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Andrew Kelly

OT - Where is the gas cap?

I know this is a SQL blog but I need to take my mind out of the technical mode for a few minutes to gain some sanity and hey, this is a blog after all:).  I was thinking about something my wife reminded me of while we were driving a rental car in Myrtle Beach last week. Being a consultant I rent a lot of cars or all makes & models as I am sure a lot of you do. But how many times have you pulled into a gas station in a rental car and the gas tank filler nozzle was on the wrong side? I am sure more than we want to admit. Well as it turns out every modern car (at least in the US) these days has a little arrow next to the gas gauge on the dashboard that points to the right or left indicating which side the gas cap is on. Now I bet most of you have been driving your own car for years and never even noticed this arrow. Why should you, you know which side it is on. Anyway I just wanted to share this little tidbit of almost useless information (until you actually need it that is). Happy car renting:).

Published Friday, April 4, 2008 10:33 AM by Andrew Kelly
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AaronBertrand said:

I am a big fan of the gas tank arrow.  Especially when you have two vehicles, and the tanks are on opposite sides (the Germans and Swedes like the right-hand side, while the Asian manufacturers prefer the left-hand side).

April 4, 2008 9:49 AM

Jack Corbett said:

I always thought that this should be standardized on all cars.  Kind of like the pedals.

This is at least a step in the right (or left) direction.

April 4, 2008 10:12 AM

AaronBertrand said:

I agree.  I remember as a kid seeing a lot of cars with the gas tank in the back.  Having seen my parents pull into the station the wrong way, several times, I thought it was a great idea (until I realized why they probably stopped doing it).  I realize it would be slightly more expensive to build, but why can't the tank have two intakes, one on each side?

April 4, 2008 10:15 AM

Alex Kuznetsov said:

I think the gas cap should be on the driver's side - just a little bit more convenient to pull in, and faster to get to the nozzle. The Japanese manufacturers get it right.

April 4, 2008 10:34 AM

AaronBertrand said:

Alex, I agree... if anyone will ever be interested in standardizing, driver's side gets my vote as well.

April 4, 2008 10:37 AM

NoNameJoe said:

I wonder if the fact that no one side dominates is actually a benefit to the traffic flow in most gas stations. Since the pumps are double-sided, most people can just pull straight in and go the side they need.  If all cars used the same side, some people would need to pull in and turn around to get to the correct side of the pump to avoid waiting in line.

April 4, 2008 11:28 AM

AaronBertrand said:

You might have a point, but people do that all the time anyway... e.g. the driver of a left-hand tank will back into a pump when the current occupant is filling a right-hand tank... pulling straight in I would bet is only extremely common when the gas station is not busy.  :-)

April 4, 2008 12:06 PM

Kalen Delaney said:

Why does it matter?

The hoses are usually long enough to go to the far site. I just pull up to the pump that is the most convenient with least chance of being blocked in. Sometimes I have to stretch the hose over or around the back of the car, and sometimes I don't.

April 4, 2008 12:31 PM

Denis Gobo said:

It does matter in certain states, take for example New Jersey. IN NJ you can't pump your own gas if you pull up to the wrong side the guy who pumps the gas will tell you to turn around

April 4, 2008 12:39 PM

Kalen Delaney said:

Ok, if you're not pumping your own, I guess it might matter. I was just thinking about self-service. Thanks

April 4, 2008 12:50 PM

Mike said:

A few years ago while on a consulting engagement, I was driving the car back to the rental lot, stopped in to fill the tank and spent at least 20 minutes trying to figure out how to open the flap that covers the gas cap!!

Come to find out, the rather small switch (smaller than a disposable cigarette lighter, as I recal) to open the flap was partially hidden on the floor between the driver's seat and the car door.  I wonder who at the car factory gave the go-ahead for that 'feature' in their design / usability review meetings...?  Seriously, what's wrong with just walking over to the side of the car and manually opening the flap - what's with the secret switch, anyway?

So, am I the idiot here, or do I have a valid complaint?  I sure felt like an idiot at the time, that's for sure.

April 4, 2008 12:59 PM

AaronBertrand said:

Kalen, sometimes people are concerned about rubbing the hose up against their car... it has gas on it probably, and other even less desirable things like dirt and pebbles, potentially scratching the car.  And sometimes the hose just won't reach, depending on the place.  And like Denis said, at full-serve you'd better be on the correct side (some states don't even allow self-serve).

Mike, I'm sure you would have spent less time looking in the index of the manual, which should have been in the glove box, then you did looking for it manually!  Of course, I would have done the same thing initially, just looked around for it, but I have a threshold.  :-)  Anyway, the reason you can't just do it at the side of the car is to prevent siphoning, or people peeing or putting sugar in your gas tank.  Some cars are smarter these days, for example on both of my vehicles, you can just open the gas tank by tapping it, but the car has to be unlocked for this to work.  On older and/or low-end models, the locking mechanism for the gas tank is completely independent of the rest of the car's security system.

April 4, 2008 1:07 PM

Paul Nielsen said:

Alex, I heard an interview with a BMW engineer on this topic. There's an arguement against placing the gas cap on the driver's side. If you're adding gas on the side fo the road, it's safer to stand on the grass side than in the road.

April 4, 2008 1:11 PM

Mike said:

Aaron, tried that - the rental company took the user manual out of the car.  What, you think I'd risk getting hit with a 'RTFM' look from the gas station attendant?!  lol.

