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The Great Gas Cap Conundrum

This week on Car Talk, we heard from Linda from Overland Park, Kansas. Linda drives a '98 Ford Ranger… with the fuel tank on the driver’s side.

So what, you say?

Well, she’s discovered that she has to wait longer and longer for the pump, each time she fills up.

In fact, in a quick survey of vehicles at her local gas station, she noticed that only two of twelve cars had the gas cap on the right side.

Is this by design… or is Linda just unlucky enough to pick gas stations that these left-fueling vehicles frequent?

What do you think?

Tom and Ray

Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers

This post has been moved to the new Car Talk Discussion Area, by a Car Talk Lackey. The original poster is TomandRay.

I used to like having the cap on the right. It was like my own express lane.

My '03 Lincoln LS v8 has it’s cap on the right.

My 86 k5 blazer has a passenger side fuel fill. Both of our Caravans are driver’s side though.

Looking out the window here at work I see a new Subaru legacy and a late 90’s BMW with passenger side fill.

Pick-ups generally have the fill on the drivers side, even if there are two tanks? My 81’ GMC has two tanks with a fill on both sides. My 73’ 280C has it on the right rear. I can go into either line.
The place to look as to why, might be the volumes the ‘SAE’ publishes for the Automotive Engineering Industry.
And additional question might be, how many fueling line(Pump)hoses are pulled off by vehicles with fills on the right versus vehicles with fills on the left(Drivers) side. It could be a safety issue, the driver can see the hose on the drivers side in a vehicle equiped with only a left hand (drivers) side view mirror.

Why are they not on the rear?
I remember (showing my age now) cars that had it behind the license plate, and the 55 chevy had it behind the tail light.

Probably rear gas tank filler is involved in rear-end wreck explosions?

The filling stations I use these days have hoses that are long enough to easily fill cars on both the near and far side. So it really makes no difference.

What’s your point?

The present situation, however chaotic, seems to work. I prefer the filler on the driver side. Some hoses are barely long enough to reach over to the right side as needed even if you park at the pump with that in mind. Does anyone recall fillers in the back behind the license plate? Derelict cars missing the gas cap would spill gas when accelerating from a stoplight.

Our motorhome had the filler on the driver side so I could visually align the filler with the pump. The gas refrigerator, accordingly was on the right to prevent fire.

No solution offered here but all on the driver side would be more orderly.

[b]It’s a safety feature.

If you run out of gas on the side of the road, it’s far safer to add fuel to the vehicle if you’re standing on the right side of the vehicle, away from traffic. Where if you have to stand on the left side of the vehicle, you have Peterbilt’s whizzing past just inches from your butt!


Most euro cars have had them on the right for many years. I always get messed up when I’m stuck driving a domestic (rental) because it’s on the “wrong” side. It’s just a matter of what you’re used to.

Most sports cars have it on the right for balance reasons.

Most other cars have it on the left for laziness and sloppy driver reasons.

Disagree. Some are barely long enough even if I park as perfectly as I can.

Most of our cars have had the gas filler on the right hand side. When the pumps weren’t available to fill the gas tank,head in, we’d just BACK THE CAR up to the pumps! What’s so hard about that? Can we say DUH?

To help with this problem many recent model cars have a small arrow under the fuel gauge that points in the direction of the gas cap. I have found this to be very helpful with rental cars and company cars I have driven recently.

I am surprised that no one connected this thread to the one where we found out that most all cars that have the exhaust on the left and the filler on the right and those with the exhaust on the right have the filler on the left.

You know, I never did find out what the answer was to duel exhaust cars or those with the filler behind the license plate.

I remember my Sunbeam Imp that had the tank (all 6 gallons of it) under the front bonnet.

To qualify, I’m from Australia, and have only been in the USA for about 3 years. I have been in the Automotive arena as everything from a floor sweeper to General Manager (never a car salesman though). I spent many years as a motor mechanic and service manager.

In the begining, gas caps used to be on the curb side of the car as many of the gas pumps were side of the road affairs. Simple 2 pump set ups with an attendant ready to literally pump the gas into the car (via the glass gravity feed vessel.

its probably because more automakers are putting the fillers on the left side because its getting increasingly harder to get the passenger to fill the car.

My wife will not fuel our Saab because the filler is on the passenger side. She’s afraid that when she gets out after fighting opposing traffic to get to the pump with the passenger side toward the pump, someone leaving or pulling up to the next pump may run over her. She is also afraid that, while she’s on the opposite corner of the car, someone can jump in the car and steal her pocketbook, or carjack the car. As for the safety issue of running out of gas on the road, it’s been 40 years since I’ve seen or heard of this actually happening to anyone I’ve ever known. And if it did, the AAA is more likely to send a towtruck with a hook than one with a gas can. I have not been able to get anyone from any of the carmakers to tell me why they put it on the passenger side, or why they don’t just go back to the old standard and put it on the drivers side. Does anyone actually KNOW the real reason?

Putting the filler on the driver’s side was only the “old standard” in the U.S. (who knows what/if they were thinking about). Every euro car I’ve ever owned (since my 1970 VW bug) has has the filler on the right (correct) side. Even the asian cars normally put it on the right side. I guess americans aren’t willing to walk an extra 5 feet.