Here’s what you need to know about siphoning fuel

Desperate times call for desperate measures
by Drei Laurel | Jun 2, 2019
PHOTO: Clker-Free-Vector-Images/

Siphoning fuel is the act of manually (or orally, rather) emptying the contents of your car’s fuel tank using your mouth, a plastic tube, and the power of suction and gravity.

Before you guys get any ideas, we’re discussing this as a desperate means for getting your hands on gasoline or diesel from your own vehicle or from somebody else’s ride—with the owner’s permission. This isn’t a ticket to scoring a free full tank of gas. Remember: Honesty is still the best policy.

That said, there are quite a number of things you need to remember when siphoning fuel. Keep in mind you’re handling highly combustible and toxic substances here. We can’t stress enough that one wrong move or even a slight oversight can land you in the emergency room.

Let’s get started, shall we?

What you’ll need

You’ll need a plastic tube at least one inch in diameter or a hose. Either way, find something that’s long enough to reach inside your car’s gas tank. Clear material is recommended so you can see if you’re actually transferring fuel as you go.

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The container you’re transferring fuel into must be rated to hold fuel. You can’t store fuel in just anything. Use a proper jerry or gas can that is factory-approved to hold flammable substances like gasoline or diesel, as some plastic containers become brittle with age or are unable to withstand factors like the pressures of gas expansion. Ask around at a fuel station or hardware store for containers suited to hold fuel products.

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Keep rags and water on hand—the former for wiping away fuel and sealing the tube or hose into place, and the latter to rinse your mouth.

Also, have a fire extinguisher at the ready, as well as a first-aid kit. This is one of the basics of handling extremely flammable liquids or materials. This brings us to...

Safety precautions

We do not recommend attempting to siphon by yourself as fumes from gasoline or diesel can cause dizziness and even fainting. The last thing you want is to black out with liters of a flammable substance flowing out of your car and onto the floor. If possible, have someone else nearby to assist you if necessary.

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Avoid ingesting the fuel you’re siphoning at all costs, and rinse your mouth immediately after siphoning. Fuel products and their various additives are extremely toxic to humans and can cause vomiting, confusion, loss of consciousness, lung damage, damage to internal organs, and even death when consumed.

According to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, ingesting as little as 20 grams of gasoline is enough to cause severe intoxication in adults—350 grams can result in death. Even getting it in your eyes or on your skin can lead to serious injury. For this reason, be familiar with the contact numbers for emergency services, and get help if you feel you’ve ingested fuel.

For obvious reasons, make sure your car’s engine is switched off, and that it is in Park with the handbrake on. Ensure that your fuel container is stable and not prone to tipping over, and that the tube or hose you’re using does not have any punctures or leaks. Also, do not fill up your container to the brim.

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How to do it

Insert the tube into the car’s gas tank and make sure it’s submerged in the fuel. Run the length of the tube toward your container with a portion of it placed below the level of the car’s fuel tank. Again, ensure your container will not tip over and is in a secure position.

Take the end of the tube and suck on it very carefully to initiate the flow. Don’t suck on it like you would milk tea after lining up for the drink for over 45 minutes. Again, you want to avoid getting fuel inside your mouth, as the substance is extremely toxic to humans.

We recommended using a clear tube or hose so you can see once fuel begins flowing toward your mouth. Once it gets going, immediately place the end of your hose or tube into the container and let gravity do the rest.

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Rinse your mouth with water immediately to remove traces of fuel, and use a rag to wipe away any amount that may have spilled over or dripped. Once you’ve successfully filled your container (again, not to the brim), place its cap or cover on securely. Do the same for your car’s fuel cap.

Siphoning alternatives

If you’re not too keen about siphoning fuel with your mouth, you can use the two-tube method of siphoning. Instead of using the power of suction to initiate flow, you insert a second, shorter tube into the gas tank and blow into it to create pressure that will get fuel flowing out. Below is a video of this process:

Another alternative is to use pumps like the ones in the video seen below. If you’re going the pump route, we do not recommend a makeshift setup with a motorized unit. It may seem like a convenient way to get siphoning done, but using a motorized pump is harder to control than a hand-operated one, and it may easily lead to overfilling you container or spillage. This is a potentially dangerous thing you’re doing, so you’d do best not to take any shortcuts.

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And that’s about it. Always remember: Safety first. Make sure to take every precaution possible to avoid fires and unwanted trips to the hospital. It might take a little extra work, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. We can’t stress this enough.

Siphoning fuel is a very handy skill, especially in dire situations where you’re in need of fuel and there’s no gas pump in sight. That said, only perform it in the correct setting and with the right know-how and safety measures in place. Drive safe out there.

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