I spilled gas on my car. How bad is this going to be?
July 11, 2022 7:05 PM   Subscribe

So this afternoon I spilled gas on my car. I just thought to google it now and apparently I really should have washed it off. I didn't. Now I can't until tomorrow. The car is parked indoors. I probably did get it on the tire. What is going to happen to me/my car?
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Grab Bag (10 answers total)
Best answer: The gasoline will evaporate (it's probably already evaporated) and you and your car will be fine.

It may leave a very light oily film or mark. Wipe this off with a paper towel (on paint). On the tires, just leave it.
posted by fake at 7:14 PM on July 11, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Nothing.
Have you ever seen an otherwise well maintained car with damage around the fuel inlet? With multiple spills it can get grimy but one spill won't hurt the paintwork. Wash it when you get a chance.
posted by Thella at 7:15 PM on July 11, 2022

Best answer: Nothing, you're fine.

I don't know what you're finding via the googlez but if car paint or tires were seriously damaged by a mild spill or overflow there wouldn't be a car older than 5 years on the road.

Repeated or constant exposure might dull the finish or have a chemical reaction with the rubber of the tires, and vintage paint jobs might have problems, but gas evaporates fast, and you're not going to catch fire when you start it up tomorrow.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:17 PM on July 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have spilled gas on a number of cars and it was fine. Ask yourself whether anyone would design a car that could be seriously damaged by a one-time gas spill when people literally have to funnel gas into their cars multiple times a month - that would be really stupid!
posted by Frowner at 7:23 PM on July 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Great. Thanks everyone. I did think "well why don't I see cars with damaged paint everywhere"? but since I'm not a car person, I just thought "maybe everyone but me knows you're supposed to wash it off right away." I mean the number of things everyone but me knows about cars is actually quite large.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:25 PM on July 11, 2022 [19 favorites]

If I notice a spill at the time, I usually give it a swipe with the window washer squeegee, but I am pretty sure that the gas is worse for the washing liquid than the car.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:40 PM on July 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

I just thought "maybe everyone but me knows you're supposed to wash it off right away."

Something I'm surprised more people don't understand is that both gasoline and diesel are immiscible with water and have lower surface tension than water, which makes them stick preferentially to a lot of surfaces including paintwork and wax polishes and tyres.

So when somebody reacts to a fuel spill by reaching for the windscreen washing jug and pouring water all over the spill zone, all they're doing is cooling down the region where the spill is stuck to their car and reducing the rate at which the spilt fuel would evaporate if left to its own devices. Trying to rub off a fuel spill with a cloth or windscreen washing squeegee is similarly pointless and risks unnecessarily scratching the finish. If you've done this and noticed something beading up and dropping off the car in the wash zone, that's the wash water uselessly beading up and falling off the layer of fuel that's still stuck to the car.

The only fuel spills it might actually be worth washing off a car are diesel spills, because diesel is less volatile than gasoline and takes a lot longer to evaporate, which gives spills longer to attract and retain dust. But you need a detergent in the wash water if you actually want it to remove the residual spill, and there's still no reason to do this any sooner than the next wash you'd be giving the car anyway if you hadn't spilt fuel on it.
posted by flabdablet at 1:16 AM on July 12, 2022 [5 favorites]

Just run it through a carwash. It’s all good.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:53 AM on July 12, 2022

I have also spilled copious amounts of aviation gasoline, which is fundamentally the same as regular unleaded, maybe even more damaging. An occasional spill is not going to hurt your car. Given how often we "wash the wings" when someone overfills the tanks, I'd say you'd have to be dumping gas over your car on a near daily basis to do a lot of damage.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:36 AM on July 12, 2022

I usually give it a swipe with the window washer squeegee

Please don't do this, think of the next person to use it. A simple wipe with a paper towel is sufficient.
posted by yerfatma at 7:10 AM on July 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

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