Pro-ana car
July 31, 2008 1:23 PM   Subscribe

Car help: why can't i fill up my tank? (hint: it has nothing to do with the economy)

I just got a 2002 Hyundai accent. I am enjoying the car very much, except one minor detail: I can't fill it up with gas.

When I try, the pump will say it's already full and stop literally every 1 or 2 seconds. I have tried not putting the nozzle in as far, not pressing the handle as hard, tilting it sideways, turning it upside-down, standing on 1 foot, etc. Sometimes my creative positioning results in a continuous stream of gas for as long as 3 seconds, but otherwise I just have to keep starting over and over. The end result is that I get 1/3 of a tank after 10 minutes of trying and then give up, crestfallen.

This is not a big enough issue for me to want to spend money on a mechanic (I'm poor and cheap), as, technically, I can fill it up with gas, it just takes 25 minutes each time. What I want to know is how I can diagnose/fix/improve this problem. (please keep in mind that I know nothing about cars; simple clear explanations with pictures are preferred)
posted by speef to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
Have you tried pulling the nozzle further out? I've had this issue on vehicles of all types (cars, watercraft), generally figuring it's excess gas or something tricking the nozzle into thinking the tank is full. (this is not backed by science)

Generally, try putting just the very front of the nozzle into the gas tank, just enough so it won't spill out all over your car. That should work, but just keep an eye on it as you come close to filling it completely up.
posted by Atreides at 1:36 PM on July 31, 2008

Here's an old AskMe about this that links to this article. If you google stuff like trouble filling tank you'll find it's not uncommon. People for whom it was consistent across different stations and couldn't fix it by fiddling with pump placement generally seem to have found they had to replace part or all of the gas tank and fuel inlet - something is making the gas back up enough when you pump that it trips the auto-stop mechanism, like maybe a crimped inlet hose leading to the tank.
posted by nanojath at 1:43 PM on July 31, 2008

I would actually recommend the exact opposite. When I've seen this happening before, it's often due to an incomplete seal for the vapor recovery system. The little retractable skirt around the nozzle needs to make a good seal with the car body, or it won't allow gas to flow.
posted by nomisxid at 1:46 PM on July 31, 2008

One cheap way you can pull this off will be to buy a 5 or 10-gallon plastic gas can (depending on how comfortable you are with picking up a full 10-gallon tank) and us it as an intermediary. It will take twice as long as a normal car but it will go a lot faster than what you are going through. Since you will be using this thing a lot, I would pay special attention to the quality of the tank (presence and size of the air vent, quality of cap, sealing of spout).

It will take a up a little trunk space, but that might be an acceptable price to pay.

Happy pumping!
posted by milqman at 1:48 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

this has happened to me before. I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes, you'll get an air bubble trapped in the tank intake. If you stand on your back bumper and hop up and down a couple of times, thus rocking the car, it'll usually fix it. Or it did in my case, anyway...
posted by nushustu at 1:49 PM on July 31, 2008

The issue sounds like you may have a blocked vent line in your fuel filler hose, which is incorrectly triggering the gas pump's gas vapor recovery (GVR) shut-off. I think you would benefit from reading this Yedda thread on this same problem.
posted by mosk at 1:53 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: More details: yes, this is a problem that is consistent at different stations and it has been going on for the last month and a half now (as long as I've had the car). I doubt any filling techniques will help, as I've had a lot of time to practice different nozzle positions. I've already tried putting it in as far as possible or keeping the nozzle so far out that i spilled gas on my foot once.

It's probably a problem in the car, but I really just don't know what to look for/how to look at it, and any actual car geared websites I can find are way over my head in their explanations.
posted by speef at 2:01 PM on July 31, 2008

As nushustu suggests, you may have an air bubble. Bounce the car side-to-side and see if that helps.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:20 PM on July 31, 2008

Have you considered that your gas gauge might be faulty? You've had it for only a few weeks, and you've never run it out of gas, maybe you have a full tank already!
posted by DandyRandy at 2:50 PM on July 31, 2008

You might have something stuck in the filler pipe. A blockage would prevent the fuel from flowing through the tank faster than it's being pumped in, so the fuel backs-up and triggers the pump's auto shut-off. Does the fuel door look like it's been tampered with?
posted by jma at 3:31 PM on July 31, 2008

I hate to say this, but it may be a problem with the fuel pump or filter. I bought a Nissan a
Altima last week. The day after I bought it, I went to fill it up and it would only fill up a third of the tank. The next day it died, and it turned out I needed a new fuel pump, which would have cost $600. Yikes! (I sold it for parts)

Obviously, it's not necessarily this, but I would urge you to get it at least looked at by a mechanic.
posted by lunasol at 7:43 PM on July 31, 2008

I'll third the rocking the car advice. I worked at my parents' gas station when I was a kid and I remember the old BMW 3 series would often have this problem (although it wasn't as extreme as you describe). It's worth a try before investigating more costly options.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 10:46 PM on July 31, 2008

The fuel pump can't cause this problem. I'd guess that the pipe from the gas filler area to the gas tank is either just designed funny (if the problem has always occurred) or has gotten bent or kinked.
posted by gjc at 8:04 AM on August 1, 2008

« Older Roommate in NYC   |   How do I start running? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.