Can You Pump Gas With the Car On?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the question, “can you pump gas with the car on?” People seem to be divided on this issue, with some believing that it is perfectly safe to do so and others thinking that it’s a huge mistake.

So what’s the truth about pumping gas with the car on? Is it safe to pump gas with the car on, or should you turn it off every time?

This article will answer the question “Can you pump gas with the car on?” once and for all; just keep reading!

Can You Pump Gas With the Car On?

You can pump gas with the car on, although it is not recommended due to the potential fire hazard. Fumes from the gas can potentially escape the gas tank and reach the hotspots of your running car, or even static electricity, causing the gas to ignite.

It’s potentially dangerous to fuel a running car – the issue isn’t the running car itself, but rather it’s the conditions that can be created.

When you pump gas with the car on, it increases the chances of gas vapors coming in contact with heat or electricity. This can cause ignition and result in various dangers.

A safety measure all gas pumps have is an automatic stop feature – but there is always a chance that the mechanism will fail and gas will pour out on the ground.

If the tank overflows and spills gas onto the ground, it’s not only going to make your car smell like gas, it’s more likely to ignite if the car is running.

Yes, it’s rare for such disasters to occur – but when you consider the possible consequences, it’s best to take the simple precaution of shutting off the engine when pumping gas. By taking this straightforward safety measure, you can avoid any potential disasters.

Is There a Fire Hazard When You Pump Gas With the Car On?

Yes, there is a fire hazard when you pump gas with the car on. Leaving the engine running can increase the chances of an explosion if gas vapors come in contact with static electricity or hot parts on your car.

According to Lauren Fix, an ASE certified technician and sector analyst at The Car Coach, it is safest to fuel your car while it’s off to avoid a check engine light or static electricity that could potentially ignite the gas’ fumes.

She also explains that the liquid probably won’t ignite as long as it does not get out of the tank, but the fumes that could potentially escape your gas tank could ignite, leading to an explosion.

Before you fuel up, make sure to turn off your car and unplug any electric devices you might be charging. Once you’re on the road again, you can plug your devices into the charger again

How Flammable Is Gas?

Let’s discuss its chemical properties and how it can be ignited in the air without a problem, even if it’s freezing cold outside.

Gasoline has a flashpoint of -23° Celsius, or -9.3° Fahrenheit. Even with just one match or spark, it can be ignited.

Gasoline’s vapors are highly flammable and heavier than air, so they tend to stick around any open canister, especially at gas stations.

Also, since it’s colorless and mostly invisible, gasoline can travel long distances from its source without us humans knowing.

While diesel has a flashpoint of 55° Celsius, or 133° Fahrenheit, it can still ignite, particularly on a hot summer day.

So now that we know why gasoline is so volatile, it’s best to stay safe and not take any unnecessary risks.

Pump Gas With the Car On Could Damage the Car

Pumping gas with the car running can also cause your check engine light to come on.

It’s not very likely that your vehicle’s engine will get damaged, though the risk of causing a fire or an explosion is much greater.

The check engine light might illuminate your dashboard because the car’s ECU thinks there is a vacuum leak in the car’s gas system.

Our modern-day cars are designed to detect even the slightest vacuum leak in the engine, fuel lines, or gas tank.

While you pump gas with the car on, your fuel tank is no longer sealed due to the nozzle inserted into your car’s gas tank that is pumping gas – leading to the car thinking there is a vacuum leak.

Just because it does not damage the car, it doesn’t mean that your check engine light won’t illuminate. This could cost you money with an unnecessary repair bill from simply pumping gas improperly!

If your check engine light illuminates while you pump gas with the car on, make sure you correctly seal the gas tank with the gas cap and restart the engine. If your check engine light does not disappear, take your car to a mechanic and have it checked out as soon as possible.

Safety Precautions to Consider While Fueling Up

At every gas station, you’ll see several signs telling you to turn off the engine and not to smoke.

It’s very risky to have any open flame near gasoline. When you open the gas tank and put the nozzle in, the gas fumes get pushed out and escape as the tank is filled with liquid.

