What's the proper etiquette for pumping gas?

So… have you ever wondered about the proper etiquette for pumping gas? We didn’t think so.

But, Heidi has. In fact, it’s a family tradition, courtesy of her old man. The proper technique? Once you’re done pumping, give that hose a shake here, a shake there, and send those last precious drops spiraling into your tank.

Is the Heidi strategy de rigueur for those in the know, or is it gauche to deprive the next-in-line of what might be considered their rightful petroleum?

Then, tell us what you think!

You brought back memories. Back in the 60’s, some of my hippie friends used to do exactly what you suggested. The would take their VW Micro Busses around to all the gas stations in the middle of the night and drain all the hoses. They claimed that each hose was good for about a half a gallon. I don’t know if that would work today, especially since most gas stations are open all night, have security cameras and the hose technology and nozzle size have changed.

It was hard to do during the day as they had attendants then that pumped the gas for you, except for a few rare self-serve stations.

When I was a kid back in the late '50s in Arkansas, I made some extra bucks in the summer by mowing lawns. Down the street was a Conoco station, and the owner knew me well, since I picked up my newspapers for my paper route there, and as his was the only gas station around, I bought all my mower gas there.

I would often wheel my mower into the station for a tank full of gas. (It was easier than lugging around a gallon can!) On several occasions, the owner, rather than pump the 7 cents of gas that would fill my mower, would do just what Heidi has been doing - put the pump nozzle into my tank and open the valve. The remnants would flow from the nozzle and hose and fill my tank. Well, it might have taken a couple of hoses worth, but he wouldn’t charge me for the gas.

Now, back in those days the pumps didn’t have vapor recovery systems and breakaway fixtures, so I suspect it was easier to get a significant amount of gas from the hose this way. Nonetheless, the practice - engaged in by the owner of the station - helped this youth put a few extra coppers in his pocket on those very, very hot summer days.

The economics of shaking after pumping are not the biggest issue…

Those who don’t take the last few drops when removing the nozzle give me a real pain.
Some cars, like mine (Mazda Miata), have horizontal gas tank openings. It is
virtually impossible to insert the nozzle without spilling the few cc’s left behind
down the side of my car. That looks like heck and doesn’t help the finish.

Please clean up after yourself.

I’m an “every last drop” person myself and have discovered that the old days are long gone for getting gas from the HOSE after the pump is off. These new electronic pumps have a different valve in the nozzle. After the pump is off I only get the few drops in the end of the nozzle and the pressure sensetive valve will not open and allow the hose to empty. Yep, the good ol’ days are gone.

Arkansas, 50’s, 7 cents worth of gas=half gallon. Does that sound about right?

This represents another problem for people whose cars require premium gas and are at a gas station that has only one hose for all three grades. How much regular are you being stuck with from the previous customer? Is this customer getting short changed by the gas station, and the next customer getting an unexpected benefit (and usually unneeded).

My son has a Sentra Spec V which requires premium fuel and has a relatively small gas tank. He may put in 12 gallons at the most. Todays pumps have much longer hoses than they used to, mounted high so there is probably a gallon or more of regular going into the tank before the premium get to the nozzle. That’s why he only buys from dedicated pumps.

I’m surprised a couple of enterprising, mechanical types such as yourselves had no experience with this method of getting gas during your formative years. I grew up on the Iron Range of Northern Minnesota in the 60’s, when a carload of teenagers could only come up with $1.30 among them. After burning through that during a night of cruising the main street of Hibbing, Mn, we would often pull into several closed gas stations to drain all the hoses. The only downside was when a carload of kids had beat us to it.

Back in the 50’s, I used to take my parents car out and spend all my money on everything but gas. Sometimes I would be far away from home and with the gage sitting on empty, I would do this trick to get back home and park it. I don’t recall Dad not making it to nearest filling station the next morning!

Going futher back in time, before I was driving, they would hand pump gas up into a overhead calibrated glass container and then let it flow by gravity into your tank. You certainly drained the container and hose into your tank. I never heard what happened if your tank would not hold it all.

This practice should also be considered completely legal - even Bibical. Under Jewish law, Ruth was allowed to glean the fields after the harvest and I was only “gleaning” what was left in the hose. We have become to lazy to do it in modern times.

