Filling up the car with fuel is (sadly) one of the most frequent things we do when driving. But what is the correct fuel station etiquette? We look at some popular dos and don’ts around refilling with petrol or diesel.
Don’t be on a mobile phone
You might remember, or in some cases still see, signs on fuel station forecourts saying you mustn’t use your mobile phone while filling up. There was a legitimate reason for this.
Brian Madderson of the Petrol Retailers Association explains: “There were concerns that using an electrical device such as a mobile phone might lead to explosions by igniting petrol vapour around the pump and car’s open fuel tank area. That has now been scientifically disproved.
“However, the forecourt is a busy, dangerous place and mobile phones can be a distraction, so it’s best to avoid using them when outside your vehicle.”
The UK Petroleum Industry Association adds: “Mobile phones, although not specifically designed to standards as ‘protected equipment’, pose a negligible ignition risk, and one that is far less than other ignition sources on a fuel forecourt.”
Using a mobile phone in the fuel station shop or inside the car while it’s being filled up shouldn’t present any danger.
Don’t wait to fill up on the fuel tank side
We’ve all seen a queue of cars waiting to fill up at the fuel pumps on our right-hand side while those on the left are unused. This is because all European-built cars are designed predominantly for left-hand drive markets. That means if they need filling up at the roadside in a country that drives on the right (eg. Europe and the US), whoever’s putting fuel in can do so on the other side of the car to moving traffic. Japanese cars (where they drive on the left side of the road like us) have fuel fillers on the left.
Whatever the nationality of your car, the hoses on all modern petrol pumps should be long enough to reach round to either side. But you need to be careful if filling the car up on the opposite side to the petrol tank because you might be in the way of moving traffic.
HINT: If you forget which side your fuel filler is on, just look at the fuel gauge. There will be a little arrow pointing to the side the fuel tank is on.
Do move from the pump after filling up
An increasing number of fuel stations now allow you to pay at the pump. But what if you need something from the shop too? If you occupy a pump while doing your shopping you risk the wrath of the drivers behind. If you move away to park, the question is: could you be nicked for driving off?
Every fuel station has cameras to monitor the cars at its fuel pumps. But some don’t like drivers moving their car before paying in case they then drive off. However, the Petrol Retailers Association says that fuel stations make more profit on the goods inside their shops than on selling fuel. Garages can’t have it both ways and as long as you don’t drive off the premises, you haven’t committed a crime.
Don’t worry if you can’t pay
All of us have had a payment card declined at one time or another. If it happens in a shop, you can put what you’re trying to buy back. It’s a tad more difficult with fuel. The first course of action should be to explain what’s happened to the attendant, ring a friend or relative and ask them to pay for you over the phone.
If you can’t do this, some garages might be unwilling to let you go without paying. But they can’t force you to stay or impound your car. What they should do is give you a No Means to Pay form. You can fill this out and return within an agreed timeframe (usually seven days) to pay.