Home Archive Dashboard Fuel Pump Icon “Secret”

Dashboard Fuel Pump Icon “Secret”

by Brett M. Christensen

Message claims that the side on which the handle is shown on the fuel tank icon on car dashboards always indicates which side the fuel tank filler is located.


Subject: Fuel tank FillerI have been driving (legally) for over 30 years. One would think I would have noticed the little secret on my dash that was staring me right in the face the whole time. I didn’t and I bet you probably haven’t either.

Quick question, what side of your car is your gas tank? If you are anything like me, you probably can’t remember right away. My solution is to uncomfortably stick my head out the window, strain my neck and look. If you don’t do this in your own car you definitely have done it in a borrowed or rental car.

Well ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to share with you my little secret so you will no longer look like Ace Ventura on your way to the gas station or put your neck at risk of discomfort or injury.

If you look at your gas gauge, you will see a small icon of a gas pump. The handle of the gas pump will extend out on either the left or right side of the pump. If your tank is on the left, the handle will be on the left. If your tank is on the right, the handle will be on the right (see photo below). It is that simple!

I don’t know how you feel right now but when I found out this morning I felt cheated!

Why don’t the dealers share such important information with car buyers? I don’t understand why this isn’t in the drivers ed manual? I don’t get why any mechanic I have ever been too or know has even thought of mentioning this to me? The only possible explanation can be that all these people probably don’t even know!

Go out and share the worlds best kept auto secret with your friends as this is information is way too important to be kept secret.

Detailed Analysis:
According to this message, the little fuel pump icon displayed on your car’s fuel gauge harbours a handy secret. The message explains that, if the fuel pump handle is on the left of the icon, your fuel tank filler is located on the left of the vehicle, and, conversely, if the handle is on the right, your filler will be on the right. This knowledge could be quite useful if you just got a new car or were driving an unfamiliar car such as a rental.

The problem is, the “secret” simply is not true for many kinds of car. My own experience, and that of a great many others who have commented on the issue, reveals that the fuel pump icon handle quite often has no correlation with the location of the fuel filler.

An old Ford I own has an icon with the handle on the right. However, the fuel filler is actually located at the rear of the vehicle behind the number plate. My other vehicle, a new Kia, has an icon with the handle on the right, when in fact, the fuel filler is on the left side. Given that there are only two choices, the fuel pump handle is sure to point in the right direction sometimes. But even when the “secret” works out to be true, it is more likely due to random chance rather than any sort of conscious decision by car manufacturers.

In any case, a trick such as this would only be of value if it were true for all, or at least almost all, kinds of car. As it is, the position of the gas pump handle may or may not indicate the position of the filler. Some have suggested that the meaning attached to the icon is perhaps reversed. For example, if your filler door was located on the left of the vehicle, then you would also choose a pump on the left, and extend the pump hose out to the right to fill your tank. Thus, some commentators postulate that an icon with the handle on the right indicates that the filler is on the left and vice-versa. Again, however, this theory does not hold up in all cases.

Thus, this “secret” really needs to be filed under “completely useless information” and forwarding the email is rather pointless.Clearly, if you are driving an unfamiliar vehicle, you may still end up “embarrassed” at the fuel station, regardless of what the little icon might seem to be telling you.

That said, many modern cars do have an indicator incorporated into the fuel gauge that shows which side the filler is on. However, this indicator is generally a small arrow and has nothing to do with the position of the pump handle. This photograph of my Kia shows the arrow indicating that the fuel filler is on the left while the pump icon handle is on the right, as do other photographs published online.

Last updated: 30 October 2007
First published: 30 October 2007
By Brett M. Christensen
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