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April 21, 2006 12:03 AM

Broken: Car gas cap door

For several minutes at the gas station I was totally stumped by this rental car. How do you open the gas cap door? Pressing anywhere in the handle had no effect whatsoever.

I finally discovered the trick: press your finger exactly in the seam on the right-hand side and it will open. Press anywhere but that exact location, and the door won't budge.

Here's the not broken design, from a different rental car: this is how all gas-cap doors should be designed. Elegant and easy to use.


That's a Mitsubishi Galant and I have one. I have given up on keeping that spot clean.

Posted by: Rob at April 21, 2006 12:14 AM

what's broken is the 'Continue reading "Car gas cap door"' link, which appears to do absolutely nothing.

Posted by: gmangw at April 21, 2006 12:38 AM

I prefer gas cap covers with interior releases. Less chance of punk kids stealing your gas cap and putting sugar in your tank.

Locking gas caps are just cumbersome.

Posted by: James at April 21, 2006 01:03 AM

RTFM? Though it does seem like a very odd mechanism. :)

Posted by: Alden Bates at April 21, 2006 04:59 AM

I second james, the interior release ones are by far the best.

Posted by: Dragon at April 21, 2006 06:27 AM

I agree on the interior releases since just yesterday on the news someone opened up about 20 gas tanks and set the cars on fire.

Sometimes society is pretty sad.

Posted by: Jpantis at April 21, 2006 06:47 AM

The manual is often not included when you rent a car (I think that is broken, and the real issue here). So "RTFM" doesn't apply.

Posted by: Louis at April 21, 2006 07:08 AM


Posted by: at April 21, 2006 08:46 AM

Interior release is great, but we had one once that was right next to the hood release. Frustrating as all get-out. The one shown or an interior release far from the hood release would be great.

By the way, RTFM categorically does not apply to ordinary operations with such widely-used products as cars. Opening the gas door is an action performed hundreds of millions of times a day by as many people, and we expect it to be a consistent experience each time. As such, WE DON'T READ THE MANUAL ABOUT GAS DOORS! In fact, we don't usually read the manual at all. It's a bad customer experience if we have to for something so simple as filling our gas tank.

If you have to say RTFM, it is broken.

Posted by: =David at April 21, 2006 09:10 AM

RTFM for a gas cap door is silly. A blank gas cap door says "interior release". But this apparently isn't the case here. Pushing on a spot with no distinguishing characteristics is very poor design. Note that there is an example of a much better design where the slight outdent of the cap makes it clear.

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at April 21, 2006 09:20 AM

BTW, I did pull out the manual on that rental car - found nothing at all about the gas cap. I really was stumped - I needed gas and couldn't find any lever, button, or any way (inside the car or out) to get that cap open.

It was only in desperation, tapping every possible square centimeter on the gas cap, that I found the way to open it.

Posted by: Mark Hurst at April 21, 2006 10:15 AM

If you have to "RTFM" to figure out the gas cap... how does that help at a full service gas station? You have to get out and show the attendant how to operate the gas cap every time!

Not that there are many full service stations left these days...

Posted by: MinkOWar at April 21, 2006 11:24 AM

Perhaps a good customer service experience could've saved you the hassle of poor design here -- if they'd taken the time to make sure you knew how to fill up the tank. I'm sure you can't have been the only one with this experience.

Posted by: alexandrialeigh at April 21, 2006 11:49 AM

"I prefer gas cap covers with interior releases. Less chance of punk kids stealing your gas cap and putting sugar in your tank."

I bet that's that this rental was.

Posted by: Steven Fisher at April 21, 2006 11:51 AM

The first time I had to put gas in my used BMW, I looked for an interior release. There wasn't one. Went outside to look for a finger bump. There was't one. Went back into the car and looked for a release again ... nope.

I'd been sitting at the pump for about five minutes, walking around my car like an idiot, when another guy with a BMW pulled up. I thought about asking him, but I figured he'd assume I'd stolen it and call the cops.

Finally I read the manual. You push the cover and it releases the latch.

Posted by: Jeff H at April 21, 2006 01:39 PM

My old Cherokee has a gas cap door that opens the same way. Not unusual or hard to figure out in my experience, but I can see the problem. It does look like an interior release (which I prefer), so I like to think that it will discourage jerks from messing with it.

