My car ran out of petrol on the Penang Bridge!

out of gas

It happened just slightly after the toll. I felt the car slowly lose power…I had a sinking feeling that something has gone horribly wrong. I managed to cruise from the fast lane (on the right) across 3 lanes to the emergency lane. It felt like driving a car that was just running on momentum alone!

I realized that I had run completely out of gas. The car would not start at all. It just coughs. We had just passed the toll, maybe 500 meters or so and we’re stuck on the Penang Bridge!

stuck penang bridge

We had driven down from KL early in the morning and didn’t take any breaks except for toilet stops. I had stupidly thought that a tank of gas would be enough to get to Penang and I didn’t really look at the gauge so the massive traffic jam before the bridge was the final nail in the coffin.

I called the PLUS Highway emergency number and managed to get them to send a guy to meet us.

refill petrol

It took less than 5 minutes before a fellow on a motorcycle came up to me. He had a bottle of gasoline so he poured the minute amount (less than 500 ml is my guess) into my petrol tank and asked me to start.

I tried the ignition but the car won’t go – it seemed that there’s too little fuel for it to start.

low fuel

My better half intelligently told me to shut off the radio and air conditioning. I managed to start the car – just barely – after that. I know it wouldn’t last long and I’ll need to get to a gas station soon.

The PLUS representative charged me RM 40 for the petrol and after I willingly handed it over, asked for RM 10kang chi” (Hokkien for labor costs) making the total RM 50. What an opportunist!


I didn’t really mind though coz it would have been worse to be stuck for hours on the Penang Bridge. We managed to use the GPS to find a nearby gas station and fill her up.


The PLUS dude said he’ll trail us. He never did. We were lucky to make it to the station on that little amount of gas. It was a bit of an adventure though, running out of gas. It’s something that we’ll be talking about down the years – “Hey remember the time we drove to Penang and we ran out of gas on the Penang Bridge?”.

It wasn’t the best start to our Penang trip but it sure was funny in hindsight and it’s a memorable start to our weekend holiday! :)

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42 thoughts on “My car ran out of petrol on the Penang Bridge!

    • Haha! You know, we talked about the sequence of events and concluded he wasn’t from PLUS at all! :)

      He arrived too fast, didn’t know what the problem was, no uniform, and pumped gas using a siphon out of his own motorcycle!

  1. Noticed you are driving a Vios. I don’t know if you realised one thing about Vios (I have one), is that if the gasoline meter warns Empty….it pretty much IS empty. You can barely do another 15km. That was what experience compared to other Japanese cars. With Vios, the meter doesn’t give much leeway after the ‘E’ indication. But….i love my Vios no matter. Hehehe.

    • Yeah, I realized that too! :)

      You practically have *no time* to react – once the fuel warning starts to blink (the red one, not the fuel gauge) it’s *seconds* till you run out of gas.

      I can go about the same as you (20 km or so) once the fuel gauge starts blinking on it’s last bar…but this is the first and only time I saw the red warning fuel indicator go off, and the car stopped immediately.

      What a quirk eh? Thanks for sharing Ivy! :D

    • Haha! There’s a lot of other guys who have run out of gas before! :)

      The dashboard was obscured by parking tickets and whatnot so I didn’t realize until the emergency fuel indicator kicked in.

      I was rushing to get to Penang and we woke up real early (2 am for me) with no stops except for toilet breaks.

    • “The PLUS representative charged me RM 40 for the petrol and after I willingly handed it over, asked for RM 10 “kang chi” (Hokkien for labor costs) making the total RM 50. What an opportunist!” I wouldn’t complain if I were caught in such a situation – “for want of a nail, a horse is lost”.

    • The dashboard was blocked with brochures! :)

      That’s a habit that I have, always put parking tickets and all sorts of junk there till it obscures the parking meter.

      Oh well, at least it was a memorable thing to happen! Good thing I managed to steer to the emergency lane too!

  2. The only time that i run down on fuel is on Mercedes M-class,it feel good when the engine jerks and start losing acceleration in massive SUV in kuching =P

    • Haha! I wouldn’t call the feeling a good feeling! :)

      I did keep my wits around, had about 3 seconds to react, the car has totally lost acceleration so I had to go on current velocity alone.

      Good thing I made it to emergency lane!

  3. yikes, thank goodness you managed to get off the bridge without too much trouble. i always have anxieties about this happening too, cos i tend to procrastinate when it comes to filling up on petrol, and the light’s always flickering by the time i get to the gas station. maybe we should all carry a bottle of emergency fuel with us! :D

    • Yeah, I have thought of that too! :)

      Bringing along a spare bottle of fuel I mean.

      However, I’m not sure if it’s legal (any ideas buddy?) or if it’s safe to be carrying that. I do have a small fire extinguisher that’s meant for cars though, so it’s more about the legality, what with people into Molotov cocktails instead of ethanol ones nowadays. ;)

  4. Oh dear, that is real unfortunate.. I am one of those who make sure that petrol must be more than enough when traveling..make sure half tank or more unlike my sons..they are more on the adventurous side… They see red then only pump…

    • Yeah, it just completely left my mind! :)

      I didn’t think I need to refill until Penang and the dashboard was obscured so I ran out of gas after the massive jam.

      Oh yeah, too bad we couldn’t catch up in Ipoh on the way back since you’re away! We’ll see you next time!

