Scared to Pump Gas?

Here are Four Reasons Why and What You Can Do About It.

Anxiety at the pumps is more common than one might think.  

Four reasons people are scared to pump their own gas.

  1. Fear of being robbed/attacked
  2. Anxiety when operating the pump/payment system
  3. Fear of spilling/touching gas
  4. Anxiety over environmental guilt

People Are Scared of Being Robbed or Attacked While They Pump Gas.

Self serve gas stations aren’t the most welcoming places for solo travelers needing to re-fuel, especially at night in areas with low traffic. 

YouTube is chock full of videos about innocent people being attacked at the pump, having their vehicle stolen and even killed.

The fear is real.

According to this Globe and Mail article, a large number of women in particular, are reluctant, afraid and avoidant when it comes to visiting the self-serve pumps. 

They fear being stared at, jeered and basically harassed while trying to fill their tanks. Many will drive far distances to find full-service stations or ask someone to come with them when they need to re-fuel.

“I get stared at and judged by all males there pumping gas,” says Toronto resident Chelsea Larkin. “Like, they look at me and think, ‘Wow, a girl is pumping gas by herself?!’ They either laugh at me or watch every move I make. If I don’t park in the perfect spot for reach of the gas hose, they smirk and scoff like I’m an idiot. It’s infuriating.”

The Solution?

If this sounds familiar to you, best to plan ahead and refuel during the day if possible and/or bring someone with you. 

It helps to fill up at the same time every week, you can even add a reminder into your phone. 

Lock your doors while filling your tank and keep the keys on you.

Never go out at night on empty and if you absolutely must get gas at night, choose the pump closest to the attendant in the best lit spot you can find.

Anxiety When Operating the Pump.

Every pump is a little bit different. The payment and button sequence can be confusing and may not even work properly if the equipment is not in good working order.

For me, the worst is when you go through the whole payment process, pick up the handle and then get an error message and instructions to pay the attendant inside.

“Every time I have ever had to put gas in my own vehicle, I have had to ask for help. I pay, put the thing in my tank, and then can’t figure out the buttons and switches to make the gas actually pump. I have never successfully put gas in my own car by myself. Also, I’ve heard too many gas station horror stories, like people hiding HIV infected needles under handles, or strangers climbing into your car if you forget to lock it.” member

The Solution?

If you frequent a particular station, use the same pump so there are fewer surprises. Stay calm and read the instructions on the pump. Rushing could lead to mistakes and delay the task at hand.

Hit the cancel button and start over if you need to. Don’t be afraid to ask the attendant for help. Most pumps have an intercom button that connects to the person inside.

People also fear money scams at the pump. This article details a warning put out by Visa a few years ago regarding hacking of gas pumps.

The hacking method was more advanced than the usual “skimming” where unauthorized devices are attached to the card readers in order to steal customer information.

These attacks involved hacking the gas station’s Point of Sale system where they capture information in real-time.

The Solution?

In order to avoid falling victim to such scams, always check the card reader before inserting your card. If there are protruding parts, beware. A skimming device can look like this. 

If the pumps are hacked at the Point of Sale, then choose pumps that use chip readers, which are less likely to be compromised. Visa is now refusing liability for theft on non-chip readers.

Another big reason for anxiety while operating a gas pump is GERMS. This is a legit fear. Especially given the current circumstances with public health.

According to, gas pump handles are the WORST surfaces for germs:

“Clocking in at an eye-popping 2 million CFU of germs, the average gas pump handle was found to be 6,428 times dirtier than public elevator buttons and 11,835 times dirtier than a public toilet seat.”

The Solution? 

Wear gloves and/or keep hand sanitizer in your car to use after pumping and before you touch your steering wheel. As soon as you’re able, wash your hands with soap and water.

People Fear Spilling or Touching Gas.

It’s probably safe to assume that we have all spilled at least a few drops when fueling up,

But what happens when the spill is significant enough to get on your skin or soak your clothes?

As long as it doesn’t stay on your skin for more than a couple of hours, you should be fine. 

The Solution?

Wash your skin thoroughly with warm water and soap at your first opportunity.

If gas gets on your clothing, follow the steps in infographic below.

Be sure to clean your steering wheel and any other surfaces inside your vehicle too.

Anxiety Over Gas Prices and Environmental Harm.

This fear has its roots in environmental and financial implications. 

In this article, the author mentions two types of “gas anxiety” that many of us have probably not considered.

The first type refers to gas pump anxiety resulting from the financial burden of fuel costs and the second type of anxiety is from the negative effects gas emissions have on our health and the health of the environment. 

The Solution?

Seek alternate forms of transportation. This could mean, switching to an electric car, downsizing to a more gas-efficient vehicle, using public transit or car pooling.

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