How to tell which side of your rental car the gas cap is on

gas-cap.jpg Here's something I've never been able to remember: when I rent a car I forget to notice which side the gas cap is on.

For the rest of my trip, I don't think to look. I only think about it when I'm driving and it's time to fill up the tank. I try to use the side view mirrors to see which side the gas cap is on. It never works. Then I look at other cars on the road, hoping to spot one that is the same model as mine so I can see which side the gas cap is on. Unfortunately, I'm car blind in the way that some people are face blind, so that usually doesn't work. I usually end up driving to the pump and finding out if I got lucky.

But last month I met Joshua Schacter (creator of Delicious) at TED and he told me that most late-model cars have a little arrow on the gas gauge that points to the side of the car with the gas cap. This information has changed my life.

Joshua's latest creation is ClueDB, a website "for sharing tips and tricks on how to make life better. You can tag, vote and comment on the clues you like. And you can contribute clues as well." Sample clue: "Putting a screw into a threaded hole -- Turn the screw backwards until it clicks into the first thread. the chances of putting it in wrong are much less that way."


  1. And in the photo, the gas cap is on the left.

    I discovered this a few years ago- whoever thought of this was a genius.
    (I’m a frequent renter)

    1. It may also help you people to notice the little picture of the gas pump, whichever side the hose is on is opposite the side your tank is on because that’s how the pump is when you pull up. I know, it’s almost like they’ve always done this!! Because they have, I guess some morons also need an arrow.

    2. I would have looked at the gas pump picture, and assumed that it was in the right. Silly me.

  2. Surely then, the knowledge that pump hoses are designed to reach both sides of the vehicle regardless of the side of your cap will blow your mind?

    1. “Surely then, the knowledge that pump hoses are designed to reach both sides of the vehicle regardless of the side of your cap will blow your mind?”

      Yeah, and if the hoses aren’t immune to dirt it’s a fantastic way of scratching/dirtying your vehicle. Design or not, it’s a matter of comfort and caring for your car.

  3. The first car I bought was a used 88 Jeep Wrangler. I pulled up to a gas station to fill it up, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out where the gas cap was. I looked on both sides. Finally I asked someone who worked there, and they showed me. You have to flip the license plate down, and it was behind that. I like that much better than where it is on my new Jeep.

    1. My 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass also has it behind the license plate…one of the many cool things that’s just not available on cars anymore for whatever reason. Probably so the license plate light doesn’t short out in a rear ender or some other stupid “safety” issue.

    1. I’n not talking about the pump handle. I’m talking about the arrow next to the pump icon.

    2. Snopes is correct: handle orientation on the pump icon isn’t meaningful. OTOH, that arrow next to the pump icon is meaningful. Mark is talking about the arrow, not the handle orientation.

    3. We’re talking about the little triangle next to the pump icon, not which side of the pump icon the hose is on, as your link suggests.

  4. It’s pretty sporadically implemented. A lot of cars omit it, and some people say the arrows only show up on fleet vehicles. My Toyota has no arrow and is only a few years old.

    There was a story a few years ago about the location of the fueling nozzle on the dash indicator having a relationship to which side the fuel door was on, but snopes nipped that one:

    1. Ahem, #2 and #3 From the Snopes article you both linked:

      However, while the placement or shape of the fuel icon doesn’t signify anything in itself, some newer models of automobiles do include a small triangle next to it that indicates which side of the vehicle bears the fuel door. While you can’t count on finding that triangle on every instrument panel, it’s certainly worth looking for.

    2. Actually, she was talking about that small arrow pointing to one side or the other, not the icon. This is true, but only if your dash shows that arrow.

  5. Actually, the little arrow is just a kludge. Most cars have the gas filler on the same side of the car as the gauge. If the gauge is on the right of the cluster (like the photo), the gas filler is on the right. Except for when the little arrow is present (like the photo).

  6. Would now be the time to start lobbing for a standard location ( end, and side ) for charging ports.
    I fear it may be to late, and we will all have to haul extension cords and adaptors to charge our electric cars.

    1. For electric cars, IMO the front of the vehicle makes most sense. Most new EVs are doing the driver’s side, so you can’t forget about it and drive off with the cord. This is lame. BOTH of my electric cars have this and neither will allow you to drive while plugged in. The charge port belongs either on the front or passenger’s side (for charging while parallel parked), but it seems that most manufacturers don’t get this. Luckily, charge cords are generally longer than gas lines and can easily reach around.

  7. Forget rental cars, I still need to look at that arrow to remember where my own car’s gas cap is.

  8. I’ve owned or driven a VW Jetta wagon, a Honda Passport, a BMW 5 series and an Acura where this was absolutely, positively NOT the case.

    The only time it was accurate, that I can remember, was on a Nissan Versa I borrowed for a few days.

    Totally apocryphal.

  9. I needed this information… yesterday.

    But what’s the big deal? In Europe at least, the pump will usually reach either side.

  10. My ’05 Mazda3 has this. It’s great, because I fuel up so rarely that I keep forgetting which side the gas tank is on.

      1. Heh, no … actually, I’m the only person in the family who fuels it up. It’s just that I commute by public transportation, and my wife doesn’t use the car that much, so we only have to put gas in sporadically.

