Introduction: Figure Out Which Side the Gas Cap Is on Without Getting Out of the Rental Car

Picture of Figure Out Which Side the Gas Cap Is on Without Getting Out of the Rental Car

This seems to happen to me every time: I'm rushing back to the airport trying to make a flight, and I still need to fill up the rental car with gas. Which side is the gas cap on? The precious seconds expended in stopping the car to get out and look (because I've already craned my neck out the window and couldn't see) will mean that I miss the flight.

Yes, I should have made a mental note when I picked the car up which side the gas cap was on. I'm pretty squarely type-A personality, but noting such a thing is too obsessive even for me. So, instead I look for a little arrow on the instrument panel next to the gas level.

For everyone that knew this beforehand and doesn't think it warrants an Instructable: I can already feel your smugness, so there's no need to comment. Let me and the one other person on the planet who didn't already know this enjoy our new found knowledge.


schuchjd (author)2016-07-21

And then there were those wonderful cars that HID the gas cap behind a tail light

Jim_Knowles (author)2012-04-05

All this and no mention of the 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix? The gas fill pipe was behind the license plate. There were, if I recall correctly, several GM cars of that era with this setup. Because it was in the center, it didn't matter which side of the pump you used, the hose would only just barely reach.

There was a trick to using it, as I remember. After you got the pump turned on walk to the rear of the car with the nozzle in your left hand. With your right pull the license plate down - it was hinged on the bottom and had a very strong spring. While holding the plate down with your right hand, move the nozzle in your left hand into position to hold the plate down and watch the gas left on the hose run out onto the plate. While holding the plate down with the nozzle, unscrew the cap with your right hand and lay it on the plate. Now move the nozzle into position and watch carefully as the plate springs back upright. This action serves three purposes; first it sprays you with the gas that drained on the plate earlier, giving you that wonderful aroma of gasoline (what girl can resist that?). Second, it will propel the cap underneath the truck with the oil leak next to you, so now you have the adventure of crawing under there to retrieve it. Thirdly - and this isn't the end of the fun - when you try to catch the plate to prevent all this, it will slam on your fingers, which will prove to all in earshot that your vocabulary is quite varied.

Once you have mastered all this and the cap has been retrieved, the nozzle is in the fill pipe, and you start pumping gas, you will discover that, because the fill pipe is almost horizontal and gas will only run down it very slowly, you can't even lock the nozzle on its slowest setting! You have to crouch there for about an hour while your tank fills up (remember, the license plate is only about a foot off the ground so you can't do this standing up). Now that the tank is almost full (if you fill it all the way, it might kick back in your face) you get to do the juggling act again to get the cap back on.

There you are, ready to go, a full tank of gas, oil on your hadds an knees, grease in your hair (from crawling under the truck to get your cap back), smelling of gasoline, with sore fingers and a nasty taste in your mouth (from sucking on your gas soaked, smashed fingers).

Yes, indeed, I sure do miss the good old days. Hey, it was fun to watch the full service guy do all the above, after he had to ask where's the fill pipe?

carolgram (author)Jim_Knowles2014-03-01

I know this is one year old, but all the same this is absolutely priceless! I just got rid of a Chevy Caprice that had a center-fill under the license plate gas fill location, and living in NJ (which has attendants at the gas pumps), I use to laugh all the time as the individual would be walking all around the car looking for the fuel door. Now that I have my Ford Explorer with the passenger side fuel filler door, I rather miss those days! So.....this really gave me a good chuckle! Thanks for the memories!

mblazer (author)2011-11-13

This one is only obvious after you see it. I've had too many rental cars and there are no standards. Why don't the rental companies have standard markings for lights, wipers, washer, etc. or at least a quick cheat sheet for the car you're driving.

justin.jackson (author)2011-05-05

been working on cars for years and never had any idea about this

mmorley (author)2008-09-19

That'll save me a few seconds, but how to unscrew the damn cap of the reservoir? I have spent tens of minutes unable to get it off.

ewilhelm (author)mmorley2008-09-19

Vice grips? Jackhammer?