Posted by: J at April 21, 2006 02:11 PM

Yea, lots of cars are like this. Probably not broken but certainly frustrating if you are not familiar with it ... I rent a different car every week and half the time end up turning on my windshield wipers instead of the headlights :)

Posted by: jay at April 21, 2006 02:20 PM

What's broken is neighborhoods where you have to worry about wackos that put sugar in your gas tank or set your car on fire. Unfortunately common, but still broken.

Jeff H you must have had the wrong old BMW. My old BMW had the little outdent like photo #3, but it also had a little latch on the inside that locked the door shut wnenever the engine was on - thus protecting you from yourself, but not from the other wackos.

Posted by: Pat at April 21, 2006 02:54 PM

Oregon has nothing but full-service stations; it's illegal to pump your own gas. *shrug*

Posted by: James at April 21, 2006 02:57 PM

That's an easy one compared to the old Cadillacs - remember the ones with the gas fillers inside the left rear taillight? Or the Chevys with the gas filler behind the license plate?

Posted by: Mike Brown at April 21, 2006 03:11 PM

My dad owned a 1986 Ford Taurus Wagon when I was a kid that had an interior release gas cap door. Near the end of the car's life, the release mechanism broke and we kids would crawl in the back, pop open the cover for the spare tire, and grope around to release the little door. Good times.

Posted by: Matt at April 21, 2006 03:22 PM

Hey, its a rental car. Open the trunk (if you can at least do THAT), find the tire iron or a big screwdriver and use that to open the sucka. That'l do it!. (Hope you got all the insurance though) Happy motoring.

Posted by: Carlie Chan at April 21, 2006 04:02 PM

Tried, well, pressing the internal release button? Maybe... The only cars that have that type of gascap door are the internal-release types. I'd say its more broken that you CAN open it from the outside than that you can't.

Next time, just look for the lever next to the trunk release, it should have a little gas-cap graphic on it. Try pulling/pushing on that.

Posted by: Earthman Xosha Rosp at April 21, 2006 04:47 PM

Another thing that's broken is people that don't have the intelligence and maturity to comment on the topic without resorting to calling someone an offensive name.

Posted by: twkuehn at April 21, 2006 06:16 PM

Hey, Your Mom and Earthman: READ ALL COMMENTS BEFORE YOU POST, PLEASE. Mark posted (4/21/06, 10:15 AM):

"BTW, I did pull out the manual on that rental car - found nothing at all about the gas cap. I really was stumped - I needed gas and couldn't find any lever, button, or any way (inside the car or out) to get that cap open.

It was only in desperation, tapping every possible square centimeter on the gas cap, that I found the way to open it."

If you'd had the intelligence to read all the comments before posting (first rule of net forums!), you'd know that. The car was built so that you can only open it that one way. That's why it's broken.

Know what else is broken? The intelligence of commenters who show up, assume they're more intelligent than anyone else, and post a comment without reading any of the others- when they're probably (in the case of Your Mom, at least) just a sixteen-year-old who just got his license and wants to show off his tenth-grade intelligence. Here's a hint: if it's the first thing that comes to your mind, IT PROBABLY ALREADY OCCURRED TO SOMEONE ELSE. Don't waste our time or Mark's bandwidth on your inane posturing. Go fill your sippy cup with Kool-Aid and play with your legos, and leave the computers to us big people.


Okay, you can have your soapbox back.

Posted by: =David at April 21, 2006 07:30 PM

Nothing beats an idiot calling someone else an idiot. Seriously funny.

I knew a girl once who referred to someone else as "the epitome of idiocy," except she pronounced it EH-pih-tome. Priceless.

Nothing wrong with mispronouncing "epitome" -- hell, it's not spelled like it sounds, and who ever says it? -- but if you're calling someone else an idiot while doing it, well, that's just sweet.

And Your Mom is a total EH-pih-tome.

Posted by: You Mom's Mom at April 21, 2006 08:11 PM

First rule of online forums: ignore the trolls and they'll find a more interesting place to play.

Posted by: Corky at April 21, 2006 08:24 PM

I dunno, Corky...I enjoy yelling at the younglings...

Posted by: =David at April 21, 2006 09:16 PM


I had a '71 VW Bug (it had an interior cable pull to release the gas door).

How excited I was when I traded it in for a brand new 1979 VW Bug Convertible and drove away from the dealership (at 9pm) "running on fumes". I drove to the nearest gas station and reached to pull the "door release". There was none to be found...anywhere.

I did open the trunk (front hood) with the pull handle inside the glove box, search the interior of the car, look through the owner's manual, contortion myself on the passenger side under the glove box to better locate the "missing" release pull, without success.

