man thinking if can you leave your car on while pumping gas
Tips & Tricks

Can You Leave Your Car on While Pumping Gas — Dangerous or a Myth?

When you’re at a fuel station, you might wonder — can you leave your car on while pumping gas? While there’s technically no harm leaving your car on, it’s best not to. This is because any nearby electric shocks can cause explosions.

Can You Leave Your Car on While Pumping Gas?

pumping gas at gas station

In general, keeping your car on is safe — except for one major risk. There is a chance that gasoline vapors could be ignited should they come in contact with static electricity. While there is a minimal chance of this happening, it’s enough to keep gas station owners worried. 

Where do gas vapors come from, you might ask. Well, every time the gas tank is opened up at the station, it releases some vapors. Imagine your nearest gas station pump and how many people visit it in a single day. 

You will immediately understand how common it is for gas station fumes to collect in the atmosphere. Should they come in contact with any static electricity, you just might find yourself in a dangerous situation. 

Safety Guidelines at Gas Stations

We all know that smoking at a gas station is strictly prohibited, but what are the other safety guidelines? Here are the gas station practices recommended by employees and attendants:

Avoid Using Your Cell Phone

When you visit gas stations, you may be asked to be wary of cell phone dangers, as there is always a risk of fires starting. Just like with a car that is switched on, there is a chance of gas vapors being ignited if your phone sparks. This is also why phone chargers are not recommended to be used in gas stations. 

The act of cell phone charging can exponentially increase the risk of an explosion due to the ignition of fuel vapors. Aside from the looming risk of gas station fires, you can also be distracted by your phone. By putting your phone aside, you can keep yourself safe and concentrate on filling your car with gas.

Don’t Smoke or Light Matches

safety warnings posted at gas station

One of the biggest mistakes you can make at a gas pump is to light a match or smoke, which is why it is illegal to smoke at gas stations. If the fire from your cigarette ash or lighter comes in contact with fuel, it will immediately result in a series of explosions.

This is a huge liability issue for the gas station, making it completely prohibited to smoke inside. You cannot smoke even inside the car with windows up, as there is still a risk you might provoke a huge fire. 

Don’t Leave the Engine Running

We’ve talked about this above, but leaving the engine switched on when getting fuel can be dangerous. It can also cause your check engine light to switch on. If you leave the car on when refueling, it notices the change in pressure when you open your fuel tank. It considers this a leak and alerts you by showing the check engine light. 

Store Fuel Properly

If you have portable fuel containers you want to carry with you, you also need to be careful of storing guidelines. The container should be made of either plastic or metal. If you don’t have one already, you can get it at the fuel pump itself or visit a local hardware store. 

When you bring the fuel home, remember to keep it in an aired-out space, and do not have prolonged contact with it. Never let it touch your skin or enter your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you get oil on any clothes, wash them immediately. Even breathing gasoline vapors can be dangerous over long periods of time, so minimize your contact wherever possible. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Leaving My Engine on at the Gas Station Damage My Car?

Technically, leaving your car on should not damage your engine. However, it can cause the engine to switch on the check engine light because it interprets the opening of the fuel tank as a loss in pressure. 

While there is no risk of your car being damaged, there is still a risk of fire or an explosion. Therefore, follow safety guidelines provided by the gas station, and switch your car off when you are pumping it with gas. This protects you from the small risk of creating a disastrous situation. 

Can You Leave the Radio on While Refueling?

According to experts, a major risk to your safety occurs when the engine is on. While there is still an even smaller risk of ignition when your car is in the accessory position, this is a negligible risk.

It’s still a good practice to switch off the car entirely and wait for it to be refueled to switch it back on again. Missing a little bit of your favorite song or radio show is worth it when it comes to your and your passengers’ safety!

Is It Safe to Leave My Keys in the Ignition?

As a car owner, leaving your keys in the ignition while you pump your car isn’t safe, but maybe not for the reasons you think. Leaving your car on while you are outside can place it at risk of being carjacked. So, the best practice is to switch it off and keep keys with you while you pump gas.


So, we’ve answered the question — can you leave your car on while pumping gas? The answer may be yes, in some circumstances, but it is generally frowned upon. After all, it’s better to prioritize your safety rather than risk your wellness for a few seconds of ease.

You should also follow all of the other guidelines provided by the gas station to avoid any risks. After all, you never know if this circumstance is that one in a million chance where something disastrous happens.