MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Is Leaving Your Car Running While You Pump Gas Actually Bad?

The are a lot of myths surrounding cars & driving, whether it’s about dirty cars being more fuel-efficient, or the notion that it’s more probable that red cars will get pulled as opposed to other colors. But, when it comes to letting your engine run while you pump gas, what you’ve likely heard is very much fact-based. So, why is it not a good idea to leave your car running as you fill up the gas tank?

Well, for starters, gasoline’s highly flammable. That’s why gas stations prohibit smoking or having any kind of open flame around the pumps. It’s also why gas stations ask customers to shut off their engines before refueling.

Sure, cars are designed for safety, but there’s a unique interplay of things going on at & around gas pumps that can create hazardous conditions. In some cases, the heat & electricity produced by your vehicle can be enough to ignite liquid gas that might splash out of the pump, or perhaps gas vapors in the air. (While that doesn’t happen often, it definitely has happened, according to industry groups.)

When it’s cold outside, it can be really tempting to leave your car on while you’re at the pump. Or, maybe you’d rather wait in the warm/dry car while filling up your tank. But, the safest thing to do, regardless of the weather or time of year, is to stand by the pump from the moment you start pumping until the moment you screw the gas cap back on. Because even when the engine is off, normal static electricity created by just moving around could be enough to ignite fumes around the pump. Simply re-entering and/or exiting your vehicle could cause static to build up (especially in the winter, when the air’s drier & you have on more fabric layers). Your safest bet is to touch your bare hand to the metal side of your car door so that you ground yourself before pumping gas.

For now, gassing up is still a regular part of everyday life. So, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via social media (@AndyWebbRadioVoice), or shoot me an email at [email protected].

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