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Why would a gas station remove the hold-open lever on the gas nozzle?
February 5, 2008 3:22 PM   Subscribe

I've noticed that nearly all of the gas stations in my new domicile (upstate NY) have removed the hold-open levers, forcing motorists to squeeze the handle for the duration of the fill. Why do they do this?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl to Society & Culture (43 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
So you don't drive away with the hose still in the car. And so you don't get back in the car while filling, thereby generating a static charge.
posted by The World Famous at 3:26 PM on February 5, 2008


that or, if you walk away, say to go in the store, and for some reason there is a spill the hold open with just gush and gush while you are not there.
posted by edgeways at 3:31 PM on February 5, 2008


I've heard (without any confirmation) that it's something NY-specific, and is to keep people from starting the pump and walking away. It never ceased to annoy me for the year I was living in NY.
posted by Godbert at 3:34 PM on February 5, 2008


the hold open with just gush and gush while you are not there

Is that really the case (serious question)? I had thought those things were designed to shut off under those conditions. Have you actually seen that happen?
posted by nzero at 3:35 PM on February 5, 2008


Wow, thanks, q, I've wondered this myself.

In the interest of actually contributing information, I found this work-around product (which doesn't really seem like a good idea).
posted by Morrigan at 3:37 PM on February 5, 2008


Ahh, static electricity. That explains it nicely. I should have mentioned that this practice is relatively rare in my native Seattle. A lot more static electricity happens out here than in the damp Pacific NW.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:40 PM on February 5, 2008


It's a nationwide trend.
Have you actually seen that happen?
I've actually had that happen to me. It's a mechanical device, mechanical devices have been known to fail. These days a fuel spill is a non-trivial event.
posted by Floydd at 3:40 PM on February 5, 2008


(I admit that it seems like common sense that it would gush all over the pavement, but I hadn't ever given it much conscious thought, and just assumed there was some sort of mechanism to stop that from happening)
posted by nzero at 3:40 PM on February 5, 2008


World Famous mostly has it. With temps low outside more people hop back into their cars while the gas fills or go into the gas station. Combine this with pay at the pump ease and it increases the chances of motorists driving off with the nozzle in the filler.

Fortunately gas hoses have "breakaway" points to prevent a lot of damage, but it's still a pain and requires a specialist to get the pump back up and running.

A work around is to take your gas cap and shove it into handle between the "trigger" and the outer guard.

Also, this question could have been easily answered by just asking the guy behind the counter.
posted by wfrgms at 3:40 PM on February 5, 2008


It's a mechanical device, mechanical devices have been known to fail.

Thanks for sharing your experience. Sure, they are certainly subject to failure, but I was wondering if there was any sort of mechanism in place to try to stop that from happening. I suppose your anecdote answers that with a "probably not."
posted by nzero at 3:41 PM on February 5, 2008


The comments in this Lifehacker article offer a number of opinions on why gas stations might do that (I've found that they do it a lot in Florida, too - not so much fun if you're trying to get gas during one of those lovely mid-afternoon summer downpours!) - they also offer a number of suggestions for things you can use as a "substitute" hold-open lever which might save you a little cash if you were actually tempted by that "hold-open lever" mentioned above (actually the main post is about using a tube of Chapstik for that purpose), but I've never actually tried any of them myself so I can't vouch for them ... at first glance they seem safe enough to my non-expert self so long as you stay by your car while the gas is being pumped, but if they do seem risky to you then of course please give them a miss!
posted by zeph at 3:43 PM on February 5, 2008


(I admit that it seems like common sense that it would gush all over the pavement, but I hadn't ever given it much conscious thought, and just assumed there was some sort of mechanism to stop that from happening)

Seriously? You've never let it just run before? Gas nozzles have sensors in the tip which trip a switch inside the handle and prevents gas from over flowing. Take a look at the tip the next time you start to pump - you'll see a smaller, inner tube which receives the over flow.

I know all this because my buddy in college used to work for a gas company and I used to go out with him frequently to fix pumps, etc.
posted by wfrgms at 3:43 PM on February 5, 2008


Seriously? You've never let it just run before?

Er, wfrgms you may have lost the thread of the conversation (or I may be misunderstanding you). The question was not regarding whether the pump would shut off if left in the gas tank (which mechanism is explained in detail here), but rather whether it would shut off automatically if it fell out onto the pavement.
posted by nzero at 3:45 PM on February 5, 2008


I've been to plenty of full service stations where they leave the gas running into my car, I'm assuming with a hold-open device, while they go help other customers. It seems more likely to me that while the occasional spill from this would be a concern, the other reasons - static buildup, driving off with the hose - are more likely.
posted by veronitron at 3:45 PM on February 5, 2008


I believe it's New York state law. You said "nearly all" - are there gas stations near you that do have the hold-open levers?
posted by Dec One at 3:47 PM on February 5, 2008


Is that really the case (serious question)? I had thought those things were designed to shut off under those conditions. Have you actually seen that happen?