  5. HB, out of petrol is still better than what happened to my friend car. He forgot to check for oil and on the bay bridge his car started to smoke and and fire. The engine was burned due lack of oil . A service truck came tolled it to a service station where they informed friend car died or total due to engine had it from fire.
    He lost his car for sure.

    • Whoa! That’s really serious! :x

      I do have a small fire extinguisher meant for cars myself. It’s quite useful for emergencies, although I haven’t had a need to use it yet.

      Why would he run out of engine fuel? Lack of regular service?

    • Yeah, there is a PLUS emergency hotline which I’ve used before! :)

      They come pretty fast, but we think this wasn’t them but just a passerby.

      That’s a good habit to have! I always wait till it’s near empty before I fill the gas tank, but this time the dashboard was obscured so I didn’t know it was so empty until the red emergency light flashed, and by then I only had 3 seconds!

    • It’s a memorable trip that’s for sure! :)

      You know, after we went over it, we’re not so sure it was PLUS who arrived. For one thing PLUS doesn’t charge anything to fix problems on their highway.

      The second was that the guy didn’t know what was happening (asked me what’s wrong) and pumped gas out of his own motorbike. My dear had her suspicions, I didn’t, I just thought it was great someone had gas, and we finally put two and two together!

    • Alas! That is indeed a case of so near yet so far! :)

      Oh well, at least 200 meters is walk-able. I don’t think I can walk the span of the Penang Bridge. It’ll be like the Penang Bridge marathon!

    • Haha! No, it happens to both genders! :)

      I’ve heard from a lot of guys where this happened to them too!

      That is indeed a sexist person. Heh! I heard about reverse sexism too e.g. guys can’t stand the same amount of pain as a natural childbirth which I don’t think is true, pain tolerance has been established to be the same (it’s just that women don’t tend to complain as much, compared to guys – interesting sociological study, this one).

      Cheers Mela!

    • Yeah, I’m wondering about that! :)

      I’m not sure it’s legal to have petrol in the car, might be stopped at a roadblock. Another thing is safety, someone rear-ending me would cause the petrol to leak from the container and might start a fire.

      I have a small fire extinguisher meant for cars but I’m mainly not sure about the legality of carrying gasoline in bottles.

  6. good grief! my biggest fear yet!! and not because my mom used to constantly scare me with it but because it once happened to two friends of mine (one who drives a myvi 1.5) and from then on, i realised it’s a REAL THING. because, see, being students (a couple of years back) we used to do very “hero” things lah and drive from home (pj) to uni (cyberjaya) on two bars and even emergency tank fuel! at some point, i even thought it was just an irrelevant fear moms instill in their children, hoho.

    and how weird that i’m reading this entry this morning because last night, my emergency tank light started flashing & i actually had nightmares about it (all of last night) then this morning i realised i didn’t have my wallet on me and drove all the way on the federal back home super paranoid that my car was losing power at every stop i made. LOLOLOL!!!!

    wahhhhh, so longwinded my comment.


    • Whoa! That is indeed a feat! :)

      I wouldn’t be able to make Cyberjaya -> PJ on two bars of fuel on my car. It’ll definitely run out before that.

      Hmm…yeah, I guess it’s how you were brought up! My dad has run out of gas before (which I remember) but it was when we were living in Kuching and he just called someone to bring fuel. We didn’t even wait long and I thought it was an adventure!

      Haha! Sorry to hear about your nightmare! I’m not too worried coz there’s always emergency services to call upon but strange thing I realized about my car is that the emergency red empty fuel indicator (not the blinking near empty fuel gauge) kicks in only when it’s *really* empty e.g. you have *seconds* to react.

      What an experience. Thanks for sharing yours! :D

    • I’m sure the PLUS people can arrange to have diesel brought along too! :)

      However, we’re quite sure the guy wasn’t from PLUS coz:
      1. No uniform
      2. Didn’t know what was wrong and had to ask me
      3. Pumped gas into a bottle from his own motorcycle
      4. Charged me (PLUS services are free)

      I think it was a passerby who just helped, not altruistically, but for some opportunistic cash!

  7. Ooops, I thought this kinda incident only happened to lady drivers (such as me) :P

    But thank goodness all is good eventhough that person might be an opportunist. Tell you the truth, I might do the same ! Hahahahahaha!

    • Haha! It can happen to anyone! :)

      I’ve heard stories of it happening to a lot of people, but I never thought it’ll happen to me!

      Oh well, at least it was a memorable start to the trip.

  8. I know this is quite a dated post.

    I am surprised to learn that for a Toyota Vios with 42L tank, you ran out of fuel just from KL to Penang? It’s supposed to be a very fuel-economical car compared to Honda Civic/Nissan Sunny which both comes with 50L tanks. I can only guess the traffic jam contributed to the consumption but being stationery and moving no mileage. Another consideration is perhaps that many people forget the uphill climb straight after Ipoh towards the tunnel. Naturally it will consume more petrol doing a climb.

    I had a friend who did Singapore to Ipoh with just under a full tank of petrol though – on a Nissan Sunny. I think there’s some other reasons which contributed to the high fuel consumption.

    I don’t know how fast you were driving but if you had been doing 110-130km/hr in a 4-gear car, I can imagine you are travelling at high rpm and definitely much higher fuel consumption.

    • It has a lot to do with how fast you drive and bad driving habits too! :)

      I drove at 140 km/h if I could and sometimes had to brake real hard, which all contributes to higher fuel consumption. Overtaking, being overtaked, moving to the slower lanes for faster cars, then moving back, all this takes up a lot of gas.

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