How To Siphon Gas Without Killing Yourself

Movies make most things seem easier than they actually are: Fighting off gangs of ninjas one-by-one, solving impossible math problems on Harvard blackboards and, most importantly, siphoning gas with your mouth.

Wired’s How To wiki blog offers a step-by-step guide on how to use a few tools to transfer gasoline from one gas tank to another. The skill isn’t much fun to practice, but it’s useful to have if you ever wind up out of gas miles away from the nearest station.

Lesson one is to keep a siphon pump handy in order to avoid having to use your mouth. The device costs less than $10 and will avoid any incidental hospitalizations. Remember, kids. Gas doesn’t taste as great as it smells. You use the pump to transfer the gas into a container, which you’ll want to place lower than the gas tank to get gravity working in your favor.

If you’ve ever had to siphon gas, share your tale and tips in the comments.

Siphon [Wired]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Added to Mr. Fix-It’s ‘Big Book of Apocalypse Survival Skills’. Right up there with ‘How to Forge Iron’ and ‘Building Wheel-lock Pistols For Dummies’

    • WalterSinister2 says:

      You know, I’ve always thought some organization should write a book (or series of books) like that. One that teaches basic technological skills. How to make a stirrup, bridle, horse-collar. Make pottery (from finding the right clay to how to cook it on an open fire, to how to build a kiln). Something to give a jumpstart to rebuilding civilization. Something that could get us back up in a few hundred years, rather than a few thousand. Something more immediately practical than a library.

      On that subject, keeping paper card catalogs out to be required by law for all libraries.

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    So this is Consumerist’s advice for finding cheaper gas?

  3. outis says:

    Is this along the lines of using your student ID for discounts long after you graduate/drop out?

    • FireJayPa says:

      Theft is theft. So yea!

      • Rena says:

        I got the idea this is supposed to be used when you have two vehicles out in the middle of nowhere, one has run out of fuel and you can’t fit everyone into the other…

        But yeah, you could use it to steal, too.

  4. Supes says:

    My only advice: if you have to siphon with your mouth for whatever reason (such as a zombie apocalypse and no gas stations nearby to get a siphon pump), no matter how careful you are, it’s very tough to avoid getting any in your mouth (especially if this is your first time doing it). The gas comes really quick, and it’s tough to see exactly where it is with your both on the hose.

    So basically, don’t do it unless you have absolutely no other choice, it’s just not worth it.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      That’s what she said?

      The easiest way I know of is to syphon with your thumb in your mouth so you can quickly pop it over the tube to prevent it going back in the tank while you transfer it to the bucket.

      • Azzizzi says:

        Yeah, this is the way to go. Also, if you have a clear plastic tube, you just apply pressure until you see it about to go into your mouth, then cap it with your thumb.

    • sparkypinball says:

      That, and gas fumes are disgusting when you are breathing then in. A cheap Bulb siphon pump is the way to go, I carry that and an empty gas can in my trunk, with a simple car repair/patch kit and first aid kit. You never know when you are gonna need it.

      So far, I have used my gas can for myself once, Siphoned for others to get them to the next station twice (where they paid for my fuel), and my first aid kit 4 times, where I have happened upon wrecks where fist aid was needed, and medics were not there yet

  5. Rachacha says:

    Before major weather events, I usually fill up all of my vehicles so that 1) I can quickly evacuate if needed, and 2) power my gasoline generator for several days by siphoning fuel out of my vehicles in case the local gas stations are also without power. Once, and only once I tried siphoning using my mouth, and after inhaling gas fumes which left me a bit loopy for a but and left me with a horrible taste in my mouth for several days, I got a siphon pump. Much easier!

    • Rachacha says:

      I should also mention that for draining the kid’s swimming pool, I have used the garden hose trick mentioned in the article. Place one end of a hose inside the pool, and the other end elsewhere in the yard. Take a second hose connected to a faucet and place it against the end of the hose that is in the pool. Monitor the end of the hose in the yard for a steady stream of water and remove the hose connected to the faucet you now have a siphon. I taught my son how to do this when he was 7.

  6. gitmo234 says:

    Am I the only one that knows that you put the hose in the tank, cover the opening with your hand as tightly as possible and BLOW into the tank as much as you can, voila’! air pressure pushes gas out into tank.

    Works fine. Did it many days as a teenager.

  7. pop top says:

    Why would you post an article about how to steal gas?

    • ChuckECheese says:

      It’s not stealing, it’s siphoning.

      • pop top says:

        But you aren’t siphoning your own gas, which means you are taking someone else’s gas, which IS stealing.

        • MamaBug says:

          is it explicitly telling your to steal from someone else’s car? We had to siphon gas from my friend’s car to mine in order to get to a gas station once. This article would’ve been handy then.

        • NashuaConsumerist says:

          Where is it saying you can’t siphon from your own car?

        • ChuckECheese says:

          You could siphon from the boat motor tank to the lawn mower, or from the generator to the snow blower, or from my gas tank to your living room.

