Gas Tanks: Why Aren’t All Fuel Doors on the Same Side?

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Quick: On which side is your vehicle’s fuel door?

Must you look at the little diamond-shaped arrow on the fuel gauge EVERY time you fill up to know whichFuel-Gauge-Arrow-iStock side holds the fuel filler? Have you ever pulled to the fuel island to discover you’re on the wrong side? Did you utter bad words before or after you said, “Why don’t they put fuel doors on the same side of every car?!?”

The answer to that question is complicated, if not convoluted.

Based on my research into the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, I came to the conclusion (a conclusion later supported by my contacts at both the Ford Motor Company and Nissan North America) that no U.S. government regulation concerns which side on which the fuel door must be positioned. Much to the chagrin of many motorists, the fuel door can be on either side.

With no legal or marketing motivation, and scant ownership enjoyment implications, car-company engineers are free to place fuel doors on whichever side offers the easiest packaging, according to Ford spokesman Mark Schirmer. He added that there’s not enough room — and no demand — for dual fuel doors.

Preference

Americans prefer left-mounted fuel doors, said Schirmer, referencing a Ford study. A driver’s-side fuel door makes it easier for drivers to place the car’s left fender close to fuel pump. Still, fuel door location is typically not part of the buying decision, added Schirmer.

Those in Japan, India, the United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and countries in southern Africa drive on the left side of the road and sit on the right side of the car, and it appears they prefer right-mounted fuel doors, given the tendencies of cra manufacturers. For at least 25 years, the conventional wisdom among auto writers has been that Europeans like right-side doors. However, when I posed this to my industry co-horts, no car company would speculate if or why that might be true.

Nissan, like most automakers, produces some vehicles with left fuel doors and some with right doors.

Reasons

“The placement of the fuel door is mainly a factor of fuel tank design, location and underbody packaging,” Nissan’s Steve Yaeger wrote in an email. “With all of the structure and components located underneath the vehicle, (engineers) would quickly encounter restrictions in trying to route the filler tube to the same side on every vehicle.”

If mechanisms such as a “big, honkin’ speaker” must be placed on the left side, engineers put the fuel door on the right, notes Schirmer.

The bottom line: Fuel door position is not a random choice, but if engineers have a good reason to place fuel doors on the right, that’s where they go.

If you can’t remember the location of your fuel door, don’t be ashamed to look at the little diamond-arrow on your fuel gauge … BEFORE you pull up to the pump.

Avoiding Traffic Tickets

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In an accompanying story, “Beat your Ticket”, we give you some tips on beating your traffic ticket in court. We now have some overdue advice to offer: It’s far easier to avoid getting tickets in the first place.

In this article, we’ll tell you how to drive so the cops won’t stop you. And we’ll also tell you what to do and say if you are pulled over. Your behavior — and your attitude — could mean the difference between a ticket and a warning.

For answers to these questions, we talked to Walter Meyer, a teacher in a comedy traffic school and a freelance writer living in San Diego, Calif. He has collected a lot of information by studying the traffic laws and doing “ride-alongs” with traffic officers. But he has also gathered interesting anecdotal evidence from his students — harrowing accounts of traffic accidents, police stops and other driving mishaps. Continue reading

Time to Change Your Vehicle’s Cabin Air Filter

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Before winter sets in is a good time to check your cabin air filter, after it’s been working hard all spring, summer and fall. Cabin air filters clean the incoming air and remove allergens, and according to the Car Care Council, should be replaced every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, or per the owner’s manual.

The cabin air filter helps trap pollen, bacteria, dust and exhaust gases that may find their way into a vehicle’s air conditioning and heating and ventilation systems. The filter also prevents leaves, bugs and other debris from entering the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. Continue reading

A Resolution You Should Keep: Be Car Care Aware

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To be car care aware, incorporate the following service interval schedule items as part of your New Year”s resolution:

  • Perform monthly checks of tire pressure and the condition of tires, lights and windshield washer fluid. The vehicle should also be cleaned monthly.
  • Every three months or per the owner”s manual, check the engine oil and filter, check the levels of other fluids including automatic transmission, power steering and brake, and check the battery and cables, belts and hoses. The exhaust and fuel filter should also be checked at this interval.
  • Every six months or 6,000 miles, the chassis lubrication should be checked and windshield wipers should be replaced.
  • Every 12 months or 12,000 miles, the brakes, spark plugs, coolant and steering and suspension should be checked.

Seeing is Believing When it Comes to Road Safety

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Following a few auto care visibility tips can be illuminating, helping to ensure the safety of you, your passengers and other vehicles around you.

  • Replace any exterior or interior lights that are dimming, rapidly blinking or non-functioning, and be sure headlights are correctly aimed.
  • Make sure that vehicle mirrors are clean and properly positioned.
  • Check windshield washer fluid level and when it gets low, replace it.
  • Replace wiper blades if they show cracking or if they chatter or streak when operating. Don’t forget to check the rear wiper blade.
  • When in doubt, turn your lights on to help you see and help other drivers see you. Some states have laws that require headlights to be on when windshield wipers are operating.
  • Don’t overdrive your headlights. Maintain a speed that will allow you to stop within the illuminated area, otherwise you create a blind crash zone in front of your vehicle.

Tire Safety: Check Your Tires for Wear and Tear

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It only takes a penny to see if your tires are worn or losing tread. Examining your tires for wear and tear, along with checking tire pressure and alignment, are essential to ensuring your vehicle’s safety on the road and helping to improve gas mileage and performance. The non-profit Car Care Council recommends that motorists be car care aware and check tire condition and pressure regularly.

“The penny test is a simple, yet effective, way to check tire tread. If you see Lincoln’s head above the tread, you are ready for new tires,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Tires are critical to a vehicle’s handling and traction, and maintaining proper pressure is vitally important to vehicle safety. Underinflated tires are under stress and will wear unevenly, causing them to need to be replaced sooner. Routinely checking tire balance and wheel alignment reduces tire wear, improves handling, and increases fuel economy.” Continue reading