We’ve all been tempted to leave our car engine running while we pump gas so we can keep the cabin climate-controlled, especially when it’s extremely hot or cold outside. But can you pump gas with the car on? Is this a legal practice that you should consider?
In this article, I discuss the reasons for shutting off your car while refilling. I also talk about some other practice safety tips at the pump.
Can You Pump Gas with the Car On?
No. Although it is physically possible to gas with a car on, it’s not safe to do so. When the engine runs, it creates the perfect condition for the vapors in the air to combust. If this occurs, a fire could break out and spread rapidly. Whether it’s from static electricity or a spark, fuel combusts easily.
Sure, it’s rare for something like this to occur, but why take the chance? Not only that, but the fuel station asks you to shut off your car. There are signs at every pump. When you don’t shut off your car, you become liable if something were to happen. For that reason alone, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The fuel vapor system (EVAPorative Control System) is a closed system, and letting your car engine run while pumping gas can also result in a check engine light on your dashboard together with a P0455 trouble code.
Is It Illegal to Pump Gas with the Car Running?
US law states that you should never leave your car running while refueling. In fact, most states enforce the International Fire Code directed by the ICC that says:
“2305.4 Sources of Ignition. Smoking and open flames shall be prohibited in areas where fuel is dispensed. The engines of vehicles being fueled shall be shut off during fueling. Electrical equipment shall be in accordance with NFPA 70.”
For this reason alone, you should be shutting off your vehicle when you get to the gas station. Otherwise, local law enforcement could fine you, even though it’s rare.
Other Important Gas Station Rules
1. Watch Pump
When you are at the pump, you are required to stay there through the duration of your fill-up. Sure, it’s easy to set the locking mechanism on the pump to hold the spigot open while fueling. This offers you a hands-free experience, but you should never walk away.
While the mechanism is designed to shut off when the tank fills up, nothing is foolproof. It could fail and gas could start spilling all over the ground. Do not walk away to use the bathroom, get a drink, or do anything else. It will only take a moment, so be patient.
2. No Smoking
I’ve already established that you don’t want any type of spark to occur while filling up the gas tank. Therefore, it should be a no-brainer that you shouldn’t smoke while you pump gas.
There are warnings all over the gas pumps about smoking at the pump. Something as small as the flick of a cigarette can cause the fuel to ignite spontaneously, so don’t take the chance.
3. No Children
When you are running errands and heading to the fuel station, you often have your children or your pets with you. It’s understandable that these beloved family members would visit the station with you, but they both belong inside the car at all times.
Do not let your kids hang out around the pumps, and don’t bring your pets out until you get to a designated area for them. If your kids or pets were to knock a nozzle out of place while it’s filling, it could cause fuel to spray. This could lead to the station operator hitting the panic button, which shuts off the fuel.
If your kids need to get out of the car, wait until you pull away from the pump. You can park somewhere else to take your bathroom break or get a drink.
4. Approved Gas Cans
When you fill up a gas can at the pump, you must use an approved container. However, the container must also be meant for the type of fuel you are putting inside of it.
Gas cans are color-coded. You use a red can for gasoline, yellow for diesel fuel, and blue to fill up kerosene. If you have a green can, that is meant to hold oil. Because OSHA states that color-coded containers make it easier to spot the right one in a lineup for quick use, you don’t want to fill the wrong type of container. Otherwise, you might not know what you are grabbing for in your shed when the time comes to use it.
Additionally, you should never use anything other than a container designed to hold fuel. Do not take plastic barrels or plastic bags to the pump to put fuel in. This is very dangerous.
How to Pump Gas – Quick and Easy Steps
If you are just learning how to put fuel in a car, these simple steps can help.
- Pull into the gas pump with the cap located on the appropriate side.
- Pull up until the gas cap is in line with the nozzle.
- Turn off the car engine.
- Push the button to release the gas door if your car has one.
- Unscrew the gas cap. Hang it up on the door.
- Pick the appropriate nozzle for your car and push the button to get started.
- Put the nozzle inside the tank and pull the lever.
- Watch the gas meter rise as the tank fills.
- When you are ready to stop, you can let go of the lever. Otherwise, it will stop automatically when the tank is full.
- Place the nozzle back in its original location.
- Screw the gas cap back on and close the filler door.
- Drive away slowly.
If you are paying at the pump, you will insert your debit or credit card before filling up. Otherwise, you want to drop cash off with the attendant before getting started.