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Can You Pump Gas With Your Car Turned On? (More Like Should You!?)

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You may think pumping gas into a running car is a harmless act. It doesn’t take long and the gasoline isn’t leaking everywhere, so what is the issue?

This article will explain what can happen in this situation and if it is even legal. Let’s take a look at why you probably shouldn’t pump gas with your engine turned on. 

Why You Shouldn’t Pump Gas With The Engine Turned On

Most gas stations have a safety sign on each pump with warning statements. One of these warning signs states that drivers should turn off their engines before refueling.

Pumping gas into your car when the engine is turned on is not recommended. However, believe it or not, some people still do it, knowing all the risks that are involved.

So why shouldn’t you pump gas with your car turned on?

Pumping gas into your car whilst the engine is ignited is extremely dangerous as gasoline is a highly flammable substance. When the engine is running, the temperature of the car rises considerably. This, coupled with the electrical aspects is a recipe for disaster, should gasoline be added to the mix. 

What Damage Does it Cause?

Filling up the tank of your car cannot only cause damage to your vehicle, it can cause damage to other individuals as well as the station itself. The damage caused can be irreversible and on a grand scale. 

Damage to your car

Fuelling your car with the engine turned on can cause significant damage to the vehicle itself. If gasoline spills onto the ground, components such as the catalytic converter, the exhaust pipe or the engine, are at risk of catching fire. 

The catalytic converter for example, can reach temperatures of up to 900 degrees celsius. Therefore, it is not hard to imagine how a trickle of highly flammable liquid could cause the two to combust.

Electrical fires can grow out of control very quickly and while the chances of this happening are quite slim, it would be terribly irresponsible to risk it. 

Gas Vapors

Leaving the engine running at a gas station releases harmful vapors which pollute and congest the air. This is toxic to the environment as well as other drivers who may be filling up at the same time. Gas vapors are exposed when the hood of the vehicle is up. 

It Can Be Costly

Some cars have vapor recovery systems. These help to lock in harmful vapors in order to stop them from damaging the environment. There is a chance that this system can be damaged if you choose to leave your engine running and pump gas. Replacing a vapor recovery system can cost up to $1500. 

Other Hazards To Be Aware Of At A Gas Station

These hazards are not specifically linked to pumping gas when your engine is turned on. However, it is generally good to know what other normal, everyday acts might be deemed dangerous at a gas station.

Don’t smoke

Smoking at gas stations is forbidden all over the world. A lit cigarette can cause great damage at a gas station. Strong winds can also blow ashes around, so this should also be considered. It is best to be patient and wait to smoke a cigarette when you have fully exited a gas station

Static Electricity

This does not always correlate with the engine being turned on but static electricity can be dangerous.  This happens when a layer of electrical charge is created between the car seat and yourself upon entering or exiting your vehicle. 

The danger being that a single spark of static electricity is enough to ignite gasoline. 

This can be prevented by touching something metal, like your car door. Static electricity is also the reason why cellphones should be turned off at gas stations too. 

Spark Plugs

Spark plugs are responsible for igniting the gas/air mixture that gets the car to run successfully. Therefore, you can just imagine the kind of power they require. If the insulation on a plug was unknowingly faulty, it could be enough to ignite the car. Although this is unlikely, if you think your spark plugs may be faulty, do not hesitate to get them checked out by a professional mechanic.  

What Will Happen If My Car is Left Running By Accident?

The blame solely lies with the driver of the vehicle. Most people turn off the engine out of habit when they arrive at a gas station, just as they would if they had parked up to go to the grocery store. 

While you may think it is more convenient to leave the engine running so you don’t have to fire it up again, it is also extremely dangerous. 

What Does the Law Say?

The law is different in every state and even when it is illegal, you will still see drivers breaking the rules.

In California for example, it is illegal to fill your car with gas whilst the engine is turned on. This can be found in section 3319 of the California Code of Regulations.

It is also illegal in Texas and anyone caught committing such a crime can be fined up to $500.

These laws are not discriminatory or unfair, they are put in place to protect citizens from harm and should therefore be abided by. Turning your engine off at a gas station also prevents potential car robberies. This is another reason why such laws are put into practise. 

The Bottom Line

After reading this article, you might think twice before pumping gas whilst your engine is on. For one, it is illegal in some states and it is a huge risk to take for the sake of two minutes. Not only do you risk harm to yourself, you are risking the safety of everybody at the station.


Nowadays, gas stations have many preventative measures in place to avoid a disaster from happening. But you should still be wary and turn your engine off before leaving your car. 

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