QDear Tom and Ray:

It generally costs around $35 to fill my tank. Today, the meter went up to $40, and I thought it was because the price of gas went up again. Since I had only $40, I had to stop pumping. When I pulled the hose out of the gas-tank opening, gasoline started shooting out of the opening! It was not just dribbling down the side of my car -- it looked like a fountain! There was gas all over me, the concrete, the gas pumps. When it finally subsided, I realized that my entire lap area felt like it was on fire from the gasoline that soaked through my jeans! I jumped into the car, drove home, pulled everything off, jumped into a tub of water and waited for the burning to stop. After drying off and applying two tubes of Neosporin, I finally felt better. But what happened?! -- Donna

ARAY: In your case, it was most likely a faulty gas pump nozzle. There's an automatic shut-off device in the nozzle that senses the back pressure coming out of the tank. That's how the nozzle knows when your tank is full and it's time to cut off the fuel flow. My guess is that the shut-off device on the pump was broken.

TOM: While you were pumping the gas, the nozzle itself and the positive pressure of the incoming gasoline were preventing the gas from shooting back out. Meanwhile, the plastic gas tank in your car was bulging and expanding to accommodate the extra fuel. Then as soon as you stopped pumping and removed the nozzle, the tank returned to its normal shape, and bada-bing! There's Old Faithful!

RAY: As you discovered, Donna, gasoline is a skin irritant. The more sensitive the skin, the more it irritates.

TOM: The other possibility is that something's wrong with your car's evaporative emissions system. But since this has never happened to you at any other gas station, I'd be more inclined to blame that particular pump's shut-off device.

RAY: So, I'd do a couple of things, Donna. First, I'd report the problem to the gas station manager. Second, I'd stand to the side when removing the nozzle -- at least until you're sure that it was the pump and not your car. And if you do experience this again at a different pump, definitely ask your mechanic to look at your car's evaporative emissions system.

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have an elderly mother -- now over 80 -- who drives a 1999 Lincoln Continental. She uses its power seat to position herself within a few inches of the steering wheel and air bag. I'm concerned that she may be seriously injured if the air bag goes off in an accident. Should I pull the fuse on the air-bag circuit? Is there some standard distance between the driver and the air bag that is considered safe? -- Jim

TOM: The recommended distance is 10 inches, Jim. That pretty much guarantees that, even when the seat belt stretches in an accident, you'll end up no closer than three to five inches away from the air bag.

RAY: But so many people benefit from air bags that there are strict rules set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about who can disconnect them and under what conditions.

TOM: So, you have a couple of options, Jim. First, measure your mom's actual distance from the air bag. Measure it from the center of the steering wheel to the driver's sternum. If it's less than 10 inches, you can try to find a seating position that does put the sternum 10 inches away from the wheel yet still lets her comfortably operate the car.

RAY: If she's almost 10 inches away, you can also try pedal extenders. By moving the pedals closer to the seat, you allow the driver to move back and still drive comfortably.

Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of The Post, or e-mail them by visiting the Car Talk Web site at www.cartalk.com.

(c) 2005 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi

and Doug Berman