    1. Same with me. I drove 1,300 miles in 2010. Between that and living in the desert, I don’t have a clue how to turn on my windshield wipers.

  11. (and I apologize to the person who told me, because I can’t remember who told me you you are you as a leader in)

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’m having trouble parsing this sentence. Anyone know what this means?

  12. I’ve wished for years they would limit that crap to rental cars. When I buy a new car, I need that little arrow exactly one time, and then it’s just another piece of information in the constant barrage of details and observations which make up my day. I don’t need a constant reminder of the location of the gas cap. This just adds to an already overloaded flow of information, taking just a bit of my awareness every time I notice that silly little arrow stuck there beside the gas gauge.

    Maybe I’ve had too much caffeine today.

    1. I drive a couple different cars on a daily basis, and they all have the arrow, and I’m glad of it. It isn’t that I can’t remember where the gas cap is, it’s that I can’t remember which of the many dozens of cars I’ve driven over the years I’m remembering.

      It’s like telephone numbers, I can’t remember them anymore. I simply can’t be arsed to memorize something like that when it’s immediately at hand.

      …frankly if such a nigh-invisible icon is causing you this much consternation, you might want to reduce your stimulant intake or look into meditation techniques. I say this seriously as someone who has had similarly obsessive episodes.

  13. European-made left hand drive in North America, cap = left

    European-made left hand drive in South America, Africa, and Europe = right

    China = left

    Asian made right hand drive in North America = right, if you’re facing the road from the station. Left if the station is facing you from the road.

    Asian made left hand drive in England, Australia, and Japan = right. Unless it’s built on a van/light truck chassis, in which case left.

    Invert as needed.

    1. Re “European-made left hand drive in North America, cap = left” not true, my 1995 BMW 525, European-built model for Canada, has gas cap on the right (passenger) side.

  14. The other trick I use is flipping the tank cover release switch as I pull into the station. It’s generally audible.

  15. This seems clever, and yet I wouldn’t be surprised if 95% of people out there don’t know that it’s there or what it indicates. Is it drowned out in the information overload that is a car dash? Do people look at it and not actually -see it? I’d be interested to know why something so helpful and simple has gone unnoticed by so many.

  16. My 1970 Cougar has what I always felt was the best solution: dead center behind the license plate.

    Yeah, okay, maybe not the safest place in the world to keep one’s gas-hole, but certainly convenient. My least convenient car is my Jaguar XJ6. Two gas-holes, one atop each rear quarter. Twice the labor, and much greater risk of a dirty hose scuffing the tops of ones quarterpanels.

    The worst, however, was the ’68 F250 Camper Special I used to own. Three gas tanks, three fillpipes. Cab tank filled just behind driver’s door. Main tank filled on driver’s side of bed. And third auxiliary tank filled on passenger side of bed. With or without the camper installed, there was no way to fill all three tanks without physically driving to the other side of the pump… no gas hoses were ever long enough.

    Still, you’d think 60 gallons of capacity meant a decent interval between fillups. But a tired 360 big-block and 4.11 gears with no overdrive meant a maximum of 8mpg with the camper, and 12mpg without.

    I loved that truck, but it definitely belongs to another century.

    1. I recently watched someone filling an older car, with the cap behind the license plate. He had jammed the nozzle in there without really looking, and missed the fill pipe, creating what amounted to a large, highly flammable lake around his car and mine. The one employee had no idea how to handle the situation. No spill kit, no emergency contact, nothing. I pushed my car to a safe distance, and went and filled up elsewhere.

      1. In California, the vapor recovery system on the pumps won’t allow it to start pumping unless you have a seal. It’s a real pain in the a$$ when you’re trying to get gas for the lawnmower into a 1 gallon can. You have to reach down and pull the skirt past the override switch.

  17. That’s funny, I only ever saw that arrow on the prius and thought that it meant that the car’s gas supply was diminishing (which of course it always is). Meantime, I always used the rule that if the tank cover release was on the floor next to the driver’s seat the tank was on the left and if it’s on the console or in the glove box the tank is on the right.

    1. The button for my gas cap is in the driver’s side door and the cap is on the passenger side of teh car.

  18. Sure – its more comfy to be on the ‘right’ side but the pumps will reach to both sides and so I never sweat it and can sometimes save queueing behind the folks who *have* to get to their filler side while a pump on the ‘wrong’ side sits empty.

  19. Wait until you hop in a rental car after dark, close the door, and then realize that you don’t know where anything is- lights, ignition, door handle… I came perilously close to spending a night in a Toyota that way.

    1. Next to the letter E, there is a tiny picture of a gas pump with a triangle/arrow next to it.

  20. The gas cap is always opposite the exhaust (thank you, Car Talk puzzlers!) On a cold day, that might help.

  21. Living in New Jersey, state law says one isn’t allowed to fill one’s own gas tank (if I can’t fill it, do I own it?), so this information has become more important since I only get to fill my own car every few months when I’m out of state and need gas.

    Yeah, state law. Totally weird. I hate it.

  22. In a rent-a-car? That’s easy.

    It’s always on the opposite side to the pump when you pull up.

  23. My first thought is “why aren’t all gas caps on the same side?”. Then I answer myself by realizing that having cars with different placements, to some degree, actually help increase the efficiency of a gas station since drivers can line up on both sides of a row of pumps.