    • vaguely says:

      During the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel, this would’ve come in handy when we all had to try our hand at siphoning gas for generators.

  8. Azuaron says:

    As an owner of fish for many years, I have plenty of siphoning practice (you have to to clean the tank), so I’m fairly confident I could do gas pretty well.

    That being said, gitmo234’s technique (blow into the tank so air pressure then forces it out) sounds a lot easier (but, unfortunately, wouldn’t work with a fish tank).

    • pop top says:

      What’s wrong with a big measuring cup and just scooping out the water?

      • Rachacha says:

        Having killed many a goldfish in my life and having had a small tank, the problem I ran into when trying to scoop out water with a cup was 1) the fish wanted to swim in the cup, so depending on how many fish you had and their size, you could accidentally scoop up a fish. I also found that scooping tended to cause a bit of turbulance in the water that kicked up a lot of dirt and debris. Although, I may have been doing it wrong, because as I said, I have killed a great number of fish.

        • pop top says:

          If you gently submerge the cup into the water, and keep the opening at the top so the fish can’t get into it (instead of putting the cup in sideways), I don’t see a problem. I mean, I’d rather scoop water out careful for 20 minutes than get a mouthful of fish poop.

          • TheGreySpectre says:

            That’s what syphon pumps are for, so you don’t get a mouth full of fish poop. And generally emptying the fish tank is not an emergency like running out of gas is.

            • Azzizzi says:

              With a fish tank, can’t you just submerge the entire tube into the water, cap one end with your thumb, then pull this end out of the water and into the recepticle that’s going to receive the water?

              • perruptor says:

                Yes, we can!

              • sparkypinball says:

                Depends on what kind of fish you have. Saltwater reef tanks with Moray’s, Sharks, and lionfish don’t easily lend themselves to putting your fingers in them.

                Same goes for tropical fresshwater tanks with large cichlids that are aggressive, like Pacu or others.

                • Rachacha says:

                  Meh, just put a TV next to the tank, and replay the scene from Finding Nemo where the little girl takes a bag with a fish in it and shakes it over and over until the fish dies. You just need to show these fish who is boss.

      • swearint says:

        I have a 125g saltwater tank and do semi-regular water changes of at least 20 gallons. That would take a long time using a scoop. It already seems to take enough time as is. Plus, with a siphon, it is easy to suck out crud that settles on the bottom of the tank.

  9. fortymegafonzies says:

    Modern vehicles frequently have anti-siphon devices so you can’t stick a tube down into the gas tank. I once saw a guy try to use a piece of rebar to bust one out (on his own truck).

    • zentex says:

      this “device” is a thin piece of metal that can easily be bypassed with any hose no bigger than your thumb. it’s there to prevent garden hoses (which, with time can be pushed passed) and actual siphon hoses.

      it keeps honest people honest…kinda like locks

  10. LightningUsagi says:

    I’ve only had to siphon once…but I used a little trick I’d picked up somewhere.

    I put the hose in the tank, and then kinked it up outside of the tank. Then I sucked into the end, and quickly covered it with my finger. When i unkinked the hose, there was enough pressure in the hose to start the flow. No gas in my mouth…just a little bit of fumage up my nose.

  11. Me - now with more humidity says:

    I am truly impressed that no one yet has gone for the obvious sexual innuendo punchline. Disappointed, but impressed.

  12. framitz says:

    Two ways I’ve siphoned without using my mouth.
    1. Submerge the entire length of hose so no air remains in the hose, plug the end and carefully pull it out far enough to reach the target container. If you managed to hold the liquid in the hose the siphon action will start. Can be difficult from a fuel tank, but works great for draining a water bed or broken washing machine.

    2. More complicated. If the donor vehicle has electronic fuel pump with return, disconnect the return line and run it, using an extension if needed, to the target tank. Start engine on donor to pump fuel to target. I moved about 15 gallons this way before trading in my car.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      That’s a good idea, however on my car would require removing the entire back passenger seat. Not really feasible in all situations, but may work for others.

    • JonBoy470 says:

      The drain pump on my friend’s washer died. It was in his basement, right next to a floor drain, so I pulled the drain hose out of the wall fitting and dropped it on the floor. Voila, the machine emptied itself in a couple of minutes, allowing me to replace the drain pump.

  13. skloon says:

    And if you do ingest gasoline, don’t try to cover up the horrible taste with spicy food and root beer, the added belching will allow you to continually re-taste your mistakes, and cause those in the movie theatre around you to wonder what the heck that smell is

    • ReaperRob says:

      MY dad always recommended beer to clean out the gasoline flavor. Of course, he’s one of the few people I know who can get gas out of anything, even with the anti-siphon device.

  14. knackeredmom says:

    This would have come in handy this past Saturday. I own a food business, and our warewasher (machine, not employee) died on us. We couldn’t get it to drain, so my son used a mop sink hose, mop bucket, and his mouth to siphon as much of the nasty (think food particles, detergent, and sanitizing solution in a hot soup) fluid out. Leaving it sit wasn’t an option as the service tech couldn’t get to us until this afternoon.

