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Gas Spill while fueling car

Yesterday I found the Dear Tom & Ray archive and spent the day reading the questions and answers.

This morning on my way to work I fueled my 2010 Honda Fit (bought last Nov). While I was pulling little pollen pods from my car, I looked over and gas was spilling from the tank. Having read about not topping off because you can damage the charcoal canister, I wonder what an overflowing gas tank would do it?

Should I mention it to the dealership when I get my first, free oil change? Yes, that’s right, I only just passed 3,000 miles - low mileage driver, that’s me.

It could just be a pump malfunction. Try pumping gas at another station or another pump. If it happens again, there might be reason for concern. One incident like this is unlikely to permanently damage the charcoal canister. It’s repeated topping off that causes this type of damage.

One time probably won’t hurt anything.

You could mention it to the dealer just to get it noted in the service history, but it’s unlikely they’d do anything unless it starts happening more often.

I wouldn’t tell the dealer myself. That’s just the sort of thing they like to use to illegitimately deny warranty claims.

I wouldn’t give it a thought. You’ll get all sorts of dire responses here about overfilling your tank, but the fact is I’ve done it every time I’ve gotten gas in dozens of cars for the last thirty years. I fill the tank just as full as I can get it every time. That means right up until some flows over the top of the fuel fill. Never had any repercussions.

[i]  I fill the tank just as full as I can get it every time.[/i]  


Joe, we’ve had this discussion before.

If I stop filling the tank when the pump first shuts off on the car I currently drive I’ll have typically put in about 14 gallons. If I continue until it’s full I’ll have put in about 18 gallons. That means by filling it as full as I can get it I’m completely eliminating one fuel stop in four or five. That’s why.

On the other hand, the enduring argument against overfilling the tank is that I’ll damage something. 30 years of doing this with zero failures says I won’t damage a thing. Furthermore, if overfilling the tank did damage anything, let’s imagine the following scenario. I’m in a gas station with the front of the car lower than the rear and I’m filling the tank. Once full, I go out and park the car with the front higher than the rear. Or the other way around, filling it while the front is lower than the rear and then parking it with the front higher than the rear. If anything was that sensitive to the level of fuel in the tank something would be damaged by one or the other of these scenarios, even if I stop fueling the first time the pump shuts off. Again: 30 years of this behavior says nothing gets damaged.

Now you tell me why not.

You’ll be fine. Manufacturers have changed the vent line routings to resolve the problem. I had the same thing happen to my Scion in 2005 while I still had the temporary plates on it. The automatic shutoff on the pump failed and gas poured out everywhere. No harm done whatsoever.