How Your Car Got its Fuel Fill Arrow on the Gas Gauge

Never suffer the embarrassing fate of the woman in the recent viral video who was unable to locate her van's fuel filler.

Dan Carney, Senior Editor

August 3, 2020

2 Min Read
Fuel Fail resize.png

All modern cars have an arrow on the gas gauge pointing to the side where the fuel filler is located, theoretically saving headaches like the recently viral fuel filling failure by a driver who repeatedly failed to pull up on the correct side of her van.

The fuel gauge pointer solution was first imagined on April 17, 1986, by Ford interior trim designer Jim Moylan, after he experienced frustration locating the filler while driving a company car.

Moylan spoke on the “Every Little Thing” podcast’s Oct. 8, 2018 episode, describing his epiphany. “I had to go to a meeting in another building on a rainy day. When I went to get the pool car, I started it and noticed the gas gauge was empty,” he said. “I pulled up to the gas pump on the wrong side, so I had to move it.”

2020 Ford Escape fuel gauge.jpg

2020 Ford Escape fuel gauge

After a soaking in the rain, and sitting through a meeting in wet clothes, Moylan took action. “I got back to my office after the meeting, and without even taking my coat off, I sat down and started writing the first draft of this proposal. I typed it up and turned it in and forgot completely about it.”

Moylan’s memo to the boss read: “The indicator or symbol I have in mind would be located near the fuel gauge and simply describe to the driver on which side of the vehicle the fuel fill door is located.”

Related:Auto Interior Is the New Exterior

And the gas gauge arrow was born. Moylan may have forgotten about it, but the boss did not. On Nov. 18, 1986, Ford director of interior design, R. F. Zokas, replied, informing Moylan that the company would apply the indictor arrows to its 1989 model year cars that were then under development.

1989 Thunderbird Brochure Dashboard - 001.jpg

In the fall of 1988, the new Fords debuted with the indicators, which slowly proliferated into other companies’ products until they finally became ubiquitous in recent years. Now, somebody needs to point it out to the minivan driver so she can fill her tank


About the Author(s)

Dan Carney

Senior Editor, Design News

Dan’s coverage of the auto industry over three decades has taken him to the racetracks, automotive engineering centers, vehicle simulators, wind tunnels, and crash-test labs of the world.

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