Accidentally Left Car Running While Pumping Gas? Is It Serious?

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

Oh, no! I forgot to turn my car off while getting gas! There are warnings posted at every pump to turn off the car engine before pumping gas. Why is this? Is it a safety concern, or will the car engine sustain damage if it is left running at the gas pump?

Pumping gas with the car running is not advised due to a potential fire and explosion risk. The heat from the engine could cause a spark, and ignite gasoline vapors or droplets. This could potentially damage property, cause injuries, and even cause death. The chances of an explosion are low, but it is best not to take the risk. Pumping gas with the car running will not cause any damage to the vehicle.

Will It Damage the Car if I Fill Up with Gas with the Car On?

What happens if you forget to turn your car off when pumping gas? Don’t panic! While it is not advised to run the engine while at the gas pump due to a potential fire risk, it will not damage your car.

The Check Engine Light May Come On

You may notice that the check engine light comes on. While this is an annoyance, the engine is actually fine. Car engines are designed to detect if there are any gasoline vapor leaks while the engine is running. By opening the gas cap, some vapor will escape, which may cause the light to come on.

No Real Damage Will Occur

Pumping gas with your engine running will not damage the engine or the vehicle in any way.

Is It Dangerous to Pump Gas with the Engine Running?

The reason for all the warnings at the pump is due to potential safety issues, both for the drivers, gas station employees, and anyone else near the pumps.

Fire or Explosion Risk

A running engine may create a spark that will ignite any nearby gas vapors or droplets. The result would be an explosion or fire. This could damage property, and even cause loss of lives. While the chances of this are very low, it’s best to heed the warnings, be safe, and turn off the engine while you pump gas.

Carjacking Risk

While the fire risk is low, there is a much higher chance that your car may be stolen if you leave the keys in the ignition and leave the vehicle. Always remove the keys and take them with you.

What Are Other Safety Precautions to Take at the Pump?

Stay safe at the pump! Follow these general rules to avoid any potential disasters.

Don’t Smoke

A spark from a cigarette, cigar, or vaping device could ignite gasoline vapors, just like a spark from the engine. Put out your cigarette away from the pump before you pump gas.

Unplug Devices

Unplugged devices should keep static electricity to a minimum and help avoid a potential spark or fire.

Stay Off Your Phone

Static electricity from cell phones may also cause gas vapors to ignite. Leave your phone in your car while you pump gas.

Keep an Eye on the Pump

It may be tempting to go inside the gas station to use the bathroom or grab a snack while the pump is running. However, it is best to stay by the pump and watch while it is dispensing gas.

Gas pumps are designed to turn off automatically when the tank is full, but they may malfunction, overflow the tank, and cause a gas spill. This will be dangerous and cost you extra money.

Keep Children and Pets in the Car

Keep kids and pets in the car, or away from the gas pump while it is running. Children and pets can be unpredictable and may trip on the hose and cause a gas spill.

Final Thoughts

While your car will be fine if you forget to turn it off while pumping gas, it is best to not make a habit of it! A hot engine with potential sparks and gas vapors is a safety risk. Play it safe, follow the rules, and turn off your engine while you pump gas.

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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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