Here’s an urban myth our car mechanic would like to put to rest, once and for all: Using your cell phone at a gas pump can cause a fireball explosion. Yeah, and those Nigerian Princes really do want to wire their nation’s savings directly to your bank account for safe keeping.
This myth first took root in dialup days of the late ‘90s when Fake News still traveled by email.
According to Snopes, the email claimed:
“In case you do not know, there was an incident where a driver suffered burns and his car severely damaged when gasoline vapors ignited an explosion while he was talking on his mobile phone standing near the attendant who was pumping the gas. All the electronic devices in gas stations are protected with explosive containment devices, (intrinsically safe) while cell phones are not. READ YOUR HANDBOOK!
Mobile phone makers Motorola, Ericsson, and Nokia, all print cautions in their user handbooks that warn against mobile phones in “gas stations, fuel storage sites, and chemical factories.” Exxon has begun placing “warning stickers” at its gasoline stations. The threat mobile phones pose to gas stations and their users is primarily the result of their ability to produce sparks that can be generated by the high-powered battery inside the phone. Please pass this on.”
Myth busting site Snopes points out that no actual incidents of these explosions have ever been documented. Technically, there is a risk, though extremely small.
The myth is so prevalent that news sources will often state a mobile phone as a possible reason when a fire has occurred at a pump, but phones have yet to be found to be the cause of such a fire.
“Later investigations, however, have always shown in such cases that the press reports were wrong, that something else (usually a discharge of static electricity) touched off the fires, and the presence of cell phones was coincidental rather than causal,” Snopes reported.
But you’ll still see signs at fuel pumps warning drivers not to use phones while pumping. And that’s probably good advice. You’re on your phone too much as it is, Screen Face. Check your oil instead. It’s better for your engine and helps you keep on top of your scheduled maintenance.