Disclaimer: This information is general in nature only. While Budget Direct has endeavoured to ensure the information we’ve relied on is accurate and current, we do not guarantee it. Budget Direct accepts no liability for this information.

You’re probably already aware smoking is prohibited in service stations to prevent fires and explosions.

But smoking is not the only servo safety hazard.

Here are nine tips to keep in mind when you’re next filling up your car.

See Budget Direct’s road safety guides.

1. Turn off your engine before filling up

It’s common knowledge that you should turn off your car’s engine before refuelling, but most of us don’t realise it’s actually the law.

While the odds of a running engine igniting a fire are relatively small, turning it off will remove the risk of any children in the car putting it into gear and causing an accident.

Also, you won’t be giving would-be car thieves an open invitation to drive off in your car when your back’s turned.

When filling up, ensure your engine is off and your keys are out of the ignition and in your pocket.

2. Don't smoke or use lighters or matches

Smoking in a service station — or using a lighter or matches — is extremely dangerous, due to the risk of ignition and fire.

It’s illegal for anyone to smoke inside a service station.

This includes smoking inside a parked vehicle with the windows up.

You must, by law, put out any cigarettes before you enter the service station grounds.

3. Don't use your mobile phone

While it’s a highly unlikely scenario, it’s theoretically possible to set off a petrol fire with a mobile phone.

Says Dr Karl Kruszelnicki of ABC Science: “The amount of energy needed for a spark to ignite petrol vapour is 0.2 mJ, which is roughly one five-millionth of the energy stored in a fully charged phone battery. The difficulty is that the phone is not designed to make sparks.” [1]

Even so, using your phone at a service station can be distracting. You can end up overfilling your fuel tank or walking in front of a car pulling in or out of the servo.

It’s therefore best to leave your phone in your pocket or tucked away in your glove box while filling up.

4. Discharge static electricity

Static electricity is produced by friction, especially rubbing between synthetic clothing and synthetic car seats when the air is dry.

If you’re sliding in and out of your car, you can build up a big static charge.

If the earthing wire on the petrol hose is broken and you touch the hose’s metal nozzle to the metal neck of the petrol tank, you can discharge a visible spark.

So, you should aim to discharge any static before reaching for the pump nozzle.

You can do this by touching a metal part of your vehicle.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, static electricity-related incidents at retail fuel outlets are extremely unusual [2].

“The potential for them to happen appears to be the highest during cool or cold and dry climate conditions,” they advise.

“In rare circumstances, these static-related incidents have resulted in a brief flash fire occurring at the fill point.”

5. Don't let your kids fill up

By law, only people aged 16 years and over can fill up a vehicle’s fuel tank.

Children shouldn’t be encouraged to refill or be near an adult who’s refuelling.

Keep the kids safely buckled inside the car with the windows up until you’re done.

6. Guard against theft

Theft at service stations does happen.

It’s easy for a thief to quickly enter your unlocked car and grab items like a handbag, mobile phone or other unattended valuables left in plain sight.

Always lock your car when you’re refuelling and when you go into the service-station store to pay for fuel and/or buy groceries.

7. Drive safely

Servos are busy places. There are cars driving in and out as well as people walking to and from their cars, including parents with young children.

Always drive slowly and cautiously in a service station.

And of course, make sure the nozzle has been placed back in the dispenser before you drive away.

8. Handle and store petrol carefully

If you want to fill up a portable fuel container, make sure the container complies with the relevant standard.

Generally, approved containers are made of metal or plastic; you can buy them from most petrol stations and hardware stores.

Store the container out of reach of any children and in a ventilated area.

Keep in mind that prolonged exposure to petrol can be harmful. For example, it can cause headaches and irritate your skin and eyes.

If any of your clothes or body parts come into contact with petrol, wash them immediately.

If you want to dispose of unwanted fuel, contact your local council to find out how to do that legally and safely.

9. Turn off pilot lights

Pilot lights are the small gas flames that light larger ones in ovens and fridges in vehicles such as campervans, caravans, food vans and boats. 

The law states that all pilot lights must be extinguished before the vehicle enters a service station.

See all of Budget Direct’s road-safety guides