Driving in the Time of COVID: Can Gas Go Bad?

Dear Car Talk:

I have a question that may be relevant now during the COVID pandemic, while a lot of people are driving less. How long does it take for gasoline to go “bad” in a car’s gas tank?

I have a Kia Optima Hybrid and a Honda Fit. In normal times, I’d fill each one up every week or two, when it got half empty, so there’d always be some fresh gas in the tank.

These days I’m only putting about 3,000 miles per year on each car. I drive each car at least once a week. If I fill up both cars, I can probably go two months (or more) before fill-ups! What’s the best way to manage gasoline usage so it doesn’t go bad? Thanks. -- Mark

I would take a very scientific approach, Mark, and make sure you fill up each car whenever it gets close to “E.” You have nothing to worry about. Most modern gasolines will easily store for a year.

You may know about the Chevy Volt, which was the first “plug-in hybrid” model on the market, debuting in late 2010. It had both a battery pack, which originally gave you about 35-40 miles on a charge, and a gasoline engine, which could take you a couple of hundred miles more.

We wondered, kind of like you’re wondering, what happens if I own a Volt and I drive less than 35 miles a day -- like a lot of people do. In the Volt, you could easily go indefinitely on battery power alone and never activate the gasoline engine.

Well, it turns out the folks at Chevrolet thought of that, too. And they programmed the Volt’s computer so that once the gasoline had been in the tank for a year, it would automatically switch the car to the gasoline engine to empty out the fuel tank and force you to refill it. And they probably erred on the side of caution. So it’d probably be fine for more than a year. Certainly you’ll be fine for two or three months, Mark.

Todays Car-o-Scope

What the stars say about your car for 4/18/2021
Prepare for an argument about temperature settings that will result in more heat that you'd like for some time to come.
Select your sign
  1. Aries
  2. Taurus
  3. Gemini
  4. Cancer
  5. Leo
  6. Virgo
  7. Libra
  8. Scorpio
  9. Sagittarius
  10. Capricorn
  11. Aquarius
  12. Pisces