It’s easy to forget, so get into the habit of checking the fuel gauge as soon as you have started the engine, even if you filled it last night. This way you never set off on a journey without knowing whether you need to stop for fuel and you won’t be caught out by the fuel warning light coming on just after you’ve joined the motorway with the next services 30 miles away.
It also means you will spot if fuel has leaked out or been stolen and if you need more you can plan where you are going to buy it so can choose a cheaper filling station.
Be particularly careful to check fuel on cars with exceptionally long ranges. For example, some diesel hatchbacks can do 600-700 miles on a tank full, which makes it far too easy to forget about it, especially if you are used to less frugal cars.
While you are checking the fuel, glance round the instrument binnacle to make sure all the warning lights have gone out after their initial starting test phase. If any are still on, don’t ignore them: you may be in a hurry, but you will be delayed a lot longer if the car breaks down because you didn’t check something.
Fill Her Up
When you pull in to a filling station remember that petrol is dangerous stuff, so don’t smoke or use a mobile phone; a phone’s signals can create sparks from metal in certain conditions. Make sure you have chosen a pump delivering fuel suitable for your car and that you pick up the right nozzle. If someone serves you, make sure they use the right pump.
It is easier to pull up to a pump on the same side as your fuel filler but most pumps have hoses long enough to stretch to the far side of all but the largest cars. Open the fuel filler before going to get the pump nozzle and take time to look at the pump for instruction notices if it is a type you are not familiar with. Most these days automatically trigger a light in the station’s control desk for the fuel flow to be started but there are still a few where you must press a button first. Some pumps offer a ‘pay at pump’ option with a button choice to make before you can fill up.
Put the nozzle right into the filler neck: this reduces the fumes blown out and ensures the pump’s cut-off will work without blowing back fuel. However, on some cars the filler pipe turns in a way that makes the cut-off work prematurely and you may need to pull the nozzle back a little to get the fuel to flow freely.
Fill the tank until you reach your price limit or the pump clicks off. If the latter, wait a few seconds, then pull the trigger again because sometimes fuel foams up and activates the cut-off early, especially with diesel, so waiting ensures it is full. But do not overfill the tank: fuel expands as it warms up and you’ve just pumped it from a cool hole in the ground.
You must return the nozzle to its holster to turn the pump off and make the quantity register in the pay kiosk: check the amount and pump number. Replace and lock your car’s filler cap and at least take the keys with you when you go to pay, preferably locking the car to protect your valuables. (Thieves know filling stations are good places to snatch mobile phones, portable electronics and CD collections.)
Stand to one side as you fill so if it blows back it will not get on you. Stand up straight to minimize the fumes you breath in and never let children stand near the filler as you refuel. Fuel vapour is heavier than air so a child standing near the filler breathes in large quantities of it, containing volatile and even carcinogenic compounds.