatic cutoff at a gas pump will "click off" well before a tank is full so an occasional tank that seems to get poor gas millage can be due to this.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by BHawks87 » Sun Oct 21, 2012 12:40 pm

Watty wrote:I would not worry; the car likely has at least a powertrain or emission warranty that would cover any problems if there is one. I would assume that there was an emmission test when you bought it which would have also probably have shown any major problems.

I would top up the tank and see how many miles you get on the next tank.

It is possible that someone siphoned the gas from the tank, I've heard if it happening at dealerships by some employee on the back lot since they figure that people will not miss a couple of gallons.

Occasionally the automatic cutoff at a gas pump will "click off" well before a tank is full so an occasional tank that seems to get poor gas millage can be due to this.
This is true but the gauge was on full when I got it and is very close to empty after driving 120 miles and a Corolla should be getting 26-34 mpg or 338 to 442 miles on a tank. I don't drive hard and I reset the gauges when I got it and it says I'm averaging 32 mpg.

Of course its possible that it was not filled all the way or is still filled quite a bit but a difference of 200-300 miles is huge.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by whomever » Sun Oct 21, 2012 1:18 pm

If you're getting ~10 MPG, yes there is a problem.

At the risk of asking the obvious, the 'check engine' light isn't on?

For one example of a malfunction that can cause bad mileage, I had a relative whose engine temp sensor quietly failed. The engine control computer kept supplying the enriched cold start fuel mixture forever. There were no driveability symptoms, just bad mileage. I don't think it made as big a difference as you're seeing, though.

If it were me, I'd verify for another tank or two, then ODB scan, read the plugs to see if any show a rich mixture, and so on. Heck, for starters make sure there aren't any dangling connectors (although you'd think OBD would catch most of those).

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by Epsilon Delta » Sun Oct 21, 2012 1:40 pm

whomever wrote:At the risk of asking the obvious, the 'check engine' light isn't on?
And the slightly less obvious, when you start the car does the check engine light turn on and then turn off after a short while?

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by BHawks87 » Sun Oct 21, 2012 1:48 pm

whomever wrote:If you're getting ~10 MPG, yes there is a problem.

At the risk of asking the obvious, the 'check engine' light isn't on?

For one example of a malfunction that can cause bad mileage, I had a relative whose engine temp sensor quietly failed. The engine control computer kept supplying the enriched cold start fuel mixture forever. There were no driveability symptoms, just bad mileage. I don't think it made as big a difference as you're seeing, though.

If it were me, I'd verify for another tank or two, then ODB scan, read the plugs to see if any show a rich mixture, and so on. Heck, for starters make sure there aren't any dangling connectors (although you'd think OBD would catch most of those).
No the check engine light isn't on and the dealer read the codes when I got it inspected and it was clean with no resets or anything (to hide codes).

It only has 23k miles and the fuel system isn't due to be inspected until 30k but if this keeps up after a couple more tanks then I will get it looked at. Would this be covered under the bumper to bumper warranty? Most likely yes right?

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by Padlin » Sun Oct 21, 2012 1:57 pm

Our 09 get 34 mpg, when it hits E AND the light comes on, there are still 3 gallons in it. On the other end, it's Full on F and starts dropping right off. Seems the 2nd half tank last a good deal longer then the first, at least if you go by the gauge.
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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by midareff » Sun Oct 21, 2012 2:06 pm

My Jeep gets probably 60 to 75 miles or so before the "full" tank gets down to the full marker. Very close to emply with another 120 miles. Never put more than 12 gallons in at one time. Do whas sscritic recommended and if the situation looks thew same then take it back to the seller and have them check the fuel system for leaks .. that is not a fuel economy engine issue, it is a leak somewhere in the fuel system issue.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by CABob » Sun Oct 21, 2012 2:35 pm

Epsilon Delta wrote:
whomever wrote:At the risk of asking the obvious, the 'check engine' light isn't on?
And the slightly less obvious, when you start the car does the check engine light turn on and then turn off after a short while?
Don't forget the second part - is the check engine light coming on after ignition is on, but, before starting engine?
I think you are panicking too soon. There are several things that might prevent you from knowing whether the tank was really full when you received the car and whether it is really empty when the gage says so. Go through a tank or two of you knowing you have filled the tank and you keep track of mileage.
Bob

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by hicabob » Sun Oct 21, 2012 2:45 pm

BHawks87 wrote:I bought a rental car and had a full inspection and test drive by a dealer and they said everything looks perfect. It came with a full tank of gas and its almost empty after only driving 120 miles. This is a Corolla and the gauges say I'm averaging 32 mpg on a 13 gallon tank.