    And that makes me curious… is there someone, somewhere in the automobile industry, that manages an agreement that has the purpose of making sure that car production is somewhat equally divided between models with left- and right-placed gas caps?

    1. You can get the same number of cars with identical gas cap locations by pointing half of them the opposite way.

      1. You can get the same number of cars with identical gas cap locations by pointing half of them the opposite way.

        Yeah, that’s usually what happens, but it doesn’t always work. Many gas stations are set up in a one-way kind of manner. The gas pumps at my local Costco are set up so you can only enter from one direction, but that’s because their demand is so high (due to the relatively low price of their gas) that there’s always a sizable queue. Other gas stations just have awkward approaches or other topographical impairments to bidirectional customer flow. Sometimes the oft-mentioned central behind-the-license-plate fillpipe in my Cougar has a downside in that it’s all the way at the back, so if the pumps are too close together I have to pull forward all the way, or risk being That Guy who has the nose of his car blocking an adjacent pump while he blithely fills his tank.

        I hate That Guy.

  24. I think I’ve only ever seen someone do the whole around the car to the other side with hose thing a hand full of times in the last decade.

    I personally don’t want the hose and wire banging up against my car. A rental I wouldn’t care. Just saying.

    Now if they were like the self service car washes and had the hose on an over head rotating assembly, then I’d be cool with filling up any direction. But that’s a fire hazard waiting to happen.

  25. This information is in the owner’s manual.

    It baffles me that people spend $10,000 to $50,000 on a machine that they then never read the owner’s manual for. You’re going to have it for years, spend 2 hours reading the manual.

    1. By reading the manual, traalfaz, you are missing out on the joy described by Jazz Fan. Discovering that, for example, you have music controls on your indicator stick six months into ownership of a car is marvellous. Also, if you know everything your car does from day one, it starts to disappoint you that little bit sooner. Admittedly, long-term losing out on some functionality can be a downer (“you mean the headlights dip?”), but in the joy/sadness equation that comes with every purchase in life, discovering a little magic trick* you never knew existed somehow more than makes up for the hitherto lived-with lack of functionality.

      *The inclusion of the phrase “magic trick” might highlight a difference in our sensibilities in the wider scheme of things I guess.

    2. Since we’re discussing rental cars, the length of time the car is in my possession averages 4 days. Every week. So no, I don’t spend 75 to 100 hours a year studying the manuals of cars I don’t own.

  26. My rule is: if it has a mechanical fuel door handle on the floor, next to the seat, the gas goes in on the driver side, otherwise it is the passenger side. It is too far to route a latch handle to the other side of the vehicle. I forget which one of my vehicles had a wrong triangle, I think it was the 97 Wrangler. But it didn’t have a fuel door latch handle, so the gas went in on the passenger side. Grand Cherokee has a handle, gas on driver’s side. BMW 330xi no handle, gas on passenger side. Nissan Altima has a handle, fuel on driver’s side. Nissan Frontier has no handle, fuel on passenger side. My F350 dually broke this rule, but it had aftermarket tool boxes so there might be a latch on the factory body. — I would be interested in hearing exceptions to this rule.

    1. if it has a mechanical fuel door handle on the floor, next to the seat, the gas goes in on the driver side

      Nope. I’ve got the floor handle by the driver’s seat and the gas cap on the passenger side.

    2. My rule is: if it has a mechanical fuel door handle on the floor, next to the seat, the gas goes in on the driver side, otherwise it is the passenger side….I would be interested in hearing exceptions to this rule.

      2009 Subaru: mechanical release on the floor by my left foot, gas tank opening on passenger side of the car.

    3. VW Passat Wagon B6 breaks your rule: the handle (more like a button, in fact) is on the driver’s door, next to the rear gate release button, but the fuel cap is on the passenger’s side.

    4. if it has a mechanical fuel door handle on the floor, next to the seat, the gas goes in on the driver side, otherwise it is the passenger side.

      Nope. I have two cars with those on them, and each has the gas cap on a separate side.

      One thing I have noticed on every car with those, however, is that the hood release and gas cap release are right next to each other (usually with the hood release being in an L-shape around the gas release). Whichever side the gas release is on is the side the gas cap is on (i.e. if it’s the left lever of the two, it’s on the left side).

    5. 2009 Subaru Forester has gas door release on the floor, actually on the door sill of the driver’s door. Gas filler input on the rear right fender.

  27. It is awesomely simple – and I wonder for how long I’ve been failing to notice it. Anyone know when this started being generally followed by the manufacturers so I don’t feel like such a divvy for having to do the Automotive Dance of Rental Embarrassment so many times over the years?

  28. I own two cars, and can never remember which side the damn cap is on for either one (I have one lefty and one righty). I also rent cars a couple times a month. So I look for that little arrow every time I pump.

    Always amazed when people don’t know about the arrow.

  29. It is kinda scary that we allow people to operate a car who don’t have the ability to pick up on this little hint the first time they look at it.

    Why it only shows up on fleet vehicles and not all models is strange.

    Even stranger is that car companies can’t just agree on one side or the other, find 2 or 3 industry wide issues that should be standardized, and find a set of solutions where everyone compromises about the same.

    Placement of the battery or connection for boosting are car are another thing that if standardized would make the world a better place.