Saturn V (author)ewilhelm2010-09-13


KnexFreek (author)ewilhelm2009-11-17


peach_fart (author)ewilhelm2008-09-28

how would a jack hammer work if you have to put it back on?

evankoka12 (author)peach_fart2009-04-16


xerxesx20 (author)2009-09-03

Just get out for pete sake! If you're on the wrong side of the temporary motor so be it, kick the tires and look underneath the car, act natural and nobody will even know. What's more, by walking around you're burning calorie(s) (albeit perhaps 0.0000001 of 'em). You could even try out a new gangster or a cool pimp walk.

xerxesx20 (author)xerxesx202009-09-03

Short way: It's a common mistake, you won't be judged for having to move the car again, many filling stations have long enough hoses to stretch over/under/around the back of the motor. The i've stuffed it up and made a prat of myself way: Pick up the hose to realise that it's two feet too short to reach. Embarassing! The i'm playing this one smooth way: Go and get some sweets and stuff, move the car over to the water and air pump. Piss about for a while remarking at the phenomenal lack of pressure in the radiator topup water supply. Then sigh and move back to the fuel pump. The i'm a moron for being too vain to not move the car again way: Leave the filling station in shame and conk out thirty meters down the road.

apskari (author)2009-08-29

only in america...

glassspider2142 (author)2008-01-09

i have a tec that works great on rental cars. hire it for local use and crawl under it to disconect the speedo from gear box and tour the country with free milage, but you need to find some one to follow that apears to stick to the speed limit as telling the cop you disconected the speedo and milage is not an excuse for speeding :( i got a low hire rate saying needed a replacement car to get to work for a week but went on holiday traveled the country at a minimum rate. may not aply to newer cars but check it out, the ones iv done it with needed no tools just unscrew with fingers :) good luck and happy cheap travel :)

Rishnai (author)glassspider21422008-05-09

Another argument for the gear-driven speedo. Now the computer will report you to the secret police of renatl cardom. I'll have to try that next time I've got a mechanical speedo on the rental. I personally dislike driving cars that depend on a peice of equipment I can't service myself, but alas, computers are everywhere now.

thepaul93 (author)Rishnai2008-09-22

computers can be good or bad... i just dont like any of them exept for the internetz

zeek h bomb, holy mother of jesus, i forgot he even existed!!!!!!!!!

but first we must shine the flashlight on the bubble fish

o damns, that no b3 a bubbl3 fish!

You can use a GPS to get your speed.

poi_pai (author)2009-05-19

This may not be true for all vehicles, but an observation I've made is the gauge itself is usually on the side of the dash display that the door is on. Por ejemplo, if it's on the left side of the steering wheel, the door is on the left side of the car, if it's on the right side of the steering wheel, it's on the right. If this is wrong, just lemme know.

nsoles (author)2008-01-25

Many cars I have been in have the arrows, but not all-

I can't think of a time when the side of the gauge cluster the fuel gauge is on doesn't correspond to the fuel door. Left of speedo = left side door. Can anyone prove me wrong here?

Also, most American cars will have the door on the left- Presumably for ease of driver to fill/pay.
Many European cars will have the fill on the right, as it is/was once common for gas pumps to be on the curb of a city street (think bus stop).
Not sure how it all works out for right hand drive cars.

nsoles (author)nsoles2008-02-01

Eh, so much for the U.S. cars having the filler on the left- I just filled up next to a newer Dodge Neon and an old Mercury POS. Both had fillers on the right. Maybe they were designed to drive "across the pond." The Mercury looked like it should be driven INTO a pond tho. Thanks for making me think about this all too much.