I've had it happen to me too. The sad thing is, I had pre-paid $10 because that's all I wanted to put in at the time. So I went back out to the car and put the nozzle in and set it with the little lever so I didn't have to hold it. I stayed near it though.

Somewhere around $9.50, I pressed the release on the lever, so I could do the last little bit slowly. Normally when you pre-pay, they program it to stop on the amount you paid. But they didn't that time, and the lever got stuck. And the tank overflowed and gas went EVERYWHERE. I didn't get it unstuck until around $15.

And they made me pay for it too. Even though that extra $5 was all over their parking lot and not in my car, because of their faulty machine. Le sigh.

Like Floydd said, mechanical things fail.

Anything that can break, eventually will. ;)
posted by Zarya at 3:59 PM on February 5, 2008


re: Dec One

Interesting! That I know of, there are none in my town that have hold-open levers. I wrote "nearly all" because I have encountered a few intact nozzles during my time out east, but now that I think about it, though, those were all on road trips --- it's very possible they were in PA, IL, or NJ.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:05 PM on February 5, 2008


This is pretty common in CA. I almost never saw it in MN or MA where I have lived previously.

Some years ago I saw someone drive off with the nozzle still in the car. The breakaway valves work really well. Not a drop spilled, and no damage to the pump.

Luckily the hose, flying towards me at supersonic speeds, missed my person by a few feet.
posted by MillMan at 4:06 PM on February 5, 2008


It doesn't answer your question, but I've always found the gas cap to work well as a substitute.
posted by exit at 4:48 PM on February 5, 2008


I've heard (without any confirmation) that it's something NY-specific, and is to keep people from starting the pump and walking away.

This is pretty common in CA. I almost never saw it in MN or MA where I have lived previously.

Nope, not NY specific at all. It's law in MA for all self-serve stations.
posted by jerseygirl at 5:41 PM on February 5, 2008




I noticed this in New York. Everywhere. I just assumed it was the law.
posted by Netzapper at 5:52 PM on February 5, 2008


I once (in all my years of using self-serve gas stations with hold-open nozzles) had one stick "on" and a few gallons ended up on the pavement. So that can definitely happen, but it is not an everyday occurrence for most people.

The NY rules are a pain in the neck. When I lived there, I eventually learned which three nozzles in town had not had the hold-open feature removed, and I tried to use those in the coldest months (because holding a gas nozzle in below-zero weather is miserable). So yeah, it is a NY state thing, and prevents some small percentage of both overflows, drive-offs, and static explosions... not that any of those are actually a serious problem, as evidenced by the 47 or 48 US states that allow full-feature gas nozzles.
posted by Forktine at 6:11 PM on February 5, 2008


so you don't get back in the car while filling, thereby generating a static charge.

How would getting in the car generate a static charge? I need to know, cuz I do this all the time, (mostly because I can't bear to have to listen to the stupid tvs they now feel compelled to assault you with at the pump). What about the old days where you never even got *out* of the car-- someone came and pumped for you. Does sitting in the car somehow create static?
posted by nax at 6:16 PM on February 5, 2008


I should have mentioned that this practice is relatively rare in my native Seattle. A lot more static electricity happens out here than in the damp Pacific NW.

And yet I've noticed it in the last year or so at the gas station near my house in North Seattle. Much to my chagrin.

I imagine it's got to be a law, since you wouldn't think a gas station would opt to do something so damaging to the snack and soda trade on their own.
posted by Hildago at 6:19 PM on February 5, 2008


Hold-open levers disappeared from Hawaii gas stations at least a decade ago. Most folks just jam their gas caps into the handle.
posted by pzarquon at 6:34 PM on February 5, 2008


nax writes "Does sitting in the car somehow create static?"

It's the getting out of the car and sliding across the seat that generates a static charge. That charge, if you are unlucky, can spark across to handle of the nozzle which is conveniently placed above a gasoline vapour source (IE: your gas tank). This can sometimes cause a little fire which can escalate into a big fire/explosion if the user jerks the handle out of the car when they notice their hand is on fire. Especially if they haven't yet released the lock.