  30. I have two simple solutions to this problem:

    1) If it’s a rental car, look before getting in the car for the first time.

    2) If I’m buying a car, don’t buy a car with the fuel door on the passenger side. I can’t stand that shit.

    @bman08 and @diluded000: I recently rented a Chevy Aveo with a lever next to the seat on the left and a fuel door on the passenger side.

    1. 1) If it’s a rental car, look before getting in the car for the first time.

      Redefining the problem is cheating.

      The problem is you are pulling into the gas station in a rental car and you don’t remember which side the gas cap is on.

      Saying “just look first and remember it” is like telling a pregnant teenager that the solution to her problem is not to get pregnant.

  31. I don’t get people saying this isn’t true. I’ve yet to rent a car that hasn’t had this icon. True, my rentals are limited to US & Canada from National (so the cars will be recent, and from major manufacturers). For a while I was in rentals as much as my own. I found myself checking my own car for this helpful arrow!

  32. I love the looks of amazement when you tell people this… this is one of those little things that makes life so much easier.

    Also it isn’t a sure thing that the fuel guage is always on the side of instrument cluster that corresponds to the filler location… late model Civics a case in point.

    Cars with a cable release in the passenger compartment almost always have the filler on the driver side (to keep the cable path short and in a straight line) – generally all Japanese cars are made this way.

    1. I like to blow people’s minds by flipping the adjustment lever on the rear view mirror at night.

    2. Cars with a cable release in the passenger compartment almost always have the filler on the driver side (to keep the cable path short and in a straight line) – generally all Japanese cars are made this way.

      My Nissan has a pull handle under the dashboard and the fuel cap on the passenger side.

      But then again, since Japan drives on the left and has steering wheels on the right, I suppose this rule might have made sense in Japan.

      I used to run two cars, one of which was right-hand drive and the other of which was left-hand drive. A bigger problem than the filler cap was working out which side to get in of a morning. On more than one bleary winter’s day I caught myself thinking “hey, some dude’s stolen the steering wheel…”

  33. I had a ’98 Linlcon with the words ‘Fill on left’ on the dash. Since that’s the language I speak it was easy.

  34. My 2002 Lancer has the gas cap on the left, and sure enough, there’s a little triangle pointing left on the fuel gauge on the dashboard. I never noticed that before.

    The Toyota Echo (my wife’s car) has one too, and it’s an orange light on a black background that should be impossible to miss… but again, never noticed it.

  35. There is a certain feeling I get when exposed to a bit of “common knowledge” that I never knew before, and no one ever told me because, well, “common knowledge” or it seemed obvious.

    When my wife and I moved into our current house, we got a small chopping board for the countertop. We were in the house for 3 years before either of us realized that there was a slide-out cutting board in the counter-top – a fairly common bit of household gadgetry that neither of us thought to look for. But what a nice feeling when we found it. It’s like, all of a sudden, our lives are just a little tiny bit better.

    It would be interesting to hear more stories like this. At the very least, it is interesting to hear what some people had no idea existed.

  36. I told my friend about this when we drove his mom’s car once. He thought it was the smartest thing that anyone’s ever done.

  37. Another hint. Some Elevators ring once for up, and twice for down when the car arrives. Useful for the visually impaired, and useful when there’s a crowd and everyone starts to pile in front of the one that just rings first.

  38. Fun fact: gas cap is almost always (maybe 95% of the time) on the *opposite* side from the tailpipe. If it is cold out, you can watch which side the vapors come from and make a pretty good guess about the location of the gas cap, even if there’s no gas cap indication.

  39. Wow, the photo accompanying this story could have been a lot clearer and saved a ton of misguided comments.

    If you’re driving a German car, the fuel filler is the right side of the car. This is the most humane place to put it; it allows you to exit the car away from the pumps. It’s also the safest if you run out of gas on the side of the road; you won’t be standing in traffic while refilling from a gas can.

    There’s a reason that German Engineering costs more. They think of everything.

  40. Most American made cars have this (Ford is the arrow leader). For whatever reason it starting kicking in around 2000.

  41. I’ve been told its an offence, in the UK, to pull the hose over to the other side of the car, as it usually means the nozzle is in an unsafe position and (a) might spill, or (b) may not shut off the flow when the tank is full.

    Also pulling the hose that far actually over-strains the retraction mechanism – so you may be able to do it once, but then the station has to get the pump fixed, as there is too much hose lolling around the forecourt (which can get driven over).

    1. I’ve been told its an offence, in the UK, to pull the hose over to the other side of the car, as it usually means the nozzle is in an unsafe position and (a) might spill, or (b) may not shut off the flow when the tank is full.

      I’d be surprised if this were true, since the dual gas tanks on Jaguar XJs would have been thereby rendered illegal… or at least filling them without moving the car, and who wants to do that? I don’t know if the newest XJ cars still use the dual gas fillers, but they certainly did over most of the last 43 years. Since I’ve never purchased gas (or petrol) in the UK, YMMV.

      One still has to use care with those Jags, since the filler holes are on the very top of the quarterpanels (or “wings”) facing straight up, and so there’s a very real drippage hazard as one inserts or removes the nozzle.

      There’s something kinda nifty and quaint about seeing the gas gauge drop to 1/4 tank or so (which means “EMPTY”, practically speaking, for us older Jag owners), pressing the button to switch tanks, and seeing the fuel gauge magically rise back up to Full.

