Last week, I twice found myself standing at a gas pump, in single digit temperatures waiting for what must have been individual droplets of gasoline to drip into my car’s tank. The digits slowly ticked over and, as my hands grew colder, I thought about going into the car for my coat, maybe some gloves. I thought about ending the transaction and trying another pump. But I waited. And I told myself I’d Google why this happens. Then, I got in my car and drove away without Googling a damn thing, just like I had every other time it happened.
But today I remembered to look up why gas pumps sometimes run slow. Some of the reasons make intuitive sense, and one reason, a leak, doesn’t really.
The first thing I read was this post from Evora Group, a company that, as far as I can tell, sells and services gas pumps. Note: They call gas pumps “dispensers” so as not to confuse them with the kind of fuel pump you’d find in your car.
The post says the most common cause is a clogged filter. Say hello to Ben Thomas from usttraining.com, who explains here in this “Tank Savvy Minute” (If you’ve seen this episode of Tank Savvy Minute, you can skip it.)
Ben says filters should last a year, or if you pump more than 100,000 gallons a month, every six months. Of course, a dirty fuel tank may require more frequent filter changes.
Another possible cause is a bad pump, which is pretty self-explanatory though it’s worth mentioning that cold ambient temperatures can apparently cause pumps to run slow.
But the one slow flow cause that I found really interesting was a tripped leak detector. When the leak detector uh, detects a leak, it will trigger a slow flow condition, which ideally will result in a customer notifying someone at the station that there’s something wrong. Here’s Ben again in an absolute 10/10 Popcorn classic Tank Savvy Minute:
He says it could mean there’s a three gallon per-hour leak in the underground line? That seems like a lot of gallons.
I’ve experienced a slow gas pump many times and have never once notified the person working the counter at the station. It may be time for a rethink if you’re relying on customers, who I’d imagine mostly pay with a card and never enter the store, to alert you to a possible fuel leak.
Anyway, that’s why the pumps sometimes run slow. Having now looked it up, I feel a tremendous sense of relief. I hope you do too.
Updated 3/3/22 with new details.
This story was originally published on February 26, 2021