Can you pump gas with the car on?

The question of whether you should leave your car on whilst pumping gas is a hotly debated topic worldwide.

Is it safe? Is it even legal? Here’s what you need to know.

It is highly recommended you don't pump gas with your car on


It is highly recommended you don’t pump gas with your car onCredit: Reuters

Can you pump gas with the car on?

Technically, you can pump gas with the car on.

Indeed, directing gas into a fuel tank while a car is running is not dangerous – as long as there isn’t a spark nearby. 

Statistical probability of it causing a fire by putting gas in your ignited car is negligible.

Look at Formula 1 races. Pit crews are seen refueling with the engines still on.

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But gas stations are determined to warn customers to switch their engines off before pumping gas into the vehicle, and there are a number of reasons why they do so.

What will happen if you pump gas with the car on?

Even if starting a fire by pumping gas into your car on is incredibly improbable, avoiding to do so also protects your car from damage.

It is also a liability gas stations would prefer to avoid.

“While it’s not necessarily bad for your car, it could turn that pesky check engine light on,” said Jonathan Ganther, COO and Founder of Brakes To Go.

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“Our cars are designed to detect even the slightest gasoline vapor leaks from the fuel tank, fuel lines, and engine. So why would this leak be detected when filling up?”

Ganther explained: “When you stick the nozzle in to fill up, you open the gas tank that is normally sealed, and this allows gasoline vapors to escape. The computer in the vehicle detects a vapor leak and triggers the check engine light.”

What is the safest way to pump gas?

While turning your engine off is a crucial safety measure, there are a number of other ways to keep safe when pumping your car.

  • Never smoke or vape

This goes without saying as it the chances of igniting fuel are great. A single spark could cause your gas tank to conflagrate in a split second.

  • Don’t use your mobile phone whilst pumping gas

“Being on the phone can and has created static electricity,” Lauren Fix, an ASE certified technician and sector analyst at The Car Coach explained. “Leave your phone in the car.” 

Not being on the phone also allows you to keep concentrate while refueling.

  • Unplug any device that might be charging

If you are changing your phone or any other device in your car, remember to unplug them before your turn off your car before pumping gas.

  • Don’t leave your children or pets unattended
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Don’t risk them knocking an active nozzle and spraying gas everywhere.

If they need a bathroom break, go in with them. If your pet needs to stretch its legs, take them to grass patch away from the pumps.

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