Gamer917 (author)nsoles2009-03-14


Rishnai (author)nsoles2008-05-09

I've noticed that it seems to correspond, but the '07 Mercury Milan put the fuel guage above and to the right of the speedo, and has the door on the left. I liked my old Mercury with it one the right, since that meant much less banging my door into the pump or awkward exits around a badly placed trash can.

cherith_girl (author)2008-10-06

I hate to bust everyones bubble, but this is simply not true. Sure it sounds good, and may be true now and then. I only found out after I sent a message to a bunch of friends that I'd made a mistake. You want to read about it, check out this link: Gas Pump Icon

ewilhelm (author)cherith_girl2008-10-07

You need to read more carefully. The Snopes article you linked to discusses only the handle on the gas icon; not the arrow, as I've clearly highlighted in the image.

nanonano58 (author)2007-12-21

mine hasent :P that arrow

peach_fart (author)nanonano582008-09-28

look at the handle on the side of the as can thing. it points to the side of the gas cap.

sadunpererarules (author)2008-09-27

i wouldve never guessed this. well, that makes two of us

thirteen oclock (author)2008-09-14

If there is not an arrow showing which side the gas cap is on, look at the little gas pump picture, and see which side the handle is on. That is usually the side of the car that the gas cap is on. I haven't seen any cars where this wasn't the case.

I3uckwheat (author)2008-09-14


Stikk (author)2008-01-09

Uh, maybe this is just me but you said you craned your neck out the side of the car to see and you couldnt tell? Hint: If you cant see it from sticking your head out the drivers side window, the fuel cap is on.. Wait for it.. THE OTHER SIDE! I am constantly forgetting which side my fuel cap is on (2004 Jeep Wrangler, cant remember even now) but a quick glance in my wing mirrors never fails to remind me..

bhunter736 (author)2007-12-31

Another trick for newer cars without arrows; Pop the fuel door as you approach and check your mirrors for the fuel door to be sticking out. What was once out of sight in the mirror will now be visible in a lot of cases. : )

ewilhelm (author)bhunter7362007-12-31

Good tip!

GorillazMiko (author)2007-12-20

this is such an easy instructable, that it only needs one step! haha cool :-) you post a lot of instructables..

munchman (author)GorillazMiko2007-12-26

He runs instructables.

GorillazMiko (author)munchman2007-12-26

Yeah. I know. He's awesome.

Spectrace (author)2007-12-20

wow. i never knew that. neat. some cars (for example the Ford Mustang) even say "FUEL DOOR >". on the instument panel. i havent seen any that say like that where its on the left, usually ones that have it on the right

canida (author)Spectrace2007-12-23

The second picture above (with two red-tipped indicators) is actually from a Ford Mustang.

Spectrace (author)canida2007-12-23

im not too sure about that. look at this one- it says under the speedometer. my friend has a 2002 mustang and it says the same thing: this is a 2000 ford mustang:

canida (author)Spectrace2007-12-24

I can guarantee you the one in the Instructable is a 2008 Mustang- I took the picture!

Spectrace (author)canida2007-12-24

ah, ok cool, i didnt know they switched it, even though im like a mustang crazy person. i guess i cant argue with you there ... :P MERRY CHRISTMAS BTW :)

einnybug (author)2007-12-21

mine has an arrow that points to the side the gas tank is on. it is an 04 Xterra.

jk55092 (author)2007-12-20

I don't think this warrants an instructable. Not because everyone already knew it -- but because it simply isn't true. Wish it were, it'd be useful.

jolshefsky (author)jk550922007-12-20

If you're saying that there are cars that have an arrow that points to the side opposite the gas tank, please provide an example car year/make/model and photographs. Some cars don't have an arrow, then you're out of luck.

Whaleman (author)2007-12-20
That was easy.
!Andrew_Modder! (author)2007-12-20

ooh well crap! thats easy :-)!

xrobevansx (author)2007-12-20

Would have been a bit more informative if you had found a gas guage with the arrow pointing to the right.

like this:

About This Instructable




Bio: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through ... More »
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