Gas prices continue to climb as we enter the final weeks of our short Minnesota + Wisconsin summer. This morning I paid $3.89 a gallon in Superior, Wisconsin. It can really hurt your bank account, especially when you drive a gas-guzzling pickup truck like I do. To fill my tank completely and $3.89 a gallon it costs me almost $140 a tank.

It's tempting sometimes to just put a couple of gallons in the tank to get by until payday. If you're looking to stretch a dollar until payday, you may think about just putting enough gas in to get by. This is a mistake and a lesson I learned the hard way about 15 years ago.

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The first time gas hit $4 a gallon around here was back in 2007-2008. I was in my early 20s and I was struggling to make it from paycheck to paycheck. So, to get by, sometimes I would drive with only about a quarter of a tank of gas in my vehicle at the time.

Fuel gauge
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I thought I was saving money, but in fact, I was causing damage each time I did it until it eventually ended up causing a thousand dollars in damage. How could running your tank low cause damage? What's the difference?

Most vehicles that use gasoline have an electronic fuel pump. It's how the gasoline gets from the fuel tank to your engine. They nowadays are most often located inside the fuel tank. It's designed so that the gasoline in the fuel tank actually helps cool and lubricate the pump.

When you run low on fuel, it works harder to pump out the gasoline, and since it's not surrounded by the cool gas, it also "burns" out. So, you end up needing a new fuel pump.

What's it like when a fuel pump quits? It depends on the car. In my case, it wouldn't start. After cranking over a few times it eventually did fire up and work fine. That is until a couple of days later and it was then dead for good. I brought it to a repair shop and I got a quote for nearly a thousand dollars to fix it.

A Handsome mechanic job in uniform working on car
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To prevent this, you should try to drive your vehicle with AT LEAST a quarter tank of gasoline. If you let your fuel light come on, you're asking for trouble. Any contaminants that may get past your fuel filter end up at the bottom of your tank, so you can even suck that stuff up and cause further damage to your engine.

So, with gas prices high, remember running your tank low will just cause you future financial problems.

LOOK: See how much gasoline cost the year you started driving

To find out more about how has the price of gas changed throughout the years, Stacker ran the numbers on the cost of a gallon of gasoline for each of the last 84 years. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (released in April 2020), we analyzed the average price for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline from 1976 to 2020 along with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for unleaded regular gasoline from 1937 to 1976, including the absolute and inflation-adjusted prices for each year.

Read on to explore the cost of gas over time and rediscover just how much a gallon was when you first started driving.