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How to Avoid Contracting the Coronavirus at the Gas Pump

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, gas pumps are being highlighted as high-risk areas. This makes sense — pumps are typically dirty and are touched by hundreds of people throughout the course of a day. Chances are, given the rate at which the outbreak is spreading, that at least one person handling the pump on any given day will carry the virus, whether they know it or not. Unfortunately, avoiding a trip to the gas station is virtually impossible for most people, as, despite the importance of social distancing, many of us still need to go to work or venture out to buy groceries (if you’re more of a ride share person, we have some tips for that too). This means finding a way to pump gas without letting any of the components come into contact with your hands.

We’ve got some tips for doing just that.

Plan Ahead

Right now, it’s not a bad idea to carry a container of disinfectant wipes with you any time you leave the house. (If you’re lucky enough to be in possession of some, that is.) Keeping a box of disposable gloves in the car isn’t a bad idea, either. Having one or both of these things on hand will come in handy any time you need to stop at the gas station, as you can ensure that your bare hand doesn’t come into contact with the keypad or pump handle when you’re fueling up.

Additionally, in the interest of social distancing, try to time your visit to the gas station or rest stop to avoid the daily rushes that come during lunchtime and rush hour. (That is, if there is such a thing as rush hour right now.) Early and late morning, mid-afternoon, late evening and nighttime are probably the safest times to fill up.

Use the Paper Towels

Most gas stations have a paper towel dispenser mounted near the pump to assist with cleaning your windshield. In the current climate, this is invaluable. At the very least, grab one or two of these towels and use them as a barrier between your hand and the surfaces of the keypad and gas pump.


If you need to refuel but you don’t have any sanitizing wipes or gloves and the paper towel dispenser is empty, improvise. There’s likely something somewhere in your vehicle that can create a barrier between your hand and the pump. Many vehicles come with a first-aid kit in the trunk, and it more than likely has a few cleansing towelettes. Alternatively, check your glove box and center console storage box for napkins or other paper products you can use to form a barrier. If you’re still coming up empty, pull up one of the liners in the cup holders or the center console storage compartments and use it on the keypad and the pump. When you’re done pumping, toss it in the passenger-side footwell and give it a good cleaning once you’re home. Be careful not to handle it with your bare hands on the way to the sink.

Worst-case scenario? Tear a page out of your car’s owner’s manual and use it like you would a paper towel. Just make sure it doesn’t include any important information.

Be Mindful and Clean up After Yourself

Beating this pandemic is a group effort. As important as it is that we take measures to avoid contracting COVID-19, we each have a responsibility to avoid spreading it to others. To do your part in addressing the latter half of that equation, avoid close contact with other customers and consider using any leftover disinfectant wipes to wipe down the pump and keypad after you’re done.

Wash Your Hands

This goes without saying: Wash your hands as soon as you can after pumping gas. Early studies have shown that the coronavirus can live for up to a few days on a variety of common surfaces, so it’s imperative that you take any and all precautions. That said, the bathroom of the gas station convenience store might not be your best option for cleaning, as getting there means touching door knobs and crossing paths with other people in close quarters. It’s probably safer to use the sink at your home or office and then go back to your vehicle and wipe down whatever you touched before washing your hands. Better yet: Carry some hand sanitizer with you and apply it immediately after getting back into your vehicle.

These are very difficult times. Between our health and the economy, there’s loads of uncertainty in the world right now. Very little is under our control. But we can control our behavior and actions — and now, more than ever, it’s imperative that we practice social distancing, go into public only when necessary and be extremely mindful of what we’re touching when it comes to necessary acts like pumping gas.

Looking for more info relating to you, your next vehicle, and the COVID-19 pandemic?  Check out more of Autotrader’s Coronavirus content.

Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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