Do rental companies fill their cars with poor gasoline that could cause a dramatic drop in fuel economy? Could there be something wrong with the fuel system? I will fill up a full tank with quality gas and see how many miles I get before I panic but I am a little worried here.

10mpg is not so bad - when I was a kid I had a motorcycle whose engine we modded that got about 4 mpg! (it went fast though) - but seriously if that Corrola was only getting 10 you would know by the black smoke coming out the exhaust and no way it would pass smog. Bad gas gauge perhaps (which is covered under bumper to bumper).
I don't think you could buy "bad gas" in the US if you tried.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by stoptothink » Sun Oct 21, 2012 4:03 pm

hicabob wrote:
BHawks87 wrote:

10mpg is not so bad - when I was a kid I had a motorcycle whose engine we modded that got about 4 mpg! (it went fast though) -
Purpose-built AMA Prostar drag racing motorcycles get better than 4mpg. Less than 1/3 of conventional efficiency, if that is what is going on, is just a tad concerning.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by dratkinson » Sun Oct 21, 2012 4:27 pm

midareff wrote:My Jeep gets probably 60 to 75 miles or so before the "full" tank gets down to the full marker. Very close to emply with another 120 miles. Never put more than 12 gallons in at one time. Do whas sscritic recommended and if the situation looks thew same then take it back to the seller and have them check the fuel system for leaks .. that is not a fuel economy engine issue, it is a leak somewhere in the fuel system issue.
+1. Suspect the fuel gauge. My old Montero goes 75 miles before it moves off full, then drops more predictably.

After doing your test and confirming your MPG, you can use your tripometer as a backup fuel gauge. (32 mgp x 13 gallon tank = 416 miles on full tank. Start looking for gas before your tripometer reaches 390.)

Just for fun, since you are testing your mileage anyway, might also want to double check your "fuel reserve" light (if so equipt) to see how far you can go once it comes on. (Remember to carry full gas can so you can get home.)
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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by hicabob » Sun Oct 21, 2012 4:53 pm

stoptothink wrote:
hicabob wrote:
BHawks87 wrote:

10mpg is not so bad - when I was a kid I had a motorcycle whose engine we modded that got about 4 mpg! (it went fast though) -
Purpose-built AMA Prostar drag racing motorcycles get better than 4mpg. Less than 1/3 of conventional efficiency, if that is what is going on, is just a tad concerning.
Yup - this was decades ago - a yamaha RD350 - learning how to (or not to ) port it resulted in the 4 MPG - It was amazing how much fuel it could suck. I ended up pushing the empty beast to a gas pump more than once.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Sun Oct 21, 2012 4:56 pm

BHawks87 wrote:I bought a rental car and had a full inspection and test drive by a dealer and they said everything looks perfect. It came with a full tank of gas and its almost empty after only driving 120 miles. This is a Corolla and the gauges say I'm averaging 32 mpg on a 13 gallon tank.

Do rental companies fill their cars with poor gasoline that could cause a dramatic drop in fuel economy? Could there be something wrong with the fuel system? I will fill up a full tank with quality gas and see how many miles I get before I panic but I am a little worried here.
Here is the test - fill up the tank with quality gas, check the tire pressure in all four tires, drive at a consistent rate of speed (no gunning the engine and avoid hard braking). Calculate miles driven/gas used. If the mileage comes back poor again, inspect the spark plugs - they may have carbon fouling on them, especially if driven in short distances. Also, check the air filter and take a look at the oil - it should be light in color, not black as night.

Another alternative is to throw in a can of Techron in the tank, prior to filling it up - the Techron will clean the fuel injectors and any sulfur deposits on the fuel gauge in the tank itself - sometimes that fixes the problem. I don't work for Chevron, but I've seen problems like this disappear after using a bottle of it.
Last edited by Grt2bOutdoors on Sun Oct 21, 2012 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Sun Oct 21, 2012 4:59 pm

hicabob wrote:
BHawks87 wrote:I bought a rental car and had a full inspection and test drive by a dealer and they said everything looks perfect. It came with a full tank of gas and its almost empty after only driving 120 miles. This is a Corolla and the gauges say I'm averaging 32 mpg on a 13 gallon tank.

Do rental companies fill their cars with poor gasoline that could cause a dramatic drop in fuel economy? Could there be something wrong with the fuel system? I will fill up a full tank with quality gas and see how many miles I get before I panic but I am a little worried here.