Then, circling the exterior of the car (probably like a crazed animal at that point) I discovered the more "modern" VW had a gas door that simply opened from the outside.

Reverse (German) Engineering???

Also, why don't rentals put an arrow inside the car over the gas gauge display pointing to the side of the car the gas fill side is on??? At least that way we're in the right position while we figure out how to get the $3.00 per gallon gas in!

Posted by: GasMeUp at April 22, 2006 12:03 AM

now THIS was an interesting morning, a real problem solver. Thanks guys.

Posted by: tictic at April 22, 2006 07:57 AM

Well, the manual part is out. You don't read a manual on a rental car. Maybe your own new car--that I would read--but a RENTAL, no.

You could have a car like mine, push the interior release and STILL go out and push the door like you have to on that car. Double whammy. Fun, fun. If you live in the city, you pump your own gas anyway, so what's the difference?

Posted by: zakyam at April 22, 2006 09:05 AM

Most new cars have an arrow pointing to the side the Gas fill side is on by the fuel gauge. seems like it's become pretty standard for all cars mad since the mid 90's

Posted by: Infinity306 at April 22, 2006 02:17 PM

Second rule of online forums: if the trolls are dumb enough to give their actual email address, take a few moments to plug it into as many penis enlargement and free gift card websites as possible.

Posted by: Corky at April 23, 2006 10:14 AM

On my mom's caddilac there's a cord in the trunk that you can pull to pop the gas cover in addition to the button on the dashboard. But I agree that having to press on a spot is kinda stupid and dosn't help at all with anything. The only way to really keep people from siphoning gas is to have the release inside the car.

Posted by: Fayth at April 23, 2006 05:46 PM

my friend who is from spain says in europe they have locks on the gas flaps (9 dollars a gallon there)why dont we get a clue here in america!!

Posted by: mrsmartypants at April 24, 2006 11:24 PM

To the people who have suggested RTFM - You should not have to read a manual to open a petrol cap. That's ridiculous. Would you buy a door for your house that required a manual to operate? It is not reasonable for vistors to be expected to read a manual before they can open the door. The same principle applys here. Manuals should be the very last resort. A good design will indicate how the device is meant to be operated. If a manual is required the reader should say "Oh, I see. That makes sense".

Posted by: Andrew at April 25, 2006 07:52 AM

Well, this kind of goes with the rants on rental cars keys... I don't recall the car brand or make, but as I was rushing back to turn in my rental car, I stopped at the get-n-go gas station to fill up. After a few minutes looking in the logical places (driver's side door, dash, seat, trunk, key fob...) I went in search of the owner's manual. It was no where to be found. I spent a good 30 minutes looking for the door release for the gas cap. I even asked four other people (3 men/ 1 woman) if they could figure it out (being a man myself, this was especially embarrassing...) I finally found the little lever, but only after laying on my back on the driver's side floor (in my business suit). It was under the steering column, completely out of sight of anyone sitting in the car or standing next to it.

Upon checking in the car, I mentioned the problem to the attendant and he just laughed, saying he's heard that numerous times.

Message to rental car companies: leave the friggin' manual in the car and don't make me have to carry an extra piece of luggage just to hold the car key collection you force on me.

Message to car manufacturers: Don't hide the friggin' gas cap door latch.

Posted by: Dumb Car Renter at April 25, 2006 10:45 AM

At least you can return the car with the tank empty and have an excuse.

Posted by: WillF at April 25, 2006 02:22 PM

You can have a simple "externally-digit-actuated" fuel door that is also punk-proof. I had a Mercedes that locked that door when you locked the rest of the doors. However, it was also the "push the edge" type... doh!

Posted by: Matthew at April 26, 2006 11:40 AM

This was not really worth the post or the comments. The comments, however, were worth reading. Amazing to me how much people rattle.

Posted by: Mike at April 27, 2006 11:08 PM

Ok, that's stupid. If your car is broken then fix it, no? Then get a new one!

Posted by: Tim at April 27, 2006 11:23 PM

That's just messed up. Interior release all the way. the best place for that is on the floor, not next to the hood release, like one poster stated.

Posted by: steelcobra at April 28, 2006 03:05 AM

what kind of car was it??

Posted by: aa at May 9, 2006 11:26 AM

Durdurdur, Theres probley a leaver inside the car that opens it.

Posted by: N/A at May 14, 2006 08:27 PM

I think there is a button on the inside. =\

Posted by: Heywood U. Blowme at July 8, 2006 12:00 AM

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