I've seen the little fire happen. It makes for an exciting day on the job.
posted by Mitheral at 6:36 PM on February 5, 2008


What about the old days where you never even got *out* of the car


"the old days"?

You're not allowed to pump your own gas in NJ. There has to be an attendant to pump your gas.

And they still have those locks, by the way. That's so the attendants can wait on other cars while yours is filling.

People get in and out of their cars while getting gas pumped all of the time. Not sure why there is all of this concern about "static". I mean, this isn't an F1 pitstop where you need those contact strips underneath.
posted by Jay Reimenschneider at 6:50 PM on February 5, 2008


When I worked at a gas station (in British Columbia), we were told that it was required by law that self-serve stations not have the hold tabs on the pumps. Why the law existed was never clear.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:29 PM on February 5, 2008


Jam your gas cap into the handle.
posted by intermod at 7:54 PM on February 5, 2008


Despite Millmans comment that it's common in California, I believe that a law was passed in California requiring the gadget that holds the lever open, on the basis that inhaling gasoline fumes isn't good for you. It WS becoming common in CA until then.

As someone who has driven away with the nozzle still in the car I can attest to the efficiency of the shut-off disconnectors in the hose, so I suspect the reason for removing the hold-open is to avoid overfills and the ensuing spillage (which rarely happens now that auto shutoff works well, so maybe there's a reason I don't get.)
posted by anadem at 8:08 PM on February 5, 2008


oops, WS = WAS
posted by anadem at 8:09 PM on February 5, 2008


I was installing a new car wash at a gas station a few years ago when they removed all the lever locks. Since it's a pain in the ass, I asked the owner why he'd done that. Apparently, asshole kids like to go around and lock all the handles in the fully-pulled position, so as soon as you flip the lever (oftentimes, people flip the pump lever before the nozzle's in the filler tube), gas goes everywhere. Just asshole kids.
posted by notsnot at 8:26 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's NYS law? I live in the Buffalo area, and most of the gas stations that I visit have the hold-open levers.

I'm glad I saw this post. The gas station that is closest to me was recently remodeled, and their new pumps don't have those levers. I couldn't understand why they wouldn't have them. (I now avoid going there because, during the winter, I can usually only put in $10 before I start feeling kinda numb.)
posted by Silly Ashles at 9:34 PM on February 5, 2008


Just a data point for you- I live in Adelaide, Australia, and have never seen something that automatically holds the handle up in the five or so years I've been filling up cars.
posted by twirlypen at 10:51 PM on February 5, 2008


It doesn't answer your question, but I've always found the gas cap to work well as a substitute.

Yep, I was going to suggest the same thing.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:02 PM on February 5, 2008


Seconding twirlypen, they don't exist in the UK either.
posted by sdevans at 12:22 AM on February 6, 2008


twirlypen: They're illegal throughout Australia. And as for the asshole kids thing, when my wife and I holidayed in New Zealand, where they do have them, one of the first times we filled up someone had flipped the lever and of course petrol went everywhere the second my wife picked up the nozzle, including splashing in to her eyes. That was ace. (No additional pump lever that notsnot mentioned by the way, just pick up nozzle, petrol everywhere).
posted by markr at 3:12 AM on February 6, 2008


Reason number 12331987 I moved away from upstate NY.
posted by JonnyRotten at 4:01 AM on February 6, 2008


I live in Buffalo and it's hit or miss as to which have the hold-open levers and which don't (in Texas, where I lived before, everywhere I ever bought gas had them, in Toronto, where I'm from, nowhere has them). If it's NYS law, it's pretty haphazardly adhered-to, since there are two gas stations a block apart that I use, and one has the hold-open levers, and the other doesn't.
posted by biscotti at 4:54 AM on February 6, 2008


L.A. area California, never seen a pump that didn't have the hold open lever. Also read somewhere that a tennis ball is pretty good at the job.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:46 AM on February 6, 2008


How odd. All the pumps have levers here in northern VA.

1) You'd have to work to stick the lever here, because as soon as the pump stops, it loses all pressure, and there's nothing to stick the lever against when the handle is all the way up due to having no pressure.

2) Some gas stations do have the flip up nozzle holders, but except for one station they uniformly don't do anything... generally the only nozzle/fuel type selection is via the electronic interface.

3) Mythbusters did an episode with gas station sparks... it took them a lot of effort to produce a fire.
posted by anaelith at 10:00 AM on February 6, 2008


anaelith writes "Mythbusters did an episode with gas station sparks... it took them a lot of effort to produce a fire."

Yep, because they kept adding gas to a fuel/air mixture that was too rich.
posted by Mitheral at 1:00 PM on February 6, 2008


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