How to Refuel in the U.S. – Practical and Detailed Instructions

This is about practical tips for refueling, shown using the USA as an example. The article is intended to be helpful for travelers to the USA and, despite the slightly different tank technology, also for beginners from all over the world. Filling stations with full service have become rare. Self-service is quicker and knowing how to fill up properly is even cheaper, which is definitely an advantage. Anyone can learn how to use the gas pump (fuel pump), choose the right fuel and finish the process quickly, and then continue driving again quickly and safely.

Pay for gas

Drive to any free gas pump.

When approaching, make sure that the fuel tank opening is as close as possible to the fuel pump. You need to be aware of where the tank opening is in order to pull up on the correct side (if you are unfamiliar with the car, the dashboard display should tell you which side the tank is on). Since it is dangerous to fill up with the engine running, you must first switch off the ignition and then get out of the vehicle. Make sure you’re at the right fuel pump. Some pillars are only for diesel vehicles, while others only dispense petrol and still others both. Gas pumps that can be used to dispense both fuels usually have two dispensing valves (also known as fuel nozzles) on each side. Be safe when refueling. Always put out your cigarette before you hit the pump. A cigarette can become flammable in the presence of gasoline. Leave your phone in the car. Cell phone static has been linked to a number of gas station fires.

Choose your payment method and pay for your fuel.

Before you choose the type of petrol and fill it up, you have to pay. You can do this with a credit or debit card directly at the petrol pump, but you can also pay with your card or cash at the petrol station. To pay at the pump, simply slide the card into the reader and follow the instructions. You’ll likely need to choose between a debit or credit card and enter your PIN or zip code to confirm the payment. Some machines will ask you to enter an amount. If you then enter 20 euros, the machine will stop the refueling process as soon as this amount is reached. If you want to fill up, press next when prompted and skip this step. To prepay at the gas station, go inside and pay to the cashier. You have to tell them how much gas you want to pay for and which pillar you are standing at. You can use either a card or cash for this. The amount you pay will be displayed at the pump and the fueling process will stop when the amount of money is reached. If you fill up your tank but want to pay in cash, you first have to overpay, fill up and then pick up the change at the cash register. This is quite common. Just tell the cashier to fill up, pay a little more than you need to, and then go back to the cashier to collect the balance. If you have any loyalty or discount cards, insert your card into the machine at this point (sometimes before using the credit/debit card; see the instructions on the fuel display). This should grant you a discount or points at participating gas stations.

Open the fuel tank cap of your vehicle.

In order to access the gas tank, you will probably first have to open a fuel filler flap. Depending on the vehicle model, this may require you to press a button inside the vehicle, or you can simply open the flap with your fingers and see the fuel filler cap. Unscrew the cap and set it aside safely, or leave it hanging if it is connected to the tank by a wire.

Take the nozzle and guide it safely into the tank opening.

With most fuel dispensers, you have to remove the nozzle from the holder before you can choose between different types of fuel and start filling up. The safest way to do this is to first remove the valve from the bracket and insert it directly into your vehicle’s fuel tank opening so that it is properly seated. If you see two fuel nozzles on the pillar, both diesel and petrol are sold there. The diesel gun is usually slightly larger, green in color, and usually too big to fit in the opening of a gas tank. In any case, make sure to choose the right fuel for your car – the wrong fuel can ruin your engine. Nozzles are designed to hold in the tank without you having to hold the handle when filling. While you will see many people holding the valve all the time, it is not necessary. Just make sure you’ve fully and correctly inserted the nozzle. Then you can let her go.

Select gasoline

Choose the right octane rating.

At most European petrol stations, you can choose between three to four grades of petrol, which differ in octane number: regular petrol (91, mostly no longer available in the EU), super (95), super plus (at least 98) and premium petrol Varieties (100 octane or more). Depending on the brand of gas station, these grades may have different names, but the octane ratings are mostly the same. To determine what octane rating is best for your vehicle, refer to the owner’s manual. For most vehicles, Super is a perfect fit and even preferable. Octane rating refers to the amount of gasoline that can be compressed during the compression stroke before ignition kicks in. A lower octane rating is more likely to ignite than a higher octane rating. High octane gasoline is traditionally used in high performance engines to eliminate knocking and provide horsepower. Most vehicles do not benefit from high octane fuel.

Make your choice by pressing the appropriate button on the dispenser.

Each octane has a button that you can use to select. If you made your decision based on octane rating and price, select the type of gasoline you want. On some older tank systems, there is a lever on the bottom of the nozzle “bracket”. You have to set it up before you choose the type of petrol and start filling up. With newer digital machines, all you have to do is press the button. Once you activate the pump, you can choose your type and fill in the gas.

Press start.

After you have chosen your type of petrol, you still have to press the “start button” at many petrol pumps. This unlocks the refueling process and the pump is ready to go, meaning you can start filling whenever you’re ready. Make sure the counter on the petrol pump jumps to zero. This indicates that the pump is activated once you have made your choice. As you fill in the gas, you can see how much you took out and how much it costs.


To refuel, press the release lever on the fuel nozzle.

Gently pull the trigger on the automatic nozzle and the fuel will flow from the hose into your tank. With most petrol pumps you can lock the release lever. The gas can then just flow and you can let go. All modern petrol pumps now have a shut-off mechanism that shuts off the flow of petrol when the tank is full or when the prepaid amount is reached, whichever comes first. When it does, you’ll hear it click.

Consider shutting off the flow of gas before the tank is full.

Occasionally there is debate about the reliability of these shut-off mechanisms on individual nozzles. Some consumers believe that they are paying too much because the automatic shut-off allows a calculated amount of fuel to flow back into the tank system. To avoid such a thing, always fill up a little less than a full tank. It is true that a number of dispensers have vapor recovery systems that return the gases produced during refueling to the system. In addition, gasoline expands in the tank, making a super-full tank seem wasteful, both from a financial and environmental point of view.

Remove the nozzle and put it back in the holder.

Release the trigger, pull the fuel nozzle out of the tank and make sure that the last drops of fuel fall into the filler neck. If you had to lower a lever, raise it again and put the nozzle back into the holder on the fuel pump. Occasionally small amounts of gasoline will drip out of the nozzle when you take it out of the tank. So be careful not to get it on your shoes or clothes. If you spill something on the car paint or the gas cap, you can usually find paper towels by the gas pump to wipe up the spilled gas. It’s not really dangerous, but it can have a strong smell.

Close the tank opening again.

Put the fuel cap in place, screw it on until it makes a few clicks, and then close the fuel filler door.

Request an invoice or opt out.

At this point, the dispenser may beep. You can then print an invoice to complete the process, or choose “No” to opt out. Depending on the gas station and payment method, you may have to go back into the building to get a bill if you want one.


Avoid gas stations that have just received gas from a tanker truck. Pumping in new gasoline may have stirred up sediment and sludge from the bottom of the storage tank. You don’t want both in your tank. Fill your tank in the morning when it’s still cool outside. As temperatures rise, gasoline gases expand and you may be paying for quantities of gasoline that appear smaller as it cools. The nozzle usually has a small locking lever on the trigger that you can lock. Then you don’t have to stand by and hold the handle all the time. Don’t worry about overflowing; the tank system switches off automatically when your tank is almost full.


Always put out your cigarette before starting to fill up with gas. If the embers come into contact with petrol gases, there may be an explosion. There are some states in the USA, such as New Jersey and Oregon, where you are not allowed to fill up your own fuel. Find out the rules that apply when you travel to other countries.


About the Author

Edison Greenwood

Edison Greenwood is a Outreach Editor for Freevoucherhub. He has worked for years in SEO and Digital Marketing and has a long history in e-commerce industry. When not writing he teaches yoga, editing videos, and DIY furnitures.