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Old 10-26-2009, 04:39 PM   #1 (permalink)
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FYI: What happens when you overfill the gas tank

Ever wonder what happens when you overfill the gas tank? Me neither. On a drive last month, I stopped to fill up at a run-down gas station in the middle of nowhere (hey, it's Colorado, not a lot of choices sometimes). The pump was incredibly slow, slower than I've ever seen before. Eventually, I noticed gas literally pouring out from under the car! Either it was too slow to trip the auto-shutoff, or that feature of the pump was broken. No fuel got on the paint, for there's a drain hole in the plastic part surrounding the fill tube. I opened the engine cover to help evaporation, and pushed the car forward a few feet to get it away from the pool of gas on the ground. The clerk inside was pretty much indifferent when I told her about the problem.

Probably goes without saying that I waited quite a bit before starting up the car after this...
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Old 10-26-2009, 04:51 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Ever wonder what happens when you overfill the gas tank? Me neither. On a drive last month, I stopped to fill up at a run-down gas station in the middle of nowhere (hey, it's Colorado, not a lot of choices sometimes). The pump was incredibly slow, slower than I've ever seen before. Eventually, I noticed gas literally pouring out from under the car! Either it was too slow to trip the auto-shutoff, or that feature of the pump was broken. No fuel got on the paint, for there's a drain hole in the plastic part surrounding the fill tube. I opened the engine cover to help evaporation, and pushed the car forward a few feet to get it away from the pool of gas on the ground. The clerk inside was pretty much indifferent when I told her about the problem.

Probably goes without saying that I waited quite a bit before starting up the car after this...
Hey, don't pick on Colorado! There are many other places you could be (more miserable)...

Chances are your car will/has thrown a malfunction code due to raw gas in the charcoal cannister from overfilling. You'll just get to drive around for awhile with the "Check Engine" light on. It will clear itself in a few days.
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Old 10-26-2009, 04:52 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Old 10-26-2009, 05:04 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Holy crap!!!

Next time you fill up your car at the track, I'll be sure not to light up a cigar next to you.
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Old 10-27-2009, 04:29 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I do not trust the auto shut off so if I ever see over 7 gallons going in the car I stop pumping right then. Only once did I ever need more than 7 gallons and that was after a track day... stupid bubbling gas throwing off the gauges!
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Old 10-27-2009, 10:14 AM   #6 (permalink)
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What happens when you overfill the gas tank?

Well, on some cars, it has been known to cause damage to other systems in the car - for example, it can flow through the vacuum system into the cruise control mechanism and cause failures. It all depends on the car (not that we have to worry about our cruise controls ).

Usually the worst is that it gets into the charcoal canister as mentioned above.
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Old 10-27-2009, 10:32 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Not the Lotus, but I once hit a pot hole so deep the gas tank hit the ground and got a hole poked in it. I didn't notice it until several hours later when i smelled gas in my house. I opened the door to the garage and a HUGE puddle of gas. And my gas water heater is just on the other side of the wall.
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Old 10-27-2009, 10:58 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Not the Lotus, but I once hit a pot hole so deep the gas tank hit the ground and got a hole poked in it. I didn't notice it until several hours later when i smelled gas in my house. I opened the door to the garage and a HUGE puddle of gas. And my gas water heater is just on the other side of the wall.
What kind of terribly engineered car was that?
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Old 10-27-2009, 10:59 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I do not trust the auto shut off so if I ever see over 7 gallons going in the car I stop pumping right then. Only once did I ever need more than 7 gallons and that was after a track day... stupid bubbling gas throwing off the gauges!
I've never seen or heard of the auto shut off not working.

I don't pump gas anywhere other than Sunoco or Shell either though, and only stations that look new or well maintained. In Mexico I use Pemex stations and I've never had problems there either though. If I start pumping gas and it's going abnormally slowly, I stop pumping and leave.
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Old 10-27-2009, 11:03 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I've never seen or heard of the auto shut off not working.
They fail all the time. Good stations swap out a new(er) nozzle very quickly.

Haven't you ever driven up to the pumps and seen an "out of order" sign on the pump? Chances are that's because the auto shut off on that nozzle is having problems..
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Old 10-27-2009, 11:23 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I've had it happen to me once as well. I was talking to a friend at the next pump when I heard a liquid pouring on the ground. Sure enough, there was a puddle of gas under the car. I never noticed any ill effects from it.
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Old 10-27-2009, 11:48 AM   #12 (permalink)
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What kind of terribly engineered car was that?
That was the mighty 1980 Ford Fairmont.
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Old 10-27-2009, 01:20 PM   #13 (permalink)
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haha, were you sitting there staring at the meter going "damn, did the tank grow?"

Sorry I just got a mental image of that, and it made me giggle.
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Old 10-27-2009, 01:54 PM   #14 (permalink)
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It kinda freaked me out at first, for there was no gas pouring out from around the handle, and by the time I removed the handle, there was no gas around the filler tube - so I didn't know where the gas was coming from! The drain hole is hard to spot.

What are the symptoms of a damaged charcoal canister?

There was never any CEL, though I haven't checked for any stored codes (the BWR gauge pod is blocking the port, though not a big deal to relocate that...just another project for the list).
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Old 10-28-2009, 05:42 PM   #15 (permalink)
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What are the symptoms of a damaged charcoal canister?

There was never any CEL, though I haven't checked for any stored codes (the BWR gauge pod is blocking the port, though not a big deal to relocate that...just another project for the list).
Not likely that you've actually caused damage to the cannister. If you haven't seen a CEL by now, you're probably home free. The malfunction is that the cannister cannot act to absorb gas vapors from the fuel system when it's already swimming in gas. Gasoline is very volatile, so it will evaporate harmlessly over time, usually in a couple of hours/days depending on how much of a soaking you gave it. Sounds as if your overflow was very minor.
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Old 10-28-2009, 09:03 PM   #16 (permalink)
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definitely be careful overfilling the tank...and watch out for these guys:
YouTube - Zoolander- Gasoline accident
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Old 10-28-2009, 09:56 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I think that gas pumps use a charcoal filter which can get clogged/defunct over time hence they don't stop when its full.

I hate slow gas pumps!
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Old 10-28-2009, 10:26 PM   #18 (permalink)
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I've actually had gas pour out all down the side of the car and part of my leg (yes, it was my Elise). Wasn't paying attention and had the pump going at full stream when the auto shut-off failed.

Pretty embarrassing. I got plenty of laughs from the guys waiting at the nearby bus stop. All I could think about was my paint. That was like 8 months ago and the finish is fine.
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Old 10-29-2009, 05:46 AM   #19 (permalink)
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I've actually had gas pour out all down the side of the car and part of my leg (yes, it was my Elise). Wasn't paying attention and had the pump going at full stream when the auto shut-off failed.

Pretty embarrassing. I got plenty of laughs from the guys waiting at the nearby bus stop. All I could think about was my paint. That was like 8 months ago and the finish is fine.
I had the automatic shutoff screw up and pour gas down the side of the exige, the attendant was laughing I snatched his whole roll of paper towels and drove off... and had to come back to grab my gas cap off the pump
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