How to Pump Gas at a Self Service Station


You probably live in a state where the full-service gas station is a distant memory. Only Oregon and New Jersey prohibit self-service gas stations, citing customer safety as the reason. Time has proven, however, that most people pump gas at self service stations without incident.

How to Pump Gas at a Self Service Station
(Dee Zhen/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Gas-powered vehicle
  • Credit card, debit card or cash
Step 1

Choose your pump, drive up beside it and turn off the engine. Be aware of the location of your car’s fuel filler port, so that it faces the gas pump. Make sure you are close enough to the pump for the pump’s hose to easily reach the fuel filler.

Dee Zhen/Demand Media
Step 2

Open the door to fuel filler, either with a switch on the inside of your car or by whatever method your model of car provides. Unscrew the gas cap and place it in a location where you will remember not to drive away without reattaching it.

Dee Zhen/Demand Media
Step 3

Follow the payment instructions on the gas pump. Today, many stations allow pay-at-the-pump with a credit card, debit card or fuel gift card. If you want to pay the old-fashioned way with cash, you will likely need to go inside the station and pay before fueling. As gas prices have risen, more and more station owners have lost substantial revenue from drive-offs, or people who drive away without paying.

Dee Zhen/Demand Media
Step 4

Choose a grade of gasoline and activate the pump by pushing a button or lifting a handle underneath your choice. There are generally three grades available in most states: regular, midgrade and premium. The regular unleaded gas will be the least expensive, and premium will cost the most. Some pumps have a diesel fuel option beside the gasoline. Make sure you do not put diesel fuel in a gas-powered engine. A mechanic will have to drain the tank and and the diesel could prevent the engine from starting and cause internal damage.

Dee Zhen/Demand Media
Step 5

Remove the nozzle from the pump and insert it into the fuel filler opening. Pull the handle inside the nozzle upward to release the gas into your tank. The nozzle may have a trigger-lock feature that holds the handle in place while fueling to prevent having to stand and hold it. Once the tank is full, the gas pump will shut off with a click and gas will stop flowing. If you do not intend to completely fill your tank, you will have to watch the pump to see when you have reached the desired dollar amount of gasoline and then release the handle, or stop the automatic flow by pulling up on the handle to release it. Replace the nozzle back on the pump, reattach your fuel filler cap, shut the fuel filler door and you’re on the road again.

Dee Zhen/Demand Media

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Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure to securely reattach your gas cap or the check engine warning light could display on some vehicles.
  • You should never smoke, leave your engine running or use your cell phone during fueling because an inadvertent spark could cause a fire or explosion. (Resource 1)
  • Do not re-enter your car while fueling, or if you must, touch the metal frame of your car’s body first to discharge static electricity.
  • Check your vehicle owner’s manual for the grade of gasoline required and whether or not ethanol-based gasoline is allowed before filling your tank.


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