How to Pump Your Own Gas: A Step by Step & Easy to Follow Guide

Pumping gas is a routine that most drivers are required to do in most parts of the world.

It’s a task that may seem simple to many, but is not so easy to those who haven’t had to try it before. It’s also not always taught to new drivers.

For most drivers, it will be useful to know how to fill their car with gas in a correct and safe way all on their own. There’s plenty of reasons why it’s important that you know how to do this on your own, and in some places, it’s even mandatory.

Safety is always an important issue for driving, as accidents can be harmful and potentially fatal. In particular, safety is important when handling gasoline as well, and safety instructions should always be followed closely whenever pumping gas.

Man wearing black watch pumping his own gas in his black car

Skill Level Required to Pump Gas: Moderate

Time to Complete: 5–10 minutes

Tools Needed: A gas pump and a supply of gas.

Why Do We Need to Pump Gas?

Vehicles with internal combustion engines need gasoline, or gas, to create the power used to drive the vehicle forward.

This type of engine uses gas to create controlled explosions. When these occur in small enclosed spaces, such as in a piston, energy is released as expanding gas. The power in the piston can be used to put the wheels in motion.

The vast majority of road vehicles are currently gasoline powered, so for these, it’s necessary for someone to refill the gas tanks.

However, there has been an increasing number of electric cars in recent years, for which gas is not used. Vehicles that are powered by electricity are required to charge at a charging station instead.

When Do We Need to Pump Gas?

Drivers are usually notified of the status of their gas tank by a dial on the dashboard. There is almost always an area that’s red in color.

When the dial is pointing to this area, the quantity of gas is very low and the car should be refueled immediately.

On many modern cars these days, when the tank is almost empty, a beeping noise will alert the driver to the danger.

Driving cars with a very low amount of gas in the tank is definitely not advisable. There is a greater risk of breaking down, and it can damage the engine in two different ways.

Without gas, the engine can overheat and cause the car to come to an abrupt stop.

Also, sediments will often sink to the bottom of the gas tank, especially with dirty fuel. When the gas is low, those sediments can clog the fuel filter, or even block it completely, as detailed in our guide to bad fuel filter symptoms.

The Differences Between States

In the US, the laws and common practices relating to gas stations vary slightly between the different states. In the past, self-service gas stations have not been legal in certain states.

The first self-service gas pump was opened in Los Angeles in 1947. Since then, self-service has been gradually adopted throughout the country.

In 2018, they were legalized in Oregon, with the exception of counties with populations lower than 40,000.

The town of Huntington in New York introduced a ban on self-service gas pumps in the 1980s. This was imposed by the fire department, for the fire risk of these types of gas pumps.

The law remains in place, but only for this particular town of New York.

New Jersey is the single remaining state of America in which it is illegal to pump your own gas. In other parts of the country, self-service is much more common than full service.

The Differences Throughout the World

In different parts of the world, gas stations may be given a slightly different name, such as a petrol station, filling station, gas bar, or fuel station.

When it comes to pumping gas, there are no universal standard procedures to follow throughout the world. Those driving in foreign countries should familiarize themselves with the type of fuel they require, and local practices for refueling.

Gas stations may be self-service or staffed with attendants. There also may be differences in the range of services they provide.

In some parts of the world, gas stations will only accept payments in cash. They also may be fewer in distribution, so refueling at every possible chance may be advisable.

In China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey, full-service gas stations are more common – or the usual practice.

In Australia, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Russia, Spain, and the UK, self-service gas stations are more popular.

In Argentina, Canada, France, Greece, Hungary, Japan, Iceland, Italy, New Zealand, and Portugal, both types of services are equally available.

In Brazil, self-service gas stations have been made illegal, since a law passed in 2000. In contrast to this, in Japan, self-service gas stations were only made legal in 1998. Attendants must still be present at all times for safety reasons.

Pumping Gas for Disabled People

People with disabilities may be unable to use self-service gas pumps at all.

The Americans with Disabilities Act attempted to make refueling easier. It requires gas stations with self-service to provide equal access to people with disabilities.

When possible, staff should help disabled people with refueling. Driving pumps must also be no higher than 54 inches from the ground to provide access for wheelchair users.

While this has improved access for people with disabilities, it does not guarantee assistance at all times, and further improvements are still required.

How to Pump Gas

At gas stations staffed with attendants, it will not be necessary for drivers to pump gas themselves. They can simply leave this to the attendant, and then pay for the gas when the attendants are done.

However, at self-service gas stations, drivers will be required to pump gas on their own. If you’re not familiar with this process and find it intimidating, follow these steps:

Check the Right Gas to Use

First, you should check which type of gas to use for your vehicle.

This information can be obtained from your manufacturer, your car manual, or from a mechanic. If you’re not sure about the type of gas that your vehicle takes, you can check use this site to find your vehicles fuel type.

To fill your vehicle with the gas you need, you will need to find a gas station that supplies the particular that your car takes.

Park at the Pump

Make sure that you know which side of your car the gas cap is on. Next, you will need to park your car so that the gas cap is next to the pump.

Many cars have a picture of a gas pump on the dashboard, with an arrow pointing to the gas cap side. If you do not have this feature, you will need to get out of the car to look for the cap.

Turn off the Engine

For safety reasons, it’s important to turn off your engine before refueling.

Cars must be stationary at gas pumps to avoid any spillages and lessen the risk of fire. Opening and closing a car door can build up static electricity and cause a fire.

In addition, a car’s sensors may report a leakage due to the change in pressure in the gas tank. This may depend on the design of the car.

Select the Gas

Usually, drivers are required to pay for gas before selecting the type.

Sometimes it’s necessary to prepay for gas in the gas station building, but you can more often than not do this at the pump using a credit or debit card.

For this, you will need to swipe or insert your card into the machine and follow the instructions. Gas prices will undoubtedly vary from state to state, so keep that in mind.

There are usually three different types of unleaded gas: regular, plus, and premium. Regular is sufficient for most cars, while premium gas is better suited to high-performance cars. Diesel will usually be found at a different pump.

Pump the Gas

First, you will need to release the door of the gas tank. There may be a button do this near the dashboard on the driver’s side. If not, then this can be physically opened outside of the car.

You will then need to unscrew the gas tank cap. Remove the fuel dispenser, or gas nozzle, from the gas pump and insert it into the gas tank on your car.

Squeeze the trigger of the gas nozzle and hold it there to keep the gas running. There may be a lock to keep the trigger in place so you can remove your hand.

At the gas pump, there should be a running counter to show the amount of gas used and the cost you’ve incurred so far.

Gas dispensers will usually turn off automatically when the tank is full. Alternatively, you may have the option to fill the tank to a certain amount, which you can specify at the gas pump.

Return the Gas Gun

Remove the fuel dispenser from the gas tank and return it to the gas pump. Screw the cap back tightly on the gas tank and close the gas tank door.

Collect your receipt if you need one, then you’re ready to leave.

Here is an instructional video that shows the normal procedure for pumping gas.

Safety Advice

Gasoline is highly flammable, so a fire is always a hazard at gas stations. For this reason, it is important to follow safety advice very closely.

PEI is the authority for fuel and fluid-handling equipment. It has received reports of almost 200 fires while refueling since the 1990s caused by static electricity.

Static discharge is generated by the movement of drivers exiting their cars. To ground the charge, it’s a good idea to touch the metal body of the car before refueling.

Smoking or using any source of ignition is also strictly prohibited. Be careful to avoid gas spillages by overfilling the gas tank.

Children should be kept away from gas pumps, and those refueling should avoid gas vapors.

Last but certainly not least, be very careful to keep gas away from your eyes and skin!


Keeping our vehicles tanked up is something no driver can overlook, so refueling is an essential task for all drivers.

You’re not always offered the luxury of someone else refueling your car for you, so it’s really best if you get familiar with this process as soon as possible. It really isn’t too difficult, after all.

Ignoring this can cause engine damage, as well as leaving you stranded somewhere waiting for help.

There is a high number of accidents at gas stations every year, so safety should always be a top priority. Gas is potentially lethal, so the safety regulations should be strictly adhered to.

The statistics speak for themselves, and these safety regulations were put in place for very good reasons.

From childhood go karting and motocross, to collecting and obsessing over scalextric, matchbox and radio controlled cars, I've always had an obsession with cars. Learning through manuals, books, trial and error, and more knowledgeable family members, I've also enjoyed tinkering with the mechanics and electronics of any vehicles I've owned. Now, over 3 decades later, I've started this site as a place for me to share my knowledge, to teach others how to care for and maintain their vehicles themselves, at home, so they can get the most of their vehicles and save a pretty penny compared to always seeking out professional help.

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