I tried siphoning gas (from my car, not the neighbor's!!) for the lawn mower awhile back, and they've got a screen or some other barrier in the tube going down to the tank to prevent that.  I will give you points for the sugar / urine problem - hadn't thought about that one...

April 4, 2008 1:13 PM

AaronBertrand said:

Paul, that's an interesting thought, and I assume it's when you've run out of gas and need to fill the tank manually (since gas stations are never that close to the main road that it could be an issue).  These days, though, with dashboard computers that warn you anywhere from 30-70 miles before you're start running on reserve, there is very little excuse for drifting into the shoulder on fumes.  In fact, if I remember right, on the Autobahn, it is actually illegal to run out of gas!

April 4, 2008 1:14 PM

Paul Nielsen said:

Another cool everyday user interface clue is... context - elevator - the floor leading to the ground level exit has a little star by the number on the button.

April 4, 2008 1:18 PM

Stephen Moore said:

I live in Oklahoma, and I don't think I've seen ANY full-service options in 10-12 years.  Used to be that EVERY gas station had a full-service option and self-service.  With the costs of gas getting ever-higher I've wished I could find a full-service option, because it seems like the differential cost wouldn't be as big percentage-wise as it would have been back in the day.

On the other hand, why in the world would states mandate that you HAVE to have full-service?  Is pumping gas really that difficult to do?

April 4, 2008 4:29 PM

AaronBertrand said:

I don't know the actual reason, and I don't know for sure that it is mandated (may be just a predominant choice, for all I know... may be collusion, even).  My statement should have read, "in some parts of the country, you will be very hard-pressed to find self-serve."

Outside of the US, I think mandatory full-serve is more common.  In Greece, for example, where I drove around for 10 days a couple of months ago, I was never allowed to touch a gas pump.

I can understand some reasons for it, I think.  One would be much less chance of spillage, or driving away with the pump still in the car, or flammable situations from people smoking while pumping gas.  Don't laugh, it happens!  This is going to be a little long, but when I was in high school, I observed a situation at a Canadian Tire gas station where my friend was working, and someone in a van pulled away with the pump still engaged.  His co-worker was against the wall, and kept his cigarette in his mouth as he came over to "help."  The pump at this point had been dislodged slightly, so surely there were fumes everywhere... luckily there was no explosion, but that could have been a bad day for all of us.

They could also be more concerned about people deciding to put gas in improper containers, or even the theft aspect (if someone is standing there pumping your gas, it is a little more difficult to drive off without paying).

April 4, 2008 5:12 PM

Kalen Delaney said:

In Oregon, state law mandates no self-service gas stations. I have no idea why, but when driving to Portand, we make sure to fill up before we cross the border.

April 4, 2008 6:22 PM

jerryhung said:

My gas cap only opens when the car is unlocked, likewise for the trunk as well, there's no gas/trunk pop switch near the driver seat

I love the arrow indicating the cap side, it's 1 freaking small arrow compared to the whole car cost!!!

MAKE IT MANDATORY, people are dumber than you think!!!!

I find the nozzle lines are longer in Asia (to cover either side) than here in Canada where sometimes it's not even long enough if you park too far from the pump. And cheap labour = all full serve in Asia

April 7, 2008 3:52 PM

RickHeiges said:

I confess.  I have known about the arrow for years.  I was trying to keep it a secret.  There goes another silly human trick that I can use to impress others.

April 8, 2008 9:15 AM

AaronBertrand said:

What did we do before the Internet?

Lots of information here about Oregon (and New Jersey) under the section "Minimum service vs. full service"... now I just don't understand where "mini-serve" came from.  Being from Canada, I've always called it self serve, but then so has every American I've ever met.  <shrug>

April 8, 2008 11:26 AM

Denis Gobo said:

Mini service is where they just fill up, full service is where they fill up, wipe your windscreen and check your tires and oil perhaps?

April 8, 2008 11:31 AM

AaronBertrand said:

Yes, that seems to be it, Denis.  I should have read the article in full.  However, the heading "Minimum service vs. full service" in that article is misleading... the following section seems to describe the differences between [minimum and/or full service] and [self-service], but does not really indicate anything about the differences between mini and full.

April 8, 2008 2:51 PM

CosmicTrickster said:

My wife and I were on holiday in the States a couple of years ago.  Went from Seattle to Jasper, Banff, Kelowna, back through Seattle and down through Portland to San Fran & L.A. in a rental car.  We filled it up ourselves at every place we stopped for fuel.  I don't think we came across a full service station at all.  Either that, or we just didn't wait in the car for it to happen.  We're impatient Kiwis who can't be bothered waiting, we just want get on with it :-).

Here at home, I ride a motorbike, so the whole left-right petrol cap doesn't apply :-P.  But I prefer parking on the right-hand side of the pump, due to the way the bike leans on the side stand.  It makes it easier to look into the tank to see how full it's getting.

April 11, 2008 12:19 AM

JD UK said:

The side issue is historical as petrol/gas pumps where originally placed by the side of the road the filler would be fitted on that side. So US and mainland Europe were on the right and UK and Japan were on the left.

April 29, 2008 6:20 AM

Paul said:

Isn't it on nearly all US cars and Asian cars produced for the US-market on the left side?

And on nearly all European cars on the right side?

For the European cars, I'm just thinking about the narrow highways. Imagine refilling your gas tank in case of emergency (running out of gas) in the traffic side after stopping the car on the narrow shoulder.

September 20, 2011 12:44 PM

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