      Assuming, of course, that the system still works. Mine only has one decent sending unit, so I have to measure the passenger-side tank’s fullness by mileage. It really makes more sense to get rid of the solenoid and just tee both tanks so they go down simultaneously.

      To shamefacedly return back to the topic, I first noticed the little arrow on the dash of my wife’s 2005 Subaru WRX (hole on the right and yes, exhaust on the left, since the exhaust travels around the gas tank). It was handy indeed, since our family has several cars with varying sides of gas-holes, and it was sometimes tough to remember in that split-second as one enters the Texaco. Checking via rear-view mirror used to work up until the 90s, when shiny chrome gas caps disappeared to be replaced by more aerodynamic fuel filler doors.

    2. Also pulling the hose that far actually over-strains the retraction mechanism – so you may be able to do it once, but then the station has to get the pump fixed, as there is too much hose lolling around the forecourt (which can get driven over).

      Don’t know about the UK, but the pumps over here have no retraction mechanism. It comes out at a point maybe 3 or 4m high and just hangs down. It’s long enough to reach the other side, and still short enough it doesn’t reach the ground after you put the nozzle back in the slot.

    3. It’s not an offence in the UK to pull the hose over to the far side of the car to fill up. Our petrol pumps are designed to allow you to do that, although some give you more leeway than others. An awful lot of petrol stations have signs encouraging you to just go in whatever space is free, with a little diagram of how the hose will reach no matter what side your cap is on.

      As for damaging the paintwork with the hose, drive a little further forwards and you can almost always bring it around the back of the car and keep it off the paintwork.

  42. I have been driving since 88′ owned many vehicles, and I can’t remember the last one that didn’t have a triangle.

    I also agree with the owner’s manual thought- I actually enjoy finding out all about my vehicles, it’s kind of like finding easter eggs! It’s also great insight into cultures and corporations over different periods in history, from my endearing 1971 beetle manual, to my very technical 2005 subaru manual that was designed for robots without a personality chip.

    Now.. if there was a manual telling me why my boingboing “send a comment” page refreshes everytime I get done with the first two sentences of my comment(which gets deleted), that would be alright!

  43. oh yeah… I also think the placement of the gas cap is due 100% to the car’s internal design, and nothing else. Gas is fed from the hose to the tank via gravity, so there cannot be a complex route for the gas to take. Gas tank in the back of the car? Cap behind the plate. My latest car is a honda fit which was designed for ultimate cargo space in the back, which actually placed the gas tank underneath the driver seat. The plubming diagram for that thing has got to be one of the more comoplex on the market.

    I like the idea of the exhaust being on the opposite side of the filler door. But my guess is that this has more to do with the exhaust needing to be routed around the fuel tank than it does regarding any fumes. Of course, with larger cars, the car designers have a lot more flexibility to place the tank, exhaust, tranny, etc.

  44. This might be a neat trick for knowing where it is, but the real question is why is it on arbitrary sides and not standardized? My theory is some cars (like Volkswagen) put the filler tube on the passenger side to protect the driver when filling on the side of the road, whereas American cars put it on the driver side to make it easier for road assistance to fill up when stranded. Just a guess, though.

    1. but the real question is why is it on arbitrary sides and not standardized?

      Good question!

      The answer is “Because not everything has been mandated by authoritarians” (yet). It’s still possible, in a few rare instances, for engineers to use their hard-won expertise to build the best possible device within their cost constraints.

      Adding the little arrow is wonderful, brilliant ergonomics. Establishing a standard means nothing can improve, and inventors are forced to work within obsolete fixed paradigms.

      This is true even for de-facto standards – when automobiles were invented there were steam cars, wood-gas fired cars, electric cars, even wind-up cars. When we standardized on gasoline internal combustion engines innovation in fuel sources died for a hundred years.

  45. Interesting discussion. Whatever the facts, whenever I hire next, I will be sure to check which side the fuel cap is and look for an arrow on the fuel gauge.

    Anon said pump hoses reach to other side of the car. My parking is abysmal and the resultant stretch usually results in shoe stains.

    1. “… and the resultant stretch usually results in shoe stains.” Any other scenarios giving rise to this issue?

  46. I, for one, believe the fuel port should ALWAYS be on the driver’s side–that way it’s easier and safer to park close to the fuel pump.

    I will never purchase a vehicle with the fuel port on the passenger side.

  47. Aww I was excited to see if that was true. But people already Snopes’d it to death. I will see if my Civic has this on it or not when I get off work.

    1. What if my car has its exhaust in the middle, which it does, still just as predictable?

      My rule of thumb for cars sold in the US: US & Asian cars: Right side; Europe: Left side. Mine has the arrow pointing to the correct side, but I still sometimes get it wrong.

    2. Well, for my Cougar, I guess that’s true. Dual exhaust, one on each side. And gas hole in the middle. ;^)

  48. Hey folks, nobody posting a rule of thumb yet on European cars or American cars, etc. has thus far been able to escape having somebody else post a counter-example. Case in point:

    > European-made left hand drive in North America, cap = left

    Nope, I have a 2000 VW Golf, and I’m in the USA, and the cap is on the right.

