Topping Off: Learn Why You Should Never Top Off Your Gas Tank

Close Up of Gas Tank full of Money

It can be a hassle to head to the gas station to fill up every week or two. So when you’re standing at the pump, have you ever topped off your tank thinking it will save you time between trips? Or to round the price up to the nearest dollar? If so, read below to learn the top five reasons why you shouldn’t top off your tank.

Why topping off your tank is a bad idea

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), topping off your tank is a waste of money and dangerous to you, your car, other people and even the environment. Find out why you should always skip this all-too-common practice.

  1. The gas can spill when overfilled. No one likes getting gasoline on their hands or clothes. It’s also problematic for a variety of other reasons:
    – It’s hazardous
    – It’s flammable
    – Spilled gasoline can seep into the ground, potentially polluting the water and harming wildlife
  2. The fumes are toxic. Gasoline vapors are harmful to breathe and toxic to the ozone layer. According to the EPA, evaporation and fumes from spillage contribute to the pollution problem by releasing toxic air pollutants such as benzene, which is not only toxic and flammable but carcinogenic.
  3. It’s a waste of money. Once you hear the first click of the gas pump, did you know any gas you pump after that isn’t going into your car’s tank? You’re actually paying for gas that is filling up the hose, ready to be pumped into the next customer’s car. Any additional gas you try to pump into your tank may be drawn into the vapor line and fed back into the station’s storage tanks.
  4. It can cause the gas pump to break. Most gas stations have a vapor recovery system. When you top off your gas tank, you can cause it to break or become inoperable. This problem can add to the air pollution problem and cause the gas pump to fail for the next person in line.
  5. It can ruin your car. Have you ever wondered why your vehicle won’t allow you to add more gas once you’ve been alerted that your tank is full? Because gasoline needs room to expand, your tank needs extra room for that expansion. If you try to top off, the extra gas you’re trying to add may actually evaporate into your vehicle’s vapor collection system. This can ruin the mechanism, making it work improperly, and cause your car to run less efficiently.

Once you understand the dangers of this common practice, hopefully you’ll think twice before ever topping off your gas tank again. Avoid the risks of personal injury, vehicle damage and environmental harm when you play it safe at the pump. Another way to stay safe is to have auto insurance to keep you protected on the road. Many insurance companies also offer roadside assistance programs to give you the peace of mind, wherever you are.

Categories:: Car OpinionsDriving

Comments (9)

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  1. What does topping off even mean? What I do is I put the gas pump in the tank and let it run automatically until it stops by itself. It just stops by itself when it is full. Is that considering “topping off”? I do this because I’m lazy and don’t feel like standing there waiting… Besides, how would I know if it almost full or not and when the right time to “stop” filling up? I don’t know so I let it run.

    • After the pump automatically stops itself, many people will pull the handle a few more times to pump as much gas into the tank as possible. That’s topping off.

      It’s best to just stop when the pump stops itself.

  2. Thanks! I Googled this topic so my husband could see why topping off is not a good idea and your professional annalisess brought ir home for him. Again thank you.

  3. Michael E Heis says:

    So what fill rate should I use Mr. “expert”? The slowest one which will fill the tank the most or the fastest one which will fill it the least? Oh yeah you don’t know and that blows your whole argument out of the water.
    A slow fill would more “top” off your tank, so that would cause your SEALED carbon canister to leak gas out? ROLMAO don’t you know what SEALED means moron?
    More urban legend crap being spouted by people just following someone’s agenda and reading their talking points.

  4. Anna says:

    I didn’t have any idea about this. I got my Toyota Corolla CE in this September and from then everytime to topped up the gas tank by 5 litres more gas. Definitely I am not going to make this mistake ever again. But, I am concerned if it has damaged my car already. I usually take gas when the tank is half full and half empty and in average in take 3 to 4 times in a month.

  5. Laura says:

    My word, people. Topping off doesn’t mean filling your tank. It means letting the fuel pump automatically fill your tank until it turns off, and THEN pulling the trigger a few more “bursts” (often to “round off” the price, or just to get a “little more” gas in the tank). It’s FINE to fill your tank as often as you like, so long as you stop when the pump clicks off.

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