Gas and cigarettes for $1.00 ! I’m showin’ my age.

Memories, indeed. I worked at a gas station in the early 70’s; the days of odd-even license plates and checking to make sure that people had less than 1/2 tank or they couldn’t buy any more.
Anyway, I owned a Vespa at the time, and kept a gas can by the pumps. Every time I pumped gas for someone, I’d drain the extra into my can after they left. I NEVER paid for gas!!

Dear Clic and Clack,
I think your missing the boat, big time! The times I have not taken the extra few seconds to drain the pump nozzle and end of hose, the few extra drops have sometimes dribbled on: my leg, my Sunday shoes, my socks, the side of my vehicle, or on the asphalt/concrete where it makes grunge and polutes the environment. Unburned gasoline is far more toxic to us all, and to the environment, than burned gasoline. To leave gas in the pump handle to vaporize into the atmosphere and directly polute our environment, (even if you didn’t dribble it on your vehicle, yourself, or the ground) is simply environmentally irresponsible!!!
Karl Overbey from Mooresville, North Carolina.
PS. Go Heidi, you’re right on!

On the glass top tanks: You basically have it backwards. The gallon markings read from the top down, not from the bottom up. You would fill it to the top (to the “zero” mark), dispense as much as you needed, and pay based on how far the level dropped. Typically, there WOULD be gas left in the glass.

The “descending” gallon markings can be clearly seen here:


Well in California where I work as an air pollution control officer which regulates gasoline stations it doesn’t really work that way anymore. It use to be true that you could get substantial amounts of extra gas years ago, but with the new dispensers and vapor controls on gas stations you will only get a couple of drops from the vapor condensation collected during the pumping of the gas. Now a days the dept. of weights and measures makes sure the dispenser actually gives you what you pay for and my dept. regulates that the vapor control systems are working properly.The funning thing is I actually do the same thing when I’ve finished pumping. There are two types of dispensing systems, vacuum assisted and balance. In a balance system there are two hoses. The inner hose dispenses the gas and the outer hose lets the vapor collect back into the underground tank. A vacuum assist system has a pump that pulls the vapor back into the tank. So the balance system is the one that you will actually get the most “drops” out of because they collect at the bottom of the curve of the hose Heidi is lifting. What I would tell everyone is because temp. has a lot to do with how much vapor is actually created during pumping is get your gas in the morning when it’s cooler and if you can don’t let your tank get too low because the less liquid you have in your tank the more vapors will be created when you stir up the gas as it enters your tank. Also put the hold open latch on the nozzle on the lowest setting. It may take longer to dispense but you make fewer vapors the slower the gas moves thus getting more for your money.

common sense.

For quite some time now I’ve been doing what Heidi has been doing all along except the part where she lifts the hose and I don’t tell others to do it either. Anyway, I don’t think it’s wrong to shake out the last drops because when you return the nozzle back in it’s place whatever gas that’s left is going to spill on the blacktop, my car’s paint or my shoe so it might as well go in my tank. I just hope that the cumulative prolonged shaking action does not harm my car’s gas tank neck or make a spark that would create a fire.


I agree with Clarence, Karl and others. This technique was passed down to me from my father, after he ruined his new suit with the dripping gasoline “pump leftovers.” You don’t have to depress the gas nozzle; just lift the hose so that those little droplets (less than 2 ml) of gas go into your tank instead of on your shoes, clothes, lungs, etc.

Salt Lake City, UT

I do that, not to gain extra gas, but just to clear the last drops out of hte nozzle and keep streaks off the vehicle, and it may as well be in the tank as evaporating in the nozzle.

Like others I can remember in my distant past getting extra gas out of a pump late at night. I however, had a lame excuse. My motorcycle didn’t have a gas gauge and I had other things on my mind (well yes it was a girl) and I ran out of gas. Unfortunately I was alone and the gas station I pushed the bike to was closed. Lucky for me it had somthing like 9 pumps. and by going from pump to pump I got enough gas in the tank to make it to a station that was open all night.

Pump.Pay by ramsoming the family; get the heck away.