    > Asian made right hand drive in North America

    Why would they sell a right-hand drive car in North America?

    > My rule of thumb for cars sold in the US: US & Asian cars:
    > Right side; Europe: Left side.

    Nope. My VW: right side. My wife’s Toyota: left side.

    Face it folks, there’s no clever rule of thumb, unless your dashboard has the directional triangle.

  49. Pretty sure it’s not an offence in the UK to fill your car from the opposite side, since plenty of petrol stations have signs encouraging you to do it. Just did it myself, having forgotten the location of my fuel cap. On the car which I have owned for two years.

  50. It’s interesting to note that the people who insist this doesn’t work are the ones who didn’t take the time to read the post carefully enough to understand that it is the little arrow symbol, and not the handle on the pump symbol, that’s being discussed here. They won’t read this post either; they will just sliderbar their way to the bottom and paste in the Snopes link.

  51. I bought a brand new Fiesta at the end of January, and I live very close to work so it was over a month before I had to fill up. When I pulled up and opened the door, I found that the car has no filler cap. Not missing or anything – the fill-pipe is made with a security flap and no cap. Strange.

  52. That’s a cool feature to look out for. My own vehicle is my beloved ’97 Jeep TJ, which has the gas cap on the driver’s side. I don’t even have to think about it anymore (I’ve had the thing for about 10 years now), but the way I remembered years ago was to simply remember that this vehicle has ALL the controls on the driver’s side. If you consider a refueling port a point of control, then it fits the logic and serves as a kind of meme when you have to use a new car. You make a brief check and it should be easy to remember from there.

    In theory.

  53. without knowing-knowing, it seems obvious (after thinking about it, as in the joke about the mathematician) that IF there is a little triangle-arrow, it MUST point to the correct side, because otherwise what’s it doing there at all?

    (To echo one or two other comments, it doesn’t help that there’s also what I guess is an “empty tank” indicator light near the top right of the picture, with the EXACT SAME GRAPHIC except it’s lit up and has no arrow at all.)

    1. except it’s lit up and has no arrow at all

      Well, we modern drivers need a lot more handholding these days.

      “Here’s your fuel gauge. By the way, it’s close to empty. This illuminated yellow gas pump is to tell you that, really, you’re just about empty. Oh, and by the way, if you’d like to correct your Running Out Of Gas Condition by adding fuel, the hole to do so is over on the left. So don’t run out now. ‘Cause you’re almost out.”

      I once got a call from a sitcom writer with whom I was briefly working. Her BMW had “stopped working” in the parking lot of the bagel shop across the street. I took my tools over there and checked out her car. “I think you’re out of gas,” said I. “Impossible,” said she, “I never run out of gas.” “Well,” I replied, “Your fuel gauge is on E. And your Low Fuel light is illuminated. I’d call that pretty compelling evidence that your car is not actually broken, but outta gas.”

      She continued to argue the point for a couple more minutes. Sigh.

  54. I usually keep it in mind to look out for the gas cap when doing the pre-inspection of the vehicle before I drive off with it. I mean, you do want to note any damage that exists to protect yourself…right?

  55. I claim, from anecdotal experience, that in the US, most cars have the filler on the driver’s side. I believe this to be true, because there is always a line of people waiting to use pumps ‘designed’ for left-hand fill, and there is rarely a line at the pumps for filling from the right. I pull my left-hand filler car to the pump on the right, and just stretch the hose around, every single time. No waiting.

    1. I think it must be true that most in the US are on the left (regardless of which manufacturers are most popular). My Subaru Impreza has the filler on the right, and it’s always been my general understanding that US and most European cars have the filler on the left, and most Asian cars have them on the right.

      (I say “general understanding” because I know there are plenty of exceptions, as others have noted several times, and also I don’t often need to figure this out – I’ve rented a car once in my life and don’t borrow other people’s cars often or anything – so I don’t have to think about it much.)

      Anyway, I like having the filler on the right – besides meaning there’s less likely to be a line at the pump, it makes me feel like a rebel.

      1. Oy. Enough with this rumor that Japanese cars all have the filler on the right.

        Here are the 5 Japanese cars I’ve owned, in order of ownership:
        1983 Datsun/Nissan Sentra = Left
        1977 Datsun 280 Z = Left
        1991 Honda Civic Si = Left
        2002 Acura RSX = Left
        2010 Toyota Prius = Left

        You may notice a trend. Only one of those cars was assembled in North America.

  56. I don’t get 104 at all, so I must be a moron. If approach from one side of the island correctly the hose is on the right, if I approach the other side of the island correctly from the other direction the hose will be on the left. Or are you envisioning a double row of pumps in each island?

  57. “On further review”: having refreshed my visual memory, islands with pumps on either side are, I guess, standard. But that means you can’t pull up to a pump like this one in such a way as to make a pump with a hose on the right into one with a hose on the left.

  58. I think Click & Clack did a puzzler on this.. with a car w/ single exhaust, the tank opening is on the opposite side of the exhaust.

    at least that’s what I think the answer was.

    1. The trick with the exhaust only works in cold climates. Those of us who don’t live in frozen wastelands can’t see our exhaust, and if we’re renting a car somewhere, it’s unlikely to be a frozen wasteland.

