A new day, a new thing

My goal to learn something new every day

Day 8: What side’s the petrol cap on?

You may have seen this video doing the rounds on the internet over the last week or so. It comes from security footage at a petrol station[1] in Leicester[2] in the UK. The woman drives up in her 4×4, gets out, realises the fuel cap[3] is on the wrong side, gets back  in, drives around to the other side of the pump, gets back out only to realise she’s faced with the same problem. She then repeats this a further three times.

When I first saw the video, I thought perhaps it was a new car, or maybe she was borrowing it from a friend, or it could be a rental. Maybe, she’s not used to driving/filling up the car. Perhaps it’s something that her husband / boyfriend / wife / girlfriend / live-in partner /mum[4] / dad / son / daughter (delete as appropriate) usually does. That still doesn’t excuse the fact that it took her five times to get it right, and to be honest, I wonder whether she would have just continued had the Beetle not pulled in and blocked her way.

But I can relate to her problem, as I’m sure can anyone else who’s ever driven a different car. If only there was some way to tell without having to get out of the car.

Well… as it turns out, there is. Until now, unbeknownst to me, all (almost all?) modern cars have a little triangle that is on the dashboard[5], next to the petrol pump[6] symbol, that indicates the side of the fuel cap.

Little Green Triangle

The fuel gauge from my car, and I can confirm that the fuel cap is on the left.


It’s something I must have seen thousands of times, but just never noticed. Actually, when I first came across this “secret” earlier today, I heard that the handle on the petrol pump icon would indicate the side of your fuel cap, i.e. if the handle is on the left, your fuel cap is on the left, and if the handle is on the right, your fuel cap is on the right. Cool, I thought. But as we all know, the internet can be a less than reputable place. It took me less than a minute of digging to find this on Snopes.com and this on hoax-slayer.com. However, both articles mention the presence of the little triangle.

Admittedly, it would have been a much better secret if the pump handle story had been true, but at least now, whenever I find myself driving an unfamiliar car, I’ll be able to tell which side the fuel cap is on. If only the woman in the video had known about this. But then again, I’m not sure it would have helped all that much :p.

For you car drivers out there, did you know about the little green triangle? Does your car have one?



[1] Petrol station is what us Brits call a gas station. In the UK, the two main types of fuel are petrol (=gas) and diesel, which is the same term in the US, I think? Please do correct me if I’m wrong.

[2] Leicester is pronounced /ˈlestə/, at least that’s how I pronounce it, in my non-rhotic accent. Some Americans, often have a hard time with this one, and want to say something like /ˈlaɪʧestər/

[3] Is fuel cap also used in the US? I’ve seen fuel door, which I don’t think Brits would use. I’d also use petrol cap, but I’m guessing that her car uses diesel, which is why I went for ‘fuel cap’.

[4] =Mom

[5] Also (more commonly?) known as a ‘dash’ in American English?

[6] =Gas pump

4 comments on “Day 8: What side’s the petrol cap on?

  1. Hana Tichá
    January 9, 2015

    Haha. Funny lady. My little son loved the video. By the way, there’s no sign of a green triangle in my car – just went out to check it out 🙂 Ironically, at the moment I can’t say with absolute certainty where the fuel cap is but when I visualize myself filling up my car, I remember it’s on the right.


    • David Harbinson
      January 9, 2015

      Well that is disappointing to hear that you car doesn’t have the triangle! I was sure I was on to something. The sites I found did seem to suggest that it is quite a recent feature, but I’m not sure when it was introduced. I know exactly what you mean about saying for sure what side of the car the fuel cap is on, and it’s only when I too visualize myself pulling up to the station that I can remember it’s on the left.


  2. swisssirja
    January 9, 2015

    Nope, I am, sorry, WAS, totally ignorant when it comes to fuel caps 🙂
    But I’ve two other stories connected to fuel tank.
    First, I remember when several years ago our family was once again in Estonia for summer holidays and my dad gave us his car for a couple of days. Before giving it back we wanted to be the nice kids and fill up the fuel tank. So we drove to the petrol station, filled it up with good fuel and gave it back to him. Some hours later he called us and asked in a very grim voice what we had put in the tank???? His car was diesel-ran … (The good thing is, as he discovered it pretty much immediately, they could simply change the contents in the garage and no lasting damage was done)

    The other story happened to me a month or so ago, when I ran out of petrol 200(!!!!) meters before the petrol station in the middle of a busy rush hour road … So you may very well imagine me running with a petrol can on my high heeles in the middle of very bemused drivers 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    • David Harbinson
      January 9, 2015

      The petrol in the diesel car thing is something that I think a lot of people fear. I remember as a child, my parents bought a new diesel car after having had a petrol one for quite some time. From then on, the word ‘petrol’ was banned from our household, just to ensure that my parents never made that mistake. Here in Korea, almost all petrol stations have an attendant who fills your car up for you, so you don’t need to worry. Although over the last year or so, I’ve noticed a couple of self-service stations pop up near to where I live. The problem is, most Koreans have never used them before, so there still has to be an attendant standing by to make sure they don’t make a mistake.


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