What Is DTE Calculation?

The DTE calculation gives you an estimate of the distance you can drive before your tank is completely empty.

How Does DTE Calculation Work?

In cars without DTE calculation, the only way you can begin to guess what your DTE distance will be is to take your gas mileage figure and compare that to the amount currently in your gas tank. Even then, this estimate won’t be perfect, since it might not take into account things like the driving conditions and the load that your car has to haul.

DTE calculation, on the other hand, uses a collection of different data points to (in theory) provide a much more accurate estimate of the distance you have left until your tank runs empty. The DTE calculation takes into account your current fuel levels and your average mileage within a certain period of time and adjusts the DTE distance accordingly. 

Of course, modern DTE calculators can use other factors to make further adjustments to the DTE distance. Some DTE calculators can also take into account things like the temperature outside, whether your A/C is on or whether your windows are down, and make adjustments to the DTE distance based on that.

In Ford trucks, in particular, you can also put your DTE calculator into towing mode. Since towing a trailer or a camper usually has a noticeable effect on the fuel economy of any vehicle, this towing mode can be pretty helpful to have if you plan on frequently hauling heavy stuff around with your truck.  

How Accurate Is DTE Calculation?

While the main advantage of DTE calculation is that it can take a variety of factors into account when determining the approximate distance you can go before your tank runs empty, you should still take this figure with a grain of salt. 

The exact method used in any car to calculate the DTE depends on the manufacturer and the car itself, and even between similar cars from different manufacturers, the DTE calculation can vary significantly.

Many manufacturers tend to program their DTE calculators to be somewhat conservative with their estimates, which is beneficial for you as a driver since this will give you a larger margin for error if you’re the type who prefers to get as close to an empty tank as possible before refuelling. 

Of course, you shouldn’t assume that your car will always give you a conservative estimate of your DTE distance; again, this depends on the make and model of the car as well as numerous other factors. It’s also pretty rare for a single car to give you the exact same DTE calculation every time you start it with a full tank.

Essentially, what you need to know about DTE calculation is that it takes a sample of your previous driving data, and uses that to determine what your DTE distance might be in the future. This means that if you’ve been driving differently for a little while compared to how you normally do, it can throw off your DTE calculation pretty significantly.

For example, if you’re normally a pretty slow and careful driver but you decide to floor it a few times just for fun, this alone could have a noticeable effect on your DTE distance since the DTE calculator thinks that that’s how you’re going to be driving from now on.

In short, the DTE calculator can only use previous data to give you an estimate of your DTE distance, and it can’t adjust itself in real time. Until a certain amount of distance passes and the DTE calculator resets itself, it will continue to give you figures that are off.

Can I Reset My DTE Calculator Myself?

If your car’s DTE calculations are all over the place and you just want to wipe the slate clean and have it start calculating your DTE distance again from zero, your options are unfortunately limited. Most cars don’t allow you to manually reset your DTE settings; the settings only reset after a certain amount of time passes.

In some cases, it may be possible to reset your DTE calculator by disconnecting your car’s battery, since this will reset all of your car’s electronics. However, there’s a chance that doing so will only reset one specific value that your DTE calculator keeps track of, namely, your running average fuel economy.

Resetting your average fuel economy will do nothing except give you an even more inaccurate DTE distance, so in most cases, the best thing to do is to just let the DTE calculator reset on its own.


While DTE calculators can be useful for giving you a rough idea of how far you can go before you’ll need to fill up, they certainly aren’t perfect. Considering how easily the DTE distance can be affected by a variety of factors, you should always view your DTE distance as a general ballpark figure rather than a highly accurate calculation.