  59. they have been putting this next to the gas gauge for over ten years now. I had it on a 95 F150

  60. I love how this discussion made it to 110 (111!) comments. The whole thing was very Seinfeld-zen.

  61. I use my car nearly every day. I know where the gas cap is. But I have no fucking idea whether there is an arrow symbol or not. What am I supposed to make of that?

    1. I’m with you. I never noticed an arrow, but it might be there. I mean, the arrow isn’t huge or visually distinct from the gas pump icon. When I look at the dashboard all I see is “gas pump icon, okay, there’s the gas gauge.” It’s so familiar that I wouldn’t look at it hard enough to notice a tiny arrow.

      I rented a car today and didn’t notice the arrow until I happened to remember this article, and looked specifically for it. (It’s a Chevy Impala and the gas cap is on the driver’s side.)

      Reading this article felt the same as being told about the arrow in the FedEx logo. Sort of a minor enlightenment experience.

  62. Actually this is a fallacy that has circulated on the internet for years.. It’s true most of the time, but not always.. My Toyota RAV4 shows the pump handle on the other side to the fuel filler.

    1. Read Mark’s article again; he was talking about the little white triangle, not the pump handle, as has already been pointed out before.

    2. Read the post again — he’s not talking about the pump handle, but the little arrow next to the gas pump icon.

  63. Most fuel stations in the UK have a pumps long enough to use which ever side your tank is on. This prevents people queueing for just half the pumps or even driving in to the station from the wrong side.

  64. Would be nice, but not all cars have it. Drive by the connivence store at the gas station first (if it has one) and try to catch the side of the car in the reflection on the doors.

  65. Similarly, that little icon on the paper feed tray tells you whether it prints/scans on the bottom or the top. It’s supposed to illustrate a sheet of paper with one corner folded down. If there are lines on the little triange, the printer prints on or the scanner scans the bottom of the sheets. If there are lines on the rest of the rectangle and NOT on the triangle, it prints/scans on the top.

  66. As for pump hoses being long enough, that depends on the vehicle: No problem for my Z3, no chance on my full size Ford E150 van.

  67. From all the anecdotal evidence posted, it’s clear that we need a comprehensive database on vehicles sold worldwide with regards to fuel door locations.

  68. I don’t understand. When walking up to the car, prior to getting into it, you will either see the door for the gas or not see the door. By the time you open the driver’s side door you will know whether the gas cap was on that side or not. If it was not, it probably is on the other side.

  69. It seems to me, from observation of petrol (gas) station queues, that RHS fuel caps are most common on vehicles in the UK.

    For this reason I always skip the queue and go to the pump on the opposite side, make sure I pull up close to the pump and have no trouble getting the hose to reach. Takes very little extra effort and I’ve honestly never had a problem with the hose even touching my car, so no dirt/scratches.

  70. looks like a fun site (although overwhelmed at the moment), but it wants you to allow it to “interact” in some unspecified way with your Twitter account in order to sign up. If you deny it access, it tosses you off the site. So don’t bother registering if you don’t do Twitter, or don’t want anyone else to do your Twitter.

  71. So I’ve been driving 2 different Toyotas for well over 20 years, and both had driver-side gas caps and a little lever on the floor next to the trunk release. Now after 2 decades, you get used to that situation.

    So recently I had occasion to rent a Malibu. I *did* notice at the walk-around when I picked it up that the gas cap was on the passenger side. Three days later, I need to fill the tank, pull into a gas station and get the side right…

    … and I can’t find the #$@#! release lever on the floor, or the console, or anywhere else reachable from the driver’s seat. Finally I resort to reading the owner’s manual that was in the glove compartment. Very nice well-labeled diagrams of every single control. And no release lever to be found.

    Finally discover there *is* no release lever – the gas cap has a “push in and release on the cap itself to pop it out” latch.


  72. Unlike the arrow in the Fed Ex logo, this was not a surprise. Its been on many cars for a few years now.

    Let me make this more interesting for you: My wife (an artist and designer) and I argue over whether the design of this is “intuitively” flawed:

    Should you pull your car to the left of the pump — as the graphic LITERALLY suggests?

    Or is the gas cap on the left side of the car (the opposite side) and you pull up on the right side of the pump.


    You can make a valid argument for either !

  73. Anon @95: “I bought a brand new Fiesta at the end of January, and I live very close to work so it was over a month before I had to fill up. When I pulled up and opened the door, I found that the car has no filler cap. Not missing or anything – the fill-pipe is made with a security flap and no cap. Strange.”

    Yeah, received a 2011 Ford Taurus as a rental (had an accident, rarely rent) and pulled into the gas station (knew about the arrow). Fuel door is smooth, no fingerbump hook. Must be a release in the car. Look. Look. Spend another 5 minutes looking. Check for manual, not in glove compartment. Look some more. Start trying to google the release location on my not-smart-phone. After a few minutes of painful browsing, come up with zilch. Wonder what the hell this world’s coming to. Then it hits me: it’s a toggle, gotta push the door to release it and then open it. No fuel cap either, just a security flap. ;_;

  74. To the best of my knowledge, the uniform practice is to put the gas gauge on the side of the instrument cluster that corresponds to the location of the fuel filler door. Gauge on the right side of the cluster means the filler is on the right side of the vehicle. In cases where the automobile does not follow this custom, the refilling side is indeed indicated by an arrow or some other marker.

