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Summary
  • Design requirements, driver preference, and vehicle regulations are some of the reasons why vehicles don’t have gas tanks on the same side.
  • In some cases, a vehicle with a heavier engine on one side usually has its gas tank on the opposite side to maintain balance.
  • You can tell where the gas tank is in your car by looking at the small arrow next to the gas pump icon on the dashboard.

Have you ever gone to a gas station only to realize your vehicle’s gas tank is on the opposite side of the pump? While inconvenient and puzzling, there are several reasons why your vehicle is designed that way.

Reasons Why Gas Tanks Aren’t Always On the Same Side

There isn’t a single explanation as to why the location of fuel doors isn’t universal. Certain vehicle models have them on the left side of the vehicle, while others have them on the opposite side. There are several factors which may have influenced your automaker to place your gas tank on a particular side.

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Design and Packaging

Auto engineers can place the fuel doors on the side that offers the easiest packaging. Numerous factors go into what qualifies as “easy,” including fuel tank design, location, and underbody constraints. For example, routing the filler tube to the same side on every vehicle would be difficult because of the structural components beneath the car.

Automakers also ensure a vehicle’s weight distribution is optimal for better handling and performance. For example, a vehicle with a heavier engine on one side usually has its gas tank on the opposite side to maintain balance.

Lastly, engineers also consider the other essential components within the car. Since vehicles have different mechanical and electrical systems, the position of these components could help determine where to place the gas tank.

Driver Preference

female driver refuel car gas tank on left side of car
Americans typically prefer fuel doors on the left side of their cars because it’s easier to place the left fender close to the fuel pump.

Americans typically prefer fuel doors on the left side of their cars because it’s easier to place the left fender close to the fuel pump. Placing the gas tank on the side more accessible from the driver’s position makes it easier to refuel at gas stations.

Regulation and Safety

There are existing regulations about vehicle fuel systems that may affect the placement of fuel doors. Currently, automakers are required to put the fuel filler on the widest part of the vehicle, inboard of any crumple zones, and safe from dripping onto hot exhaust bits or electrical wiring.

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Other regulations require specific crash tests and safety features to protect the fuel system in case of accidents. This means manufacturers should strategically place the gas tank away from potential impact zones.

Practicality

If all gas tanks were on the same side, 50% of the pumps wouldn’t be used because drivers would be on the “wrong” side. This would result in long queues at the pump.

Things to Know About Your Car’s Gas Tank

Besides knowing why it’s on a particular side, here are a few other things you should know about your vehicle’s gas tank.

Fuel Capacity

The average gas tank capacity is proportional to the vehicle’s size. A small car can hold around 12 gallons of gas, while a larger car can store up to 15 or more gallons.

The larger the tank, the further you can travel before refueling. A bigger gas tank increases your vehicle’s weight and may reduce its fuel efficiency.

Some car brands also have a secondary fuel tank called the “reserve tank.” It can contain about 10% to 15% of the capacity of the main tank.

Types of Fuel

There are six different types of fuels commonly used, namely gasoline, diesel, liquified petroleum gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG), ethanol, and biodiesel.

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Type Advantages Disadvantages
Gasoline Longer driving range
Quick refueling times
Availability
Pollutes the environment
High maintenance cost
Diesel Long-lasting
High torque
Efficient
Emits nitrogen oxide (NOx)
Produces noise and vibration
Liquified petroleum gas (LPG) Odorless
Availability
Higher calorific value
Emits carbon dioxide (CO2)
Fluctuating prices
Highly inflammable
Compressed natural gas (CNG) Environmentally friendly
Cost-effective
Safe
Limited driving range
Hard to find
Ethanol Renewable
Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
Supports domestic agriculture
Lower energy content
Limited availability
Biodiesel Renewable
Biodegradable
Can be used in existing diesel engines
Low energy content
Gels in cold temperatures

Minimum Fuel Needed

It’s a good idea to keep at least 1/4 of fuel in your gas tank. This helps cool the fuel pump and prevent the mechanism from overheating.

Running the tank too low could also lead to debris getting sucked in, which could clog and damage the filter. Lastly, avoiding driving on empty will also help prolong the engine’s life.

How to Tell Where the Gas Tank Is on Your Car

Look at the fuel gauge on your dashboard and find the gas pump icon. There’s usually a small arrow that points left or right, indicating what side the gas tank is on.

What Cars Have the Gas Tank on the Left Side?

Approximately 78% of the cars sold in the United States have the fuel doors on the left side of the vehicle. BMW, Honda, and Audi usually have their fuel doors on the same side, while Mercedes, Chevy, and Jeep models vary.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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