10mpg is not so bad - when I was a kid I had a motorcycle whose engine we modded that got about 4 mpg! (it went fast though) - but seriously if that Corrola was only getting 10 you would know by the black smoke coming out the exhaust and no way it would pass smog. Bad gas gauge perhaps (which is covered under bumper to bumper).
I don't think you could buy "bad gas" in the US if you tried.
You certainly can - some gasolines have less of certain proprietary detergents than others. On top of that, I wouldn't recommend purchasing gas in a station where the turnover of the tanks is extremely low - nothing worse than moisture condensation or dirt in the tanks.
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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by whomever » Sun Oct 21, 2012 5:10 pm

Would this be covered under the bumper to bumper warranty?

That would depend on the details of the warranty :-)

n.b. that 'emissions' stuff may have different rules (the feds like emissions stuff to last). A problem might be 'emissions' related (some bad sensor) or not (the real problem is a bad gas gauge).

(good call on the 'make sure the indicator lights are actually working', but one cautionary note: I had a van once and noticed the engine overtemp light wasn't coming on when all the others did at startup. I replaced the sensor, troubleshot the wiring, and pulled the dash apart to replace the bulb. It turned out, on that particular vehicle, that one idiot light wasn't supposed to self test on startup. Oooops. But they almost always do, and the owners manual should say so.)

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by fsrph » Sun Oct 21, 2012 5:27 pm

BHawks87 wrote: This is true but the gauge was on full when I got it and is very close to empty after driving 120 miles and a Corolla should be getting 26-34 mpg or 338 to 442 miles on a tank. I don't drive hard and I reset the gauges when I got it and it says I'm averaging 32 mpg.

Of course its possible that it was not filled all the way or is still filled quite a bit but a difference of 200-300 miles is huge.
This is a longshot but was the car parked on a slope (where the drivers side is not level with the passengers side) when you first bought it? I know in my new car I parked it on a slope like this (it wasn't even that big of a slope) and when I started the car the fuel gauge read totally full. Only problem was the gauge was between 1/2 and 3/4 filled when I parked it. And the gauge took a lot of time (about 30-45 minutes) to revert back to the correct reading. Maybe something like this happened to you.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by White Coat Investor » Sun Oct 21, 2012 6:12 pm

There are lots of issues that would cause poor mileage. Make sure you actually are getting poor mileage, then start looking into the issues one by one until you find it. It did pass an emissions test, right? There are no lights on, right?
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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by rmark1 » Sun Oct 21, 2012 8:08 pm

You really need to fill the tank to the brim, take a 2-3 hour drive, then fill it to the brim again to see what your mileage really is. You may have a bad sending unit in the tank causing the gauge to misread.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by allenneal99 » Sun Oct 21, 2012 9:30 pm

I've purchased two used previous rental cars in the past. Each time I had to replace the fuel filter and this resulted in a significant increase in mileage and acceleration. Plugged fuel filters usually do not throw any codes or check engine signals. I suspect rented vehicles get "abused" a little more than usual and people probably run the tanks to fumes as they drop it off at the rental place.

Ironically, I also had to replace the wheel bearings on both the vehicles too. Rented cars tend to get driven up on curbs more often than non-rented vehicles. :D

Both vehicles were purchased with less than 20k miles and were pre-2007 vehicles. Other than gas mileage, dead batteries and bad wheel bearings, they ran solidly well and were well worth the discounted money paid for them. I don't know if newer model vehicles have fuel filters anymore. My current vehicle does not have one, or it is connected to the fuel pump assembly or something. I miss the good ole' days of replacing those items myself. Oh well.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by rangersuck » Sun Oct 21, 2012 10:39 pm

Where are you located? Is it possible you are in the northeast and the fuel is the first batch of winter fuel? If so it might take a few tanks for your car to adjust. I would recommend disconnecting your battery and resetting your cars computer. It is is likely since your car was a rental that everyone who rented it drove it differently and the cars air fuel sensor has never been able to adjust accordingly. Disconnecting the battery for 15 minutes will reset the ecu and adjust the air fuel based on your driving preferences.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by thomase » Tue Oct 23, 2012 12:47 am

Mileage display gauges aren't necessarily accurate. Fuel levels gauges aren't that precise either. You say you drove off with the gauge on full but it could have been a gallon or two below but the gauge would still read full. The best way to calculate mileage is to divide the mileage per tank by gallons of gas reported by the pump you fill up each time. Fill up in a consistent manner each time, i.e. don't top off but stop at the first click. This has to be done over many tanks of gas. Then you'll get a true mileage picture.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by ascenzm » Tue Oct 23, 2012 7:02 am

dratkinson wrote:Just for fun, since you are testing your mileage anyway, might also want to double check your "fuel reserve" light (if so equipt) to see how far you can go once it comes on. (Remember to carry full gas can so you can get home.)
I am not an automobile expert, but I would not recommend letting the vehicle's gasoline tank contents get too close to empty. That is very bad advice.

Mike

http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/20 ... ostly.html
Waiting until your gas tank is almost empty before a fill up can be pricey, could be dangerous and downright inconvenient. “While the cases are rare, there is real potential of a costly mechanical problem,” says Consumer Reports Auto Test Center shop supervisor and certified mechanic John Ibbotson.

The gasoline acts like a coolant for the electric fuel-pump motor, so when you run very low, this allows the pump to suck in air, which creates heat and can cause the fuel pump to wear prematurely and potentially fail. The repair could end up costing a couple hundred dollars to fix—much more than the $4.00/gallon fill up.

Also, if there is dirt in the fuel tank, it could lead to blocking the fuel filter; again, another expensive repair.
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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by likegarden » Tue Oct 23, 2012 7:34 am

Many years ago I tried to check how much in gasoline the tank of my car actually contained. I drove a Corvair Corsa then. So I put a container with one gallon of gas in my car and had a nice ride along a lake when finally the tank was empty. I poured the 1 gal of gas into the tank, then tried to start the engine. Luckily two men from a nearby house had heard me repeatedly trying to start the engine, knew to remove the air from the fuel line, and had to refill the fuel line manually to bring gasoline again from the tank to the engine. I thanked them a lot.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by Polar_Ice » Tue Oct 23, 2012 11:14 am

I would never buy a rental car. They are known to be driven hard. First thing I would check is to make sure the e-brake releases all the way.

Is it possible you got your tank siphoned? :oops:

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by NHRATA01 » Tue Oct 23, 2012 12:59 pm

ascenzm wrote:
dratkinson wrote:Just for fun, since you are testing your mileage anyway, might also want to double check your "fuel reserve" light (if so equipt) to see how far you can go once it comes on. (Remember to carry full gas can so you can get home.)
I am not an automobile expert, but I would not recommend letting the vehicle's gasoline tank contents get too close to empty. That is very bad advice.

Mike

http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/20 ... ostly.html
Waiting until your gas tank is almost empty before a fill up can be pricey, could be dangerous and downright inconvenient. “While the cases are rare, there is real potential of a costly mechanical problem,” says Consumer Reports Auto Test Center shop supervisor and certified mechanic John Ibbotson.

The gasoline acts like a coolant for the electric fuel-pump motor, so when you run very low, this allows the pump to suck in air, which creates heat and can cause the fuel pump to wear prematurely and potentially fail. The repair could end up costing a couple hundred dollars to fix—much more than the $4.00/gallon fill up.

Also, if there is dirt in the fuel tank, it could lead to blocking the fuel filter; again, another expensive repair.
Yes, excellent advice above. Do NOT run a modern car with an electric in-tank fuel pump to empty, as it will burn up the pump. Really it's best to fill up around the 1/4 mark - as your link mentions the fuel in the tank is a sink for the heat created by the pump. Small sink = more heat. Full tank = larger sink = less heat = happier fuel pump.

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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by SimonJester » Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:25 pm

What year? It sounds like a newer Corolla...

I would fill the tank up to full, reset your trip meter to 0 and see what you get with the next tank.

My Corolla gas gauge seems to stay at full for a long time then drop down to empty quicker then one would think. I believe its just the way the sending unit works.

One word of caution, do not over fill your tank, when the nozzle clicks do not top it off, you run the risk of damaging the charcoal canister (part of the emissions system).

A good resource for all things Corolla is a web forum corolland dot com

I would not worry too much on your first tank of gas. Run a few, track the mileage and see what you get.
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Re: I bought a rental car... and the gas mileage is horrendo

Post by BHawks87 » Tue Oct 23, 2012 2:34 pm

Thanks for all of the replies. I ran it close to empty and filled it up and it took 12 gallons so the empty is pretty accurate. I have driven 50 miles on the full tank so far and the needle hasn't budged so hopefully it just takes a hundred miles or more to get the needle moving. I'll find out in a couple of days.


SimonJester wrote:What year? It sounds like a newer Corolla...

I would fill the tank up to full, reset your trip meter to 0 and see what you get with the next tank.

My Corolla gas gauge seems to stay at full for a long time then drop down to empty quicker then one would think. I believe its just the way the sending unit works.

One word of caution, do not over fill your tank, when the nozzle clicks do not top it off, you run the risk of damaging the charcoal canister (part of the emissions system).

A good resource for all things Corolla is a web forum corolland dot com

I would not worry too much on your first tank of gas. Run a few, track the mileage and see what you get.
You are correct about it being a newer Corolla.

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