How To Siphon Gas

If you’re still without power, there’s a good chance it may take a while to get it back. Some places may take a week or more. If that’s you, I’m assuming you’re reading this via the network of squirrels you modified to receive WiFi or 3G signals with drywall screws in their cranium, and then squeaking the content of web pages back to you in morse code. Good thinking.

You may be lucky enough to have a generator (or are using your car) to provide power. But, generator juice isn’t infinite, and at some point you’re going to lose yourself playing Forza and realize you’re almost out of gas, and hence what little electricity you have. And, in this case, electricity=sanity.

Getting to a gas station is likely to be an incredible pain, from what we’ve seen so far. So would transporting cans of gas back by hand or precariously on your bike. Luckily, you’re likely surrounded by a great deal of gas in your waterlogged (and your friend’s) cars. We don’t condone stealing the gas (unless it’s an emergency) and even then you should really be prepared to reimburse. Okay?

So, here’s how to siphon gas (relatively) safely out of a tank. Many of you know this, but I still meet a good number of car folks that don’t. It’s quite easy. As always: be safe, use common sense, and do so at your own risk.

How To Siphon Gas

Here’s what you’ll need: a hose (clear preferred), a gas can (ideally actually designed to hold gas— if not, avoid thin plastics and try and use something metal, like a watering can), and a pair of functioning lungs.

Before we go into the procedure, let’s quickly cover how and why this actually works. Essentially, when we siphon a liquid, we’re suctioning some of the liquid from a higher source into a hose, so that there is an unbroken “chain” of liquid from the source and into the hose, ending when the hose ends over your receiving container.

How To Siphon Gas

When the fluid is filling both the source tank and the interior of the hose as one unbroken mass, the pressure of air inside the tank will press down on the liquid, forcing the fluid through the hose and eventually exiting at the source. Because the liquid is actually being pushed by air pressure, the fluid can go against gravity to get to the exit, as long as the eventual exit is lower. That means it can go up a section of hose needed to exit the gas tank before going back down to the gas can. Make sense?

How To Siphon Gas

Step One: Get the hose in the tank: This is actually the hardest part. Most cars today have small fuel-filler openings with spring-loaded flaps inside them to prevent fuel vapors from escaping. Depending on the stiffness of your hose, you may need to first open the little flap. I’ve used a chopstick before, and in New York, any apartment should have a drawerful of those things. Your chosen hose diameter will need to fit through the hole, which is roughly 50-cent piece sized.

If you’re using a screwdriver to pry the flap open, be careful— you could bend the flap or scratch the paint, or, unlikely but possible, create a spark and blow everything up. If you do that, everyone will call you an idiot even though they want their phones charged as much as you. Assholes.

You can also use a funnel to get the flap open, or a turkey baster with the bulb removed, or, more ideally, the nozzle from a gas can— if you have one with a removable nozzle.

Take your time, and make sure the flap isn’t kinking your hose too much. If so, you may need a friend to hold the flap open with a chopstick.

Step Two: Suck gas into the hose. This is the part with the most possibility of danger. Tempting as it is, don’t drink the gas. I know it looks golden and crisp and refreshing, but it’s not. This is why a clear hose is handy. I’m assuming you’re improvising here, so you may not have one. If you’re using a length of garden hose or something, you can usually feel the gas approaching your mouth before it hits.

If you get gas in your mouth, don’t panic— just don’t swallow. Then rinse your mouth with water.

The key to this step is no air pockets in the hose. So, keep your length of hose as short and straight as you safely can.

Step three: Once you get the gas near the end of the hose, place the end of the hose in your receiving vessel, pointing down. Gas should start to flow from the tank into your gas can. Keep the inside-tank end low in the tank and submerged to prevent air from getting in, which will ruin the siphon.

The gas should flow in a good, steady stream. When you get your vessel filled, kink the end of the hose and raise it higher than the tank, opening facing up. Open the end, letting air in to force the remaining gas in the hose back in the tank. Then, remove the hose (you may need to hold the little flap open to do this), replace the gas cap, clean up any spilled gas or vomit, and you’re done!

It’s pretty easy once you do it, and watching the gas flow through a clear hose with some loops in it is kind of soothing. Just take your time, don’t steal anyone’s gas, and be careful.

Happy siphoning!