Cellphones and Petrol/Gas

What, please IS the danger of using tuing a mobile phone near petrol? I mean, even a non-driving dimwit like me can see why I should not smoke a cigarette in a ppetrol station, but I confess I can’t guess wha the phone problem is. I am not suggesting that I mind the restriction at all - it is merely a matter of curiosity.

On Friday, I was in my brother’s car, speaking to his wife on a mobile phone.

As we pulled into a petrol station to buy a newspaper, I dimly recalled that one is not meant to uswe a mobile phone in a petrol station. Helpfully, brother reminded me and I got off phone damn fast - I suspect his wife thought I was pretty rude, (but , dammit, when I say “Sorry, but I MUST go now” why are there people who happily continue to talk? Oh well)

I meaqn, there are sort of little radios, aren;t they? But one can use radios near petrol.

Clever Dopers, please advise (and I jsut know that I am going to feel very stupid when it turns out to be glaringly obvious.


The TV show “Mythbusters” tried to recreate this scenario, but never could. Some people think that the act of rubbing against the seat material is what causes the spark that ignites the vapor coming off the fuel pump.

Ever get shocked while getting out of your car in dry weather?

As a physicist, i can tell you that there’s nothing about the radiation emitted from a cell phone that would instigate combustion. I could also tell you that consumer electronics are not designed to have parts that produce open sparks, especially devices like cell phones that are mostly solid-state.

As a googler, i can point you here and here.

You could, but you’d be wrong. Or at least misleading. True, most consumer electronics aren’t specifically designed to create sparks, but few of them are specifically designed not to, either. Particularly vulnerable are switches, which when opened while carrying current can produce small arcs which could ignite flammable vapors, under the right conditions. Cell phones do have small switches in them, but the voltages and currents are so small that arcing is virtually negligible, but they can’t be 100% ruled out as possible ignition sources. Nevertheless, I’m not aware of any instance where a cell phone has been definitively linked to a gas station fire. There was a recent case where the fire investigator determined that a cell phone started the fire, but the hard evidence is lacking and it is not at all clear that the finding is accurate.

Mr. Blue,

Did you see the follow up show to the cell phone episode? Apparently the show received a lot of letters suggesting other ways a cell phone could ignite fuel vapors. All the worthy suggestions where tried and still no bang. They even went as far as to short out the cell phone battery; it did not generate enough heat to have any effect.

Since watching both episodes I have noticed that a lot of women do return to their car seat while fueling. A suggestion to the less knowledgeable, make sure to dissipate any accumulated static each time you exit the vehicle by touching some metal on the car before getting near the fuel nozzle.

Thank, you, everyone. So it’s a bit of an urban legend then? Oops - I would have checked Snopes, but, I was just all too willing to believe that there was some high scientific reason that I did not know. Haha, so I have learned something. Come to think of it, if it did make sense, then every petrol station would, presumably, have large signs saying"Switch off ignition. No Smoking. Oh, and switch off mobile phones too, while you’re about it"
On the other hand, of course, excuses to get out of telphone conversations are always handy to have. :slight_smile:

I’m Scottish - I’d be shocked to find it was dry weather! :slight_smile: (Merely an unpatriotic little joke - if fact I don’t know when I last saw rain, and I wish we coudl have some)

I have no evidence to base this on fact, but I always thought the ‘No mobiles in Gas/Petrol Stations’ rule was for the same reason that it exists in Hospitals… so that the radio signal can’t interfere with the electronic devices. So you don’t end up paying for 20c worth of gas and driving off with a full tank. I know car radios also have signals whizzing around everywhere, but perhaps they are not of the same type. :dubious:

Please commence shooting down…

Of course, you don’t see signs in petrol stations saying “no dogs” or “no walkmans”, but you do see signs saying “no mobiles”. Clearly, putting up mobile phone signs is not a random happening, then, but a determined policy by the petrol station chains against mobile phones. You would imagine that they don’t go about putting up signs that they are not required to put up for convenience or legislation, since it costs them money. And since no-one is suggesting a conspiracy involving a shady cadre of “no mobile” sign-posters, I’m going to suggest the petrol station companies know something that we don’t - could be anything, it could interfere with their CCTV eqipment (i know loads of my so-called shielded and compatible electronic eqiupment buzzes when my mobile rings).

Sometimes you have to accept that signs are put up trying to help you and you ignore them at your peril. Driving across to Liverpool last weekend we entered a stretch of motorway advising a temporary 40mph speed restriction. I slowed down from 70 or cough 80 cough but pretty much everyone else plowd on regardless. Cresting the next ridge, cue smoke, burning rubber and a car running into the back of another as they all emergency braked down from 80 to 0 as they met the stationary traffic. Is there something macho about ignoring posted warnings? Are people trying to prove something?

The question is, though, why would you be on your mobile in the first place?
If you’re driving into the petrol station, you should have both hands on the wheel and neither on a mobile phone, and if you’re in the petrol station, you should be filling up with petrol and then moving out of the damn way, not yacking on your mobile phone. I’m going to go postal one of these days with these peolpe blocking a pump (when none others are spare) haveing a leisurely discussion with their spouse about the weather, playing a game of cards, reapplying makeup in the mirror, and then finally deciding they might just possibly consider pulling away.


They are not telling people to refrain from talking on the phone, they are telling people to power them down.

I suppose if you had a cell phone and hooked some wires up to the battery contacts, and then tried to make an arc with a lot of gas vapor around, it would be possible to ignite the gas. But if you are doing that, then you are trying to start a fire anyways, so why not use a match.

It still boggles me that some gas stations have bought in to this stupid myth enough to post signs. All in the name of avoiding litigation if it ever does happen.

In the interest of full disclosure you do know that the burning ember at the end of a lit cigarette will not ignite gasoline.

However its still common sense to not smoke around it because everything that you use to light the cigarette (matches, bics etc.) will!

I have personally put out a lit cigarette in a puddle of gasoline…I did not LIGHT the cigarette anywhere near the gasoline though…that would be stupid. :eek: