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Need Dog Leash to Fuel Car

I have to use a nylon dog leash to gas up my 1997 Geo Prizm. If I just pull on the fuel door release lever inside the car, nothing happens. It stays locked. I have to wrap the leash around the fuel door, then if I can coordinate pulling on the release lever with pulling on the leash just right and the leash doesn’t slide off the fuel door, it will open and I can gas up the car. I try to think of this as a theft deterrent device, because if anyone ever stole the car, they’d never figure out how to get gas into it and abandon the thing. I’d like to fix this. I’ve looked inside the door, and can’t see anything that looks unusual. I took it in to a mechanic, but he couldn’t figure out what’s causing it to act this way. I bought the dog another leash because the car needs this one. How do I fix this?

Pulling on the release lever is obviously releasing the catch on the fuel door, the door is just not springing open. That’s what you use the leash for, right? Pulling the door open as you operate the lever.

There is (or used to be) a small spring (a piece of thin, flat metal, not a coil spring) that popped the door open when you pulled the lever. The spring has either broken off or has lost its shape and is no longer opening the door.

Sometimes you can bend the spring back into shape and it will work. If the spring is broken you’ll have to replace it.

I don’t understand why this baffles your mechanic?

The mechanic works at an oil and lube shop, and I don’t know how much he knows about auto body repair.

I just took a look, and didn’t see anything resembling a thin, flat piece of metal. There is a plastic piece over near the hinge, and when I looked close, it looks like something broke off of it. Would this be it? If so, do I need to replace the entire door, or is it possible to just replace that piece? It’s not screwed on or anything, so I don’t know how I’d get it off to replace it.

There’s your problem. Quick-lube shops don’t employ actual mechanics.

Now I understand why it baffles your “mechanic.”

The thin, flat spring to which I’m referring may be covered in plastic to prevent rust where it rubs against the body.

The plastic thing you’re looking at might be the spring. I can’t see it from here, so it’s hard to tell. The spring is near the hinge.

I have discovered the metal they use to make fuel doors is usually quite light and bendable. My fuel door on my Civic never got that bad, but it did get to a point where I had to adjust it to get it to open and close properly. Have a friend help you open and close it a few times to see if you can adjust it carefully.

Unfortunately, there isn’t anything bendable there. I looked really closely at the plastic piece near the hinge, and it looks like something broke off from the center of it. What’s there is just a hard, solid plastic rectangle, and there’s nothing else near the hinge. I’m thinking that maybe if I went to an auto recycler, they might let me look at another Geo Prizm to see what it’s supposed to look like, and possibly buy that piece. The plastic rectangle is on there tight, and I don’t know what’s holding it on, so I don’t know how I’d replace that piece.

Cut a small block of sponge and glue it to the inside corner of the door. This will provide the mission “spring” action needed to open the door…

That would probably work. I think I have some rubber grommets around here somewhere, and maybe that would work, too. An auto parts store would probably have some super heavy duty glue for car parts to hold it on. Super glue doesn’t seem to hold like it used to when they first started marketing the stuff.

If you can find your model at a junk yard, I would just buy the whole fuel door and replace yours, especially if you can find one that is the right color.

Use 3m Super Weatherstrip adhesive (or similar) to glue on the grommets. You could probably trim them down just enough so the lid rests against them but doesn’t close all the way, eliminating the need to unlatch it.

Many thanks for all your help. I should be able to get this job done without too much trouble.

It worked! I called around town, and couldn’t get a new or used spring, or a door of the same color, so I got the weatherstrip adhesive and used a grommet. It works great. Now I can gas up without juggling, and The Boss gets his leash back. Thank you!