The Gas Arrow, or, on which side of your car is your gas tank filler?

By | Tuesday, December 25, 2012 Leave a Comment

My cousin Hank told me the other day about an automobile feature that I never knew existed. In your own car, you know which side the gas cap is on (or perhaps I should say that I hope you know.) But on a rental car, when you get to a gas station, how do you know? If you were me, you got out of the car and looked. But guess what?!? It turns out that on the gas gauges of most modern cars there is a little arrow pointing to the side that the gas filler is on.

I gotta say that is a brilliant little standard that the automakers have created. However, it would be a lot more brilliant IF THEY HAD F'ING TOLD SOMEONE! I mean, come on! You add a spectacularly useful feature to your product, but then you don’t tell people that it is there??? What’s that about?

Here, for your enjoyment, is the page from my car’s owner’s manual discussing the fuel gauge:

There's the arrow, plain as day. But does the text say anything about it? I think not.

The whole thing makes me think of the movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) . [SPOILER ALERT] In one of the movie’s many famous scenes, the Russian ambassador tells the U.S. President and his cabinet (including Dr. Strangelove) about the existence of a secret doomsday machine. The machine is set to blow up the planet, destroying all life on earth if anyone detonates an atomic weapon, thereby deterring the use of atomic bombs by all players. But the doomsday machine is only a deterrent if everyone knows about it, and everyone knows that they will die if they attack. Dr. Strangelove, in a clenched tooth, throat gripping invective demands "...the whole point of the Doomsday machine is lost if you keep it a secret - WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL THE WORLD, EH?"

That’s what I want to know. Hey car companies! You added this great little bit of useful information to your cars. WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL THE WORLD, EH?

By the way, I did a bit of searching to try to find out when the “gas arrow” started showing up on dashboards. I did a general online search. I searched the U.S. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.) I searched the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers.) I searched the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) since they set fuel standards in the U.S. I turned up nothing. My guess is that some car company (probably Mercedes Benz) came up with the idea and that everyone else just followed suit without any standards body getting involved. If you know when this little arrow started appearing on dash boards, and/or why it wasn't announced to the automobile driving public, I’d love to hear about it.

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