You can take a few safety measures while pumping gas, such as shutting off your car and staying off your phone, but you can also take a few more safety measures which we will discuss here:

Reentering Your Car While Pumping Gas Could Cause Static Electricity

As mentioned above, static electricity can cause gas fumes to ignite. So make sure to touch something before you get near the gas pump and then remove the nozzle.

Reentering your car while it is being filled with fuel could lead to static electricity from your clothes and car seat rubbing, causing a fire.

Don’t Use Your Phone While Fueling Your Car

Texting, or using your phone in other ways while you pump gas, might cause static electricity, which can ignite the gas fumes.

Never Smoke at a Gas Station

Smoking is also a big no when you pump gas into your car. Smoking inside a gas station could easily ignite the fumes, causing a big explosion.

Vaping Is Also a Fire Hazard

While you would think vaping is OK at a gas station, the coil inside the device does glow hot, which also could ignite gas fumes.

It’s essential to focus on fueling up, even if it sounds stupid, to avoid any potential hazards.

How to Pump Gas for Beginners

Here’s a step-by-step guide for those who don’t know how to fuel a car properly. Teenagers, new drivers, and those who let a gas station worker fill your gas up might not know how to do it.

Here’s how to pump gas the correct way:

  1. Locate Your Gas Cap

    There will often be an indicator of some sort near the gas meter. Usually, the gas station symbol will tell you which side your gas cap is.

    If the nozzle is on the right side of the symbol, your gas cap most likely is on the right side, and vice versa.

  2. Slowly Drive Into the Gas Station Lane

    As you pass the gas pump, keep your wheels straight and use your side mirror to see how much further you should go.

  3. Turn Your Engine Off

    Turn off your engine, and if your car has a latch to open the gas lid, pull it.

  4. Check What Gas You Should Use

    Inside the lid, there is usually a sticker telling you which gas to use for your car.

  5. Unscrew the Gas Cap

    Unscrew the gas cap on your car. Usually, there is a slot on the gas lid to rest the gas cap while fueling your car.

  6. Use Protection Gloves

    As gas contains chemicals, it’s best to wear protective gloves. A pack of disposable gloves is perfect to have in the car for this matter.

  7. Insert the Nozzle in the Gas Tank

    Insert the nozzle of the chosen fuel type into your car’s gas tank. Make sure you put the nozzle in all the way to ensure there won’t be any leaks or backsplash.

  8. Hold the Gas Nozzle Lever In

    Grab the gas nozzle and push the lever attached to it. Nowadays, most nozzles have a locking mechanism for auto-fueling your car until the car’s gas tank is full.

  9. Look at the Gas Meter on the Gas Pump Display

    The gas meter on the gas pump will tell you how much fuel you have put in your car and how much it will cost.

  10. Let Go of the Lever When You’re Satisfied

    When you’re satisfied with the amount of gas you have put in the car, let go of the lever on the nozzle. If you want to fill your gas tank full, simply fill gas until the nozzle releases itself.

  11. Put the Nozzle Back

    When you’re done fueling your car, put the nozzle back at its original stand. Once you mount the nozzle on the stand, it can not be released until the bill is paid.

  12. Screw On the Gas Cap

    Put on the car’s gas cap and turn it until you hear a click.

  13. Close the Lid

    When your gas cap is fully screwed in your car, you can close the lid.

  14. Pay for the Gas

    If you choose to pay at the cashier, it’s now time to head into the gas station and pay whatever amount you fueled for. If you’re paying by credit card at the gas pump, it will automatically deduct the amount from your account.


As you can see, there are a lot of potential hazards that can occur when you pump gas with the car on.

An explosion could be caused by static electricity, heat from the car, or a malfunctioning gas nozzle.

Your car could also believe there is a vacuum leak in the fuel lines, engine, or gas tank, causing the check engine light to illuminate your dashboard.

To avoid these dangers and keep yourself and others safe, it is best to follow the simple rule of always shutting your car off before you pump gas with the car on.

Overall, it’s best to err on caution and shut off your car before pumping gas. This will help keep you, people nearby, and your car safe.

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Robin Söder

Robin has always been passionate about cars ever since young age. Over the years, Robin has worked on thousands of cars and gained invaluable experience in the process. He is considered an expert in his field and is often consulted by other mechanics for advice.

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