Introduction: Snappy Cap (How to Build a Gas Cap Opener for Challenged Hands)

Some people find as they grow older that they need assistance opening their gas cap lids on their vehicles. Other people may have weak hands for a variety of reasons. Snappy Cap grew out of my increasing difficulty in opening my gas cap so I can fuel my rig.

Step 1: Materials, Cut List

work gloves


1 1'2" furring strip, less than 2' is sufficient, or 1" X 3" or 1" by 4", depending on the size of the operator's hands and the inside dimensions of the cap gas opening


pencil for marking wood

straight edge (a T-square or speed square work well)

wood saw

2 1 3/4" wood screws

wood glue

rubber or nitrile gloves unless you prefer to glue by hand; otherwise you could use a brush

variable speed drill, charged

drill bits, counter-sinker (I like the kind that look like the bottom of an ice cream one)

sandpaper (wrapped on a block) or power sander

paint & brushes or Varethane are optional

550 cord (parachute cord, P-cord)

flame source (gas stove, candle) for fusing the ends of the 550 cord

good pocketknife or small chisel (which you may or may not need)

Cut List:

2 5" or so (depends on hand size) lengths of furring strip (or other width of lumber)

1 3" length to act as stabilizer and to keep the other two pieces of wood apart

Step 2: Introduction: Why Do This?

I found found that as I grow ever-so-slightly older, some of my parts seem to be wearing out more quickly than others. My hands, for instance, are not as strong as they were a few decades ago. Over the past year or so it has become much harder to perform such ordinary tasks as opening jars or screw top lids on juice bottles or the gas cap on my rig. I even have trouble opening some geocache containers that open like a charm for everyone else, which hardly seems fair. Since I drive far enough to work that I must now fill my gas tank a couple of times a week, I have had to develop a way to easily open my gas cap, hence Snappy Cap. I thought about trying to patent it but I'd rather just give it away.

You may put as much time as you wish into decorating this tool and transforming it into a work of art. I have left my prototypes as raw unfinished wood, but if I ever make any for gifts or to sell I'll at least give them a solid coat of Varethane.

Step 3: Step 1: Measuring and Cutting

Grasp the piece of lumber, say the furring strip, at one end and measure the length. My grasp is a little over 4" so I used a pencil to mark a straight line across the lumber at 5". You'll need two lengths of these. Be sure the end of your wood fits inside the gas cap opening; a furring strip should fit into any of them.

Apply your work gloves and safety goggles and saw the wood as you have marked it.

Measure and cut a 2" to 3" strip that will be fastened between the other two pieces to act as a stabilizer and to keep the other end of the tool open. Hold the three pieces together in your hand so that all three are level at one end. Be sure that the open end fits around the middle of the gas cap so that you can turn it. If it does not, chisel a little bit out of the middle on the inside of each end until it fits. Sand these rounded-out areas as needed.

Sand your three pieces of wood. I often use the power sander to sand the full length that I'll be using, then all I have to hand sand is the small cut ends.

Step 4: Step 2: Gluing and Drilling, Finishing

Gluing: Use a work surface that is clean and will not be damaged by wood glue (which is water soluble). I like to use wood shop-quality waxed paper; aluminum foil also works. Newspaper is not as good because it sticks to the glue and makes for a messy project clean-up.

I do not mind wood glue on my hands. If you do, wear rubber or nitrile gloves or use a paintbrush. Wood glue works best by hand-spreading or painting a thin layer of the glue on all touching sides. I pencil mark these for my students to help them be sure that they have covered everything that they need to. Apply the wood glue to all marked areas, then place them in position in a secure manner. In my wood shop I use squares, clamps, etc. At home I use food cans or whatever is on hand that works. (I'm nearly done building/setting up my home wood shop!)

Now - go away! I know it's tempting but don't rush the gluing process! Go fishing, go find or hide a few geocaches, read a book, go to bed - do whatever it takes. The glue knows exactly what to do. Let it work in peace!

When you return to your nicely glued project it's time to think about finishing it. Pick up that satisfying power drill and drill one hole on each of the two wide sides, just a little off-center so that your screws aren't meeting in the middle and arguing for right-of-way. I mark mine about one-third in on each (opposite) side. Counter-sink your holes so that your hands will happily grip flat surfaces, which you will especially appreciate if you live in an area such as ours where the temperature for half the year or more may be well below freezing. This will hold your Snappy Cap together until you are no longer driving!

[Aside: This is an inexpensive project and you may even be using scrap wood. If you find that the pieces have glued a little off-center you can easily separate and re-glue them. Boil a cup or two of water, then place it in a small bowl into which your project will fit. Just a few minutes of soaking will harmlessly unglue the pieces! Take them out, prop them up to dry, then recommence at your leisure.]

Just above the middle stabilizer piece, drill a hole through one side of the open end. Clean it out if it's splintery or fussy-looking.

Fuse the ends of about 15-16" of 550 cord. I use our gas stove; a candle also works well. Insert one end of your cord through this new hole and tie a sturdy knot at the ends so that you can loop your Snappy Cap over the open gas cap door while you're filling your tank. (If you want to do any painting or applications of a protective finish such as Varethane, do that before adding the cord.)

OK. You've waited long enough! Dash outside and give it a try! Unlock your gas cap first if you have a locking one, then place your Snappy Cap in position and give it a counter-clockwise twist. Hang it on the open gas cap door while you fill up. Enjoy the powerful satisfaction of creating a much-needed tool! Your parents, if you are fortunate enough to still have them (mine died young) may need Snappy Caps. How about grandparents, neighbors, that nice (old) couple from church or a club, friends, co-workers, etc.?

(Special thanks to my helpful husband for computer assistance and for suggesting the original name, Cappy.)

That's all there is to it. Enjoy!