Consumer Reports: Should You Top Off Your Car’s Gas Tank?

For drivers who haven’t made the switch to an electric vehicle yet, gas prices are pretty high right now. Consumer Reports wonders if topping off your car’s gas tank might do more harm than good. Plus, what are some ways to find better gas prices?

Consumer Reports says topping off the gas tank isn’t a great idea

Consumer Reports: Should You Top Off Your Car’s Gas Tank?
Consumer Reports: Should You Top Off Your Car’s Gas Tank? | Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Consumer Reports investigated the idea that topping off a gas tank can be detrimental to the car and the car’s fuel economy over time. Good fuel economy is an important part of owning a vehicle. Filling up your car’s gas tank can be an inconvenient task, especially during a trip. But can adding extra fuel damage the vehicle? Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic John Ibbotson says that filling up your car’s fuel tank has become more complicated with new technology. “Fuel systems have become more sophisticated over time to keep up with increasingly stricter emission laws,” he noted.

A critical piece of the gasoline tank is the onboard refueling vapor recovery (ORVR) system. Consumer Reports says this is “a charcoal canister that collects potentially harmful fuel vapor during the refueling process and then absorbs it using activated carbon.” This system helps reduce emissions by 95% during refueling.

You don’t want to damage expensive systems within the gas tank

By adding more gasoline after the pump clicks, it can damage this charcoal canister ORVR system. The fuel can saturate the canister and cause a check engine light. If the ORVR is damaged, it won’t reduce emissions correctly.

Generally, the ORVR system can last the lifetime of a car. If you find yourself frequently adding extra gas to the tank, consider this advice from Consumer Reports. Also, this runs you the risk of overfilling your car and leaking gas onto the ground. That can be a safety and environmental hazard. If the gas pump clicks off, it is best to leave it.

There are better ways to cut costs at the pump


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Suppose you are looking to save money while at the gas pump, Consumer Reports has a few more tricks that might work. Downloading an app like GasBuddy can help users find better deals on gas. Gas stations on one side of the road might have better prices compared to those across the street. Choosing a different station location might offer better savings if one is often underpriced.

In addition to an app of that nature, using an app for your local gas station can accrue points over time. Gas stations like 7-11 and Exxon Mobil let users pay for fuel using the app, which you get points for over time. Plus, be sure you know what kind of gas your vehicle takes. Not all cars require premium, but some buyers use it anyway.

Don’t count out the gasoline from places like Costco or Sam’s Club either. These often offer better prices due to the required membership, but the lines can be long. A Costco run might be beneficial if you find yourself out and about at odd hours of the day and night.

Overall, it is a good idea to shop around for better prices using an app. And don’t make a habit of topping up your car’s gas tank for the sake of keeping it in tip-top shape.