Can You Leave Your Car On While Pumping Gas

Is it safe to leave your car on while pumping gas? While it may be convenient to keep the heater or radio running while filling up your tank, there are several potential risks to consider. These include the possibility of a fire caused by an ignition source, as well as the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. In this article, we will explore the regulations and laws surrounding this practice, as well as provide some best practices for pumping gas safely.

Safety Concerns

Leaving your car on while pumping gas may seem like a convenient option, particularly on a cold day when you want to keep the heater running or if you just want to keep the radio playing. However, there are several potential safety concerns to consider.

Fire Hazard

One of the main risks of leaving your car on while pumping gas is the possibility of a fire. Gasoline is highly flammable, and if it were to come into contact with an ignition source, it could cause a fire or explosion. This could be caused by a spark from the engine, an electrical malfunction, or even static electricity. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association recommends that all vehicles be turned off when fueling to prevent the risk of fire.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Another potential hazard of leaving your car on while pumping gas is the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced by the combustion of fossil fuels. If your car is running while you are pumping gas, CO could potentially build up in the enclosed space of the gas station, posing a risk to you and anyone else present. CO poisoning can cause symptoms such as dizziness, headache, and nausea, and in severe cases, it can be deadly.

Regulations and Laws

In addition to the potential safety risks, there are also regulations and laws in place that address the issue of leaving your car on while pumping gas.

Federal Regulations

The U.S. Department of Energy has established a set of federal regulations for gas station operators, which includes a requirement that they must post signs indicating whether customers are allowed to leave their cars on while pumping gas. These signs must be clearly visible from the fueling area and must indicate whether it is permitted or prohibited.

State Regulations

In addition to federal regulations, some states have their own laws regarding the operation of gas stations and the pumping of gas. For example, in California, it is illegal to leave a vehicle running while it is being fueled, except in certain circumstances (such as if the vehicle has a remote start system). Other states, such as New York and New Jersey, have similar laws in place.

Penalties for Violating Regulations

If you violate the regulations or laws regarding the operation of gas stations and the pumping of gas, you could face penalties. These may include fines, points on your driver’s license, or even jail time in severe cases. It is important to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations in your state and to follow them when pumping gas to avoid potential consequences.

Best Practices

To ensure the safety of yourself and others while pumping gas, it is best to follow some simple best practices.

Turn Off the Car

The most straightforward way to avoid the potential risks of leaving your car on while pumping gas is to simply turn it off. This will eliminate the risk of a spark from the engine or electrical malfunction causing a fire and it will also help to prevent the build-up of CO gas. Some gas pumps are equipped with automatic shut-off devices that will stop the flow of gasoline if the engine is running, but it is still a good idea to turn off your car as an extra precaution.

Avoid Distractions

While pumping gas, it is important to stay alert and avoid distractions. This means not using your phone, eating, or engaging in other activities that could take your attention away from the task at hand. It is also a good idea to keep an eye on the fuel gauge and stop pumping when your tank is full to avoid overfilling and spills.


Leaving your car on while pumping gas can pose a risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. There are also federal and state regulations in place that prohibit or restrict this practice, and violating these regulations can result in penalties. To ensure the safety of yourself and others, it is best to turn off your car and avoid distractions while pumping gas. Following these simple precautions can help to prevent accidents and keep everyone safe at the gas station.