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.

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Tips for Checking Your Tire Pressure

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Proper maintenance of your car can be crucial for its long life and safe operation. Your tires are one of the most important parts of your car; literally the place where the rubber meets the road. Regular care and maintenance are crucial to the safe and reliable performance of your vehicle.

The air pressure inside your tires needs to be checked regularly to help ensure your vehicle runs smoothly and efficiently. Underinflated tires can contribute to increased wear and tear, and also reduce fuel efficiency, says Edmunds. Tires can lose air in a variety of ways, including a tiny hole, a leak on the the valve stem or an issue with the wheel on which it’s mounted, according to Popular Mechanics. In addition, changing temperatures can affect the air pressure of your tires. Tire pressure can vary 1-2 pounds per square inch (psi) for every 10-degree difference in ambient temperature, according to Goodyear. Keep in mind, it can be difficult to tell if a radial tire needs air just by looking at it, so tires should be checked.

When Should I Check?

Tires warm up when your car is moving. Air expands inside a “hot” tire, so the air pressure reading will likely not be accurate for a hot tire. Tire air pressure should be checked once a month when the tires are cold, says Edmunds. But, you may want to consider checking your tire pressure more frequently in the following instances, which may make the affect the pressure:

  • If you run over a sharp object, like a nail, that can puncture the rubber.
  • If you strike a curb or other object.
  • If the weather suddenly changes from warm to cold.

If your car has a tire pressure sensor and the light on the dashboard is illuminated, you should check the tire pressure immediately on all four tires, says Bridgestone.

How Should I Check?

Edmunds recommends some simple steps for properly checking tire pressure:

Step 1. Purchase a tire gauge. Tire gauges are small enough to fit in your glove box, and they’re a handy tool to have. The newer digital tire gauges can be more accurate — and easier to read — than the older ones. If you don’t want to purchase a gauge, you can go to the air pump at a gas station, which usually has a gauge on the hose. That’s convenient, because if you find that your tires need air, you’re already there.

Step 2. Discover the proper air pressure for your car. Tire pressure is measured in pounds per square inch, or psi. You can often find the right psi for your vehicle on a yellow sticker inside the driver’s-side door jamb, or you can consult your owner’s manual. Remember, the ideal air pressure may be different for the front and rear tires.

Step 3. Remove the air valve cap from your tire. It’s easy to lose this little valve cap. Be sure to place it in your pocket or someplace where it will not roll away or quickly disappear.

Step 4. Press the tire gauge against the open valve stem. You will hear a hiss of air as you press down. Don’t be concerned; this is normal.

Step 5. Read the air pressure gauge. The number will appear on the dial or digital screen on the tire gauge. Compare this number with the recommended tire pressure for the tire. If it’s too low, you can add air. If the pressure is too high, you can let air out of the tire.

DIY: How to Change Windshield Wiper Blades

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What Needs To Be Done:

Windshield wiper blades need to be inspected and replaced, if needed, on a regular basis.

Why Do It?

  • Windshield wiper blades are made out of rubber, which can wear even with limited use.
  • By being certain that your windshield wiper blades are in optimum condition, you are ensuring the safety of your vehicle and its passengers.
  • If you are driving your car in pouring rain, snow or sleet, worn-out wiper blades can impede the wipers’ ability to clean the windshield, which can limit your visibility.
  • Making sure your windshield wipers are newly inspected and replaced, if necessary, can help ensure safety.

How Often?

The frequency at which your windshield wiper blades need replacement depends, in part, on the conditions where you live and drive.Some general information is listed below, but always defer to your car owner’s manual and the information that comes with your wiper blades for advice on maintenance.

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

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.