    It was gross, but he sure can take one for the team! Extra Christmas gift is due!

  15. The Upright Man says:

    Theoretically speaking, fighting a GANG of ninjas should be easy

  16. Dragro says:

    Not quite the same thing but one time I had to suck out the fuel line on a Moped because my friend’s sister put oil in the fuel tank and clogged it up. I got quite a bit in my mouth. I was dizzy for a while after that, and probably dumber forever.

  17. XBL: Legend xKWx (Kyle) says:

    As someone who has had to mouth siphon his turtle tank many times, don’t siphon with your mouth…

  18. jimmiej says:

    Easiest way is to buy a cheap fuel pump and hoses from Autozone and attach long wires from the pump on to your battery. It’s technically not siphoning and it’s not the cheapest but it’s much faster not that difficult.

  19. GrayMatter says:

    OK, statute of limitations is LONG past.

    Broke College Kids, both chem majors
    Special Event at the College

    We got a long piece of tubing at the lab; clear.
    Placed end in mouth, along with finger.
    Sucked it up until gas could be seen
    Covered end with finger and let gas flow into container. Only about a quart or two.
    Went to next couple of cars; repeated. (Didn’t want to screw anybody excessively–it WAS a church school)

  20. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    I regularly move fuel from/to boats, machinery and other vehicles and have found the best siphon hose to be a generic replacement fuel hose for an outboard motor with a fuel priming bulb.

    The bulb is a pump that quickly primes the process and as the complete assembly is designed to handle fuel there are no problems with leaks, rot, etc…

  21. The Moar You Know says:

    Had to do it more than once and getting it in your mouth is horrible. You feel poisoned for hours – and are.

    I bought a siphon pump the first time I ever saw one, and although I’ve not had to use it yet, I’m glad I’ve got it in the car.

  22. MattSaintCool says:

    Damn! I shouldn’t have eaten the mint first.

  23. Nakko says:

    My brother siphoned gas with his mouth once, and it worked, but he got some in his mouth. He described it as the single most foul thing that you could conceivably taste, and that the foul flavor would not go away, no matter how much he rinsed with water, how much toothpaste he used.

    Siphoning by mouth is something he will never, ever do again, regardless of need.

  24. Red Cat Linux says:

    I learned how to siphon gas at the age of 8. Don’t ask.

    Step 1 – Use a longer tube, dummy
    Step 2 – It’s not a straw, and you’re not here to drink.
    Step 3 – the tube should have a loop lower than the source end of the tube
    Step 4 – If you paid attention to Step 1, the air pressure in the tube changing will tell you if you have a siphon.
    Step 5 – stop sucking when the pressure changes!

    Why is there a blog about this?

  25. MercuryPDX says:

    If you ingest gasoline, drink milk to neutralize it and let it pass through your system naturally.

    DO NOT USE ACTIVATED CHARCOAL OR IPECAC. The gasoline will do more damage “coming back up”, and if you accidentally aspirate(breathe) it into your lungs you’ll be seriously screwed.

  26. purecajn says:

    easier way is pop a hole in thebottom of the gas tank and catch fuel in a bucket. If in a survivalist situation. you get every drop that way

  27. moonunitrappa says:

    I had to do this once, but I can’t remember why. Perhaps that’s a lesson to be learned…if you can’t remember why you did it, it’s probably bad for you. I do remember emptying a waterbed once and in the basement that’s a hard thing to do.

  28. says:

    Easy trick:

    Take a longer hose, once you start pulling on it and it starts flowing down, twist the hose shut. Enter into cotainer –> start draining.

    How do I know? I brew my own beer and have to move it from one container to the other :)

  29. gman863 says:

    Remember the SNL sketch “Don’t Buy Stuff You Can’t Afford?”

    Here’s the sequel:

    Don’t Run Out Of Gas!

    Unless your gas gauge suddenly failed by sticking above “E”, there’s no excuse. I never let my tank drop below 1/4; during hurricane season I fill up at 1/2.

    For my backup generator, I fill up four 5-gallon cans at the beginning of hurricane season and store them in a metal cabinet in the garage (use Sta-Bil or another quality fuel stabilizer and it will stay fresh up to 9 months). In November any unused gas is put in the car; I’ll refill just one can in case of a smaller power outage out of hurricane season. (Naturally, you should adjust this based on your weather issues – ice storms, tornadoes, etc.).

    If you need gas for the lawn mower, skip the whole siphoning thing and make a trip to the quickie mart. If you feel a need to suck on something, get a Slurpee while you’re there.

  30. nutbastard says:

    On vacation as a kid, we came across some stranded biker in the middle of the desert. We didn’t have a tube, but he’d managed to improvise one from his motorcycle, and it was tragically about 6 inches too short.

    The poor bastard would suck, suck, suck, suck, get a mouthful of gas, and then about 4oz would dribble out the hose. We watched this unlucky son of a bitch do it about 25 times, and he eventually managed to get the better part of a gallon out. Had the worst time in the world doing it, though.