    1. Gauge on the right side of the cluster means the filler is on the right side of the vehicle.

      No, I’m pretty sure that there just wasn’t a dashboard clue until some bright ergonomicist (or whatever) came up with the gas-pump arrow icon. The gas gauge just goes wherever they put it in the dash, without regard to fillpipe location. Until the arrow came into use, you were just expected to go outside and look before you pulled into a gas station.

      I imagine it’s increasingly hard for the young ones among us to imagine the personal responsibility and self-containment that used to be expected of us. Automatic transmissions and air-conditioning used to cost extra. It used to be a lot easier to accidentally lock one’s keys in the car. Until pretty recently, most cars didn’t have power door locks, let alone keyless entry and ignition. Until very recently, most cars did not include GPS, so if you got lost you had to consult a map or ask directions. Cars didn’t use to tell you what the temperature was outside, or how many miles per gallon you’re getting at this very instant, and you had to do your own math to figure your overall gas mileage. Car seats and rearview mirrors weren’t heated. You could take your car out of Park without stepping on the brake. You could turn on your headlights with the ignition off, often without a warning buzzer going off. If you didn’t keep an eye on the fuel gauge, you would run out of gas in the middle of the road, with no audible warning or flashing light to prevent it. It was tough to escape if you got locked in the trunk. Parallel parking was a vaunted skill. Spare tires were full-sized fifth wheels that should be included in tire rotation. And you really had to work on your driving skills because cars were much deadlier at much lower speeds, too.

      I’m not too terribly nostalgic for the old days of driver safety and convenience. Sometimes the poor execution of an otherwise clever idea could set safety back for years. In 1974, every new car sold in the U.S. had to have a “seatbelt interlock” system installed. This system forced you to get in your car, sit down, and buckle your safety belt before you could start the car. If you had a heavy bag of groceries on the bench seat next to you, you had to buckle it in, too… or the car wouldn’t start. You couldn’t just keep the belts constantly buckled and sit on top of them… or the car wouldn’t start. If you just needed to check the ignition timing on your car without going anywhere, you had to get in, sit down, buckle the belt, start the car, unbuckle, then get out to grab the timing light and get to work.

      At a time when a pretty low percentage of drivers habitually wore seat belts, this proved extremely unpopular. The public squawked, Congress passed a law, the interlock system only lasted one year, and most people had their mechanics remove the system outright. Until they could do that, I imagine most owners of those 1974 cars did indeed buckle up every time they drove (otherwise they’d still be sitting in the driveway), but seethed their way down the road, hoping to spot a Congressman or Ford executive they could run over.

      The automakers have learned much since then, and as the agency and personal responsibility of drivers has continued to erode, at least the process has been more gradual and therefore more palatable.

  75. “You have to reach down and pull the skirt past the override switch.”

    I’ve tried that when wanting to pump and it doesn’t always work.

  76. It’s easy to read this arrow exactly backwards: if the arrow is on the left of the pump, it could mean you should drive to the left of the pump.

  77. Good to see the ‘little arrow near the fuel guage indicating which side of the car the petrol cap is on’ controversy still raging.

    Who’d have guessed this was a hot button issue?

  78. the uniform practice is to put the gas gauge on the side of the instrument cluster that corresponds to the location of the fuel filler door. Gauge on the right side of the cluster means the filler is on the right side of the vehicle. In cases where the automobile does not follow this custom, the refilling side is indeed indicated by an arrow or some other marker.

    This is simply not true. My wife’s 1999 Toyota Corolla’s fuel gauge is on the right side of the dashboard, the fuel filler door is on the left, and there is no arrow to indicate this.

    People, stop it. Stop trying to come up with “rules of thumb” based on small sample sizes. The arrow, if present, is the only thing that will tell you where the fuel door is. Any secret code you’ve otherwise discovered works on some cars and not on others, because really, there’s only two options, save for some bizarre attempts in the 70s to stick them behind the license plates.

    This is like folk tales on being able to determine the sex of a fetus. Sure, eating cabbage soup will make a boy half the time, but you know what really works? Seeing a penis on an ultrasound. Likewise with the arrow.

  79. Interestingly enough, it’s not uncommon for people with prosopagnosia to also be unable to recognize the makes of cars. Apparently similar regions of the brain are used for both tasks.

    “Studies by Gauthier have shown that an area of the brain known as the fusiform gyrus (sometimes called the “fusiform face area, (FFA)” because it is active during face recognition) is also active when study participants are asked to discriminate between different types of birds and cars.”

    Not sure the best way to show a link here so if anybody’s interested in more, check out reference #35 on Wikipedia’s page about “face perception.”

    1. Very interesting. I’ve always had the ability to recognise many models of car, even in silhouette, and it’s the same with microcomputers of the 1970s and 1980s – show me a PET, Atari 800, TRS-80, MZ-80K etc in profile and I’ll get it.

  80. Here’s a way to be thoughtful when filling the tank, sorry no silly rules of thumb in this post.

    When you have a gasoline engine, and you pull into a station with 12 pumps, and 2 of those pumps have diesel AND gas, and the other 10 pumps only have gas, please select one of the non-diesel pumps if you possibly can. The diesel pumps often have a bright yellow diesel sticker.

    Those of us with diesel engines thank you.

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