Gas Door Won’t Open? Effective Fixes for Stuck Fuel Tank Doors

Updated: | Author: Steve Freling | Affiliate links may be present.

What do you do when you get to the gas station and the gas door doesn’t open? There are two main kinds of gas door releases, I’ll give you some pointers that will help find out what’s wrong.

So, why is your gas door stuck and won’t open? If it’s a cable type gas door, it may have a broken or stretched cable keeping the fuel door shut. Electronic fuel tank doors may have a bad switch or solenoid. In either case, a faulty fuel door spring can also make the gas door stay closed.

Types of Fuel Door Openers

There are two kinds of fuel door openers. Determining the type will help you know where to start looking to fix the problem.

If you have a gas door button on the dash or door panel, you have an electronic type. The cable type usually has a lever on the floor or next to the hood release.

Fixing Electronic Gas Doors

The button to open your electronic gas door sends a signal to a solenoid (an electronic moving part) inside the door opening. This solenoid releases the gas door latch and a spring pops it open.

To find out why it won’t open you’ll have to listen to it first. Can you hear a clicking when you press the button? If yes, that means the electronic system is working, but the spring or solenoid itself might be weak.

Look for a Mechanical Problem

Have a friend pull on the gas door while you press the button. They may have to slip a small screwdriver behind the door. Be careful not to damage the paint!

If it pops open, you know it’s the spring or solenoid. See if the solenoid moves freely while pushing the release button. If it doesn’t, but you can hear it clicking, it probably has internal damage and should be replaced.

You should also check the spring, it’s just a small metal tab near the hinge. See if it’s missing or needs adjustment. You may have to bend it slightly toward the car so that it can put more force on the door.

Check for Electrical Issues

If you don’t hear any clicking then there is an electrical problem. This could mean a fuse, the button itself, wiring, the solenoid, or a dead battery.

Check the fuse and battery first. If those are good, you may need to have the electrical parts inspected to find out what’s wrong.

Fixing Cable Type Gas Doors

This is a fully mechanical gas door opener. It uses levers and a cable, like the brakes on a bicycle, to release the door.

The cable pulls on a tab near the gas door. This tab releases the latch, just like the solenoid on an electric type. A spring is also used here to pop the door open.

Possible Cable Damage

Think about how your gas door release lever usually feels, and then give it a try. Does it feel any looser or tighter than normal? If it feels loose, it may mean a broken or stretched release cable, while too tight could indicate the cable is seized.

It is also possible that the cable has become detached from the release lever if it feels too loose. A good cable will have some resistance, but it will still be smooth to operate.

Missing or Weak Spring

Once you’ve confirmed the lever feels as it normally does, let’s repeat one step from the electronic type. Have a friend try to pull on the gas door again while you operate the release lever.

If it pops open, it’s almost always a broken or misadjusted spring. If the spring is not broken, make an adjustment by bending it towards the car.

You should also check the tab that holds the gas door latch. Make sure it moves freely when you operate the release lever.

Other Types of Fuel Doors

There are a few other kinds of fuel doors. Some manufacturers use the pull-open type. It has a small opening for your finger to slip in and pull the door manually.

This type is very simple with no real moving parts except for the hinge. If it is stuck and won’t open, there may be a foreign object lodged inside.

More rarely, some cars have a push-to-open type. Push the fuel door and it pops open, push it again and it closes.

There may be requirements for it to operate properly, such as the driver’s door being open or unlocked. Check your owner’s manual to be sure.

Final Notes

Keep in mind when your fuel door won’t open, many of these types have a secondary emergency release. Usually, they are located directly behind the gas door inside the car.

The emergency release can sometimes be found near the jack and tools for your spare, but you’ll have to remove some interior panels to get to it in other cases.

You can pick up some plastic trim removal tools like these to help keep from damaging any parts. They can also be used when troubleshooting your gas door so you don’t scratch the paint.

Don’t forget to leave the fuel door open until you’re sure it’s fixed. If you have to wait for parts to arrive, this will save you a headache later!

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About Steve Freling

Steve has worked for more than 20 years as an automotive mechanic, and later run his own repair shop for both cars and motorcycles. He's a maintenance freak, and generally pretty good at troubleshooting!

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