Is Your Gas Cap on the Left or the Right?

Last week while driving a rental car, I pulled up at a gas station and experienced the dreaded “Oh no!” moment: I had no idea on which side of my car the gas cap was located. If you’re like me, the initial “Oh no!” is followed by a few moments of awkwardly craning your neck out the window in hopes of seeing (or not seeing) the gas door on the driver’s side. More often than not, however, I guess and just pull up to the pump – only to back up and circle around when my guess is wrong.

Arrow Indicators on New Cars?

Mistaking the gas cap location may seem like a minor inconvenience. But, what if there were a way to always know on which side it were located, without ever exiting the vehicle?

Good news: The secret to the gas cap location has been on our dashboards all along. If you are driving a newer car (as many rental cars are), then take a look at the arrow by the gas gauge on your dashboard. Depending on your car, it may look like a triangle pointing to the left or right.

What does this mysterious arrow mean? It’s a directional indicator that identifies which side of the vehicle the gas tank is located. For example, if the arrow points to the left, it means the gas cap is located on the left side, so the car should be parked to the right of the gas pump.

Gas Pump Icon on Old Cars?

What about in older cars that lack the arrow? Can gas gauges tell us on which side the gas cap is located? Older cars still have a gas pump icon located near the gas gauge. The pump icon’s handle either extends to the left or right.

So does the handle location indicate which side to pull up next to the gas pump? Unfortunately, this popular Internet rumor has been shot down. Sometimes there is a correlation between the pump handle and the gas cap location, but it appears to be simply coincidence. The side of the handle does not always indicate the side of the gas pump; only the gas gauge arrow, featured on newer models, does.

Other Fuel Indicator Myths Debunked

Not all drivers are satisfied with this explanation of the mysterious gas gauge arrow. Leave it to the Internet conspiracy theorists to think up some crazy ideas ­about alternative meanings. One Internet rumor claims the arrow will light up if a car is driven a certain distance since it was last fueled. Supposedly, this is a way for rental car companies to determine how “full” the gas tank really is.

Sorry, folks, but there’s no truth behind that rumor. Consumer Reports senior engineer Tom Mutchler confirms that the arrow is, in fact, a gas cap indicator.

Unfortunately, even knowing the gas tank location can’t always make your visit to the gas station more pleasant. With the national average gas price steadily climbing, drivers are experiencing pain at the pump this year.

According to, prices are on the rise again after a brief respite earlier this summer. With the national average gas price hovering just above $3.50 per gallon, I wish that I knew the secret to cheaper gas prices, too.

But, while the prices stay high, you can help to stretch out the distance between pit stops by taking some simple steps to increase your gas mileage.

Did you know what the gas gauge arrow meant? What symbols or controls on your car remain mysteries?

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