Gas Tanks: Why Aren’t All Fuel Doors on the Same Side?
- By Mac Demere
In the United States, there are no regulations that specify where a fuel door should be placed. So, car-company engineers can place the door to the gas tank on whichever side offers the easiest packaging, according to Ford spokesman Mark Schirmer.
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“The placement of the fuel door is mainly a factor of fuel tank design, location and underbody packaging,” Nissan’s Communications Manager Steve Yaeger said. “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 speaker must be placed on the left side, engineers put the fuel door on the right, says Ford spokesman Mark Schirmer. 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.
How to Find the Location of Your Car’s Fuel Door
Quick: Where is your car’s fuel door — on the driver side or passenger side? If you can’t remember the location, don’t be ashamed to look at the little diamond-arrow on your fuel gauge … BEFORE you pull up to the pump.
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.
However, 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 car 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 cohorts, 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.
Until automakers and regulators come together to develop a universal code or template for the placement of fuel doors (be they for gasoline, electricity or another type of fuel) drivers should pay attention to the location of the doors before they approach a filling or charging station to help avoid potential frustration.
Originally published September 2014.