Why You Should Always Touch Your Car Before Pumping Gas

This simple action will keep you safe when pumping gas.

When it’s cold outside, a car fire is probably the last thing on your mind. But that’s just the time when fires at the gas pump are more common.

The motion you make when you slide across your car to get out can create static electricity. And when you’re about to fill up your vehicle, that can be dangerous. (Here are 13 more things you’re doing in your car—but shouldn’t.)

“You get that static discharge from your body to that metallic nozzle, and when that occurs, there’s potential for a spark to happen,” says Scott Boorse, director of technical programs and industry affairs for the Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI). “That spark is enough to ignite any of the vapours that are around the tip of the nozzle.”

PEI has received reports of about 200 incidents at the gas pump caused by static electricity since the mid-1990s. But Boorse says there are probably many more cases that aren’t reported. While quick sparks are common, full-out fires are less so.

So how can you avoid a fire at the pump? Fortunately, there’s an easy solution. When you get out of your vehicle, make sure you touch a metal part of your vehicle before you reach for the nozzle. That will dispel any electric charge you may have created.

Another easy trick? Touch one of the thin metal strips that runs vertically on the left and right side of most gas dispensers before you fuel up.

Now that you’ve mastered this simple way to avoid car fires, find out how to find the cheapest gas in your area.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest