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Can You Pump Gas With The Car On? Is It Dangerous?

pouring fuel on gas tank

Technically, you can pump gas with the engine on, and you likely won’t suffer any ill effects. The risk of an accident is low, but the consequences if one did happen would be catastrophic. Imagine you’re surrounded by cars and gas pumps, pumping away, and then everything is an inferno… it’s easy to see why you’re not supposed to pump gas that way.

Most gas stations prohibit you from pumping gas while your car is on, and a lot of places have even made it a crime. Signs at pumps to not leave your car running are usually intended for absent-minded people who could accidentally leave the pump unattended, which could start a fire or spill gasoline and create a fire hazard.

While the chances of an accident are remote, if you regularly do it, they increase substantially2. It’s very easy to prevent a potential tragedy by simply turning your car off when you fill up. It doesn’t really save any time or money, but it could save lives.

divider 5 Why Is Pumping Gas With The Engine On Dangerous?

While it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out how it could be bad, why exactly is pumping gas with the car on a bad thing? Many people probably have an image of the engine sparking a fire that leads to the fuel tank and gas pump, but that’s not the case.

As it turns out, it isn’t necessarily the car running that could spark an accident, but the conditions. Running a car produces heat and electricity, both of which should be kept away from gasoline or gas vapors. By turning the car off, you minimize heat and electricity nearby the gas and its vapor, creating a safe pumping environment.

man refueling his car
Image By: RossHelen, Shutterstock

Other Major Gas Pumping Hazards

The other major danger when pumping gas is static electricity. As you go about your day and touch objects, you can build up a static charge. If that charge isn’t dissipated by touching bare metal, touching the gas pump handle can spark a flash fire.

When you get out of your car to pump gas, turn the car off first and then touch any piece of bare metal on your car to ground yourself. It’s now safe to grab the nozzle and pump.

Static electricity is especially insidious if you re-enter and re-exit your vehicle while gas is pumping. The auto-pump feature of many gas nozzles is convenient, but you should never go back into your vehicle before you’re done pumping. You can pick up a static charge from objects in your vehicle, and if you don’t dissipate that charge, it could be very, very bad.

divider 5 Can You Harm Your Engine By Fueling While It’s On?

Sometimes people are unaware that their car is on when they go to pump gas and they become worried that they’ll damage the car. Fortunately, there’s little risk of damage to the engine just by pumping into the fuel tank. If you accidentally fill up while your car is on, just make sure you don’t do it again. There won’t be any discernible damage to your engine from doing it accidentally once in a blue moon—but don’t make it a habit.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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