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    Thread: How to manually open the gas cap door flap (if it is frozen closed)

    1. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      02-01-2005 02:20 AM #1
      Hi All:

      While I was away in nice warm Africa, my wife was stuck in ice-cold Canada, where temperatures were averaging about -20° or so the week before I came home. When I called my wife and told her I would be home on the weekend, she thought it might be wise to get the Phaeton washed, since she had not bothered to wash it since I left for Europe in November.

      Very nice thought on the part of my wife, except, she didn't consider the effect of pouring lots of water all over a car that had chilled to 20° below the freezing point. After running the car through the touchless car wash, she drove it over to the gas pump to fill it up, and lo and behold, the gas flap was frozen shut. The kid that was pumping gas wisely declined to try forcing it open with a screwdriver.

      My wife then drove the car home, and called our VW dealer. Mark, the Phaeton technician at our dealership, showed up at our home about an hour later, and he showed my wife how to release the gas cap flap manually, in case my wife ever decided, in the future, to once again turn the Phaeton into a large rolling Popsicle.

      Well - my wife was pretty impressed with this level of service (and so was I), so one of the first things she mentioned when I arrived back home was "Guess what, I know how to do something with the car that YOU don't know how to do."

      So - with thanks to my wife, and special thanks to Mark at my VW dealer, here's how you open a gas cap flap that is frozen shut:

      1) Open the trunk, assuming of course that it is not also frozen shut.

      2) Grab hold of either side of the little storage compartment on the right hand side of the trunk (the thing with the little net on it), and pull it straight out. It is held in place by spring clips.

      3) If you are wearing any rings, watches, stuff like that, take them off now, because you are going to be sticking your hand into the area where the starter battery and a whole lot of electrical cables are found.

      4) Look above the starter battery, on the inner fender wall, and you will see a white plastic component. This is the electrical actuator that pulls the cable to open the gas cap door. Stick your hand in there, and push the plunger in. "Pushing the plunger in", in this context, means you push the plunger aft and downwards, because it is installed pointing up at about a 45° angle.

      Hopefully, the little door over the gas cap will now open. If it does not open, just push harder on the plunger.

      Below are some photos to help explain the process.

      Michael

      After you have removed the storage bin on the right side of the trunk, this is what you will see:

      Here's a close-up of the device that normally opens the gas cap door. The object in the foreground is the negative terminal of the starter battery.

      This is what the device looks like when it is not actuated (meaning, the gas cap flap is locked closed).

      This is how you want to squeeze it, to pull the cable and cause the flap to open.
      NOTE: You DON'T have to remove it from the car, I only removed it to permit a better picture of it. I couldn't take the picture of the thing with the plunger compressed when it was still mounted in the car - my hand was in the way.

      Last edited by PanEuropean; 10-07-2012 at 02:44 AM.

    2. 02-01-2005 02:55 AM #2
      thanks michael. I have a photographic memory, but you post so much information, even my memory can't keep up.

    3. Member
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      02-01-2005 08:10 AM #3
      Quote, originally posted by PanEuropean »
      NOTE: You DON'T have to remove it from the car, I only removed it to permit a better picture of it. I couldn't take the picture of the thing with the plunger compressed when it was still mounted in the car - my hand was in the way.


      Michael,

      You are truly dedicated to the site's information exchange. Who else tears their car apart just to get a pic! Anyway, thanks to you and your wife for sharing.


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      02-01-2005 10:45 AM #4
      Michael, if you ever have to run for 're-election', you have my vote. You really went to a lot of trouble to afford this info, which, truth said, isn't much use in Texas.

      But, I have a question. How in the world does a car wash operate in freezing weather?

      Jack


    5. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      02-01-2005 12:31 PM #5
      Quote, originally posted by Jack Orr »
      How in the world does a car wash operate in freezing weather?

      Hello Jack:

      Gee, if they couldn't do that, they would go bankrupt up here. The 'tunnel washes' are pretty much the same as I expect they are in warmer climates, the only difference being that they have a set of 'curtains' on each end of the tunnel - sort of like what you sometimes see on walk-in freezer doors. When the car approaches the entrance, the curtains open, as soon as the car is inside, they close again. This keeps the temperature inside the tunnel just fractionally above freezing.

      If it gets really cold, say, -30° or so, then they have to shut down, but we don't get those kind of temperatures in the lower great lakes area (Ontario), where I live - that's kind of a Western Canada thing. For example, the Prairie provinces are famous for brutally cold weather.

      Michael


    6. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      01-30-2006 09:06 PM #6
      I went to visit my brother in far Northern Canada last week, and the temperature was pretty cold - about -20°C. I made the mistake of washing the car at an indoor coin-op, figuring that if I did a decent job of drying it off, I would not have any problems due to the cold temperatures.

      Wrong. When I next tried to open the gas tank filler flap to fill the tank, the flap refused to budge - it was frozen shut. It was cold as heck out, and I didn't relish the idea of digging through all my stuff in the trunk to get access to the latch release mechanism as illustrated above. So, I tried another strategy, and it worked. I used the credit card that I already had out to pay for the fuel as a trim tool, and pried the frozen flap open. That strategy worked.

      Below are some photos that show how to do this trick. They also illustrate where the water accumulates and freezes if you wash the car during very cold weather.

      Michael

      An emergency trim tool...

      The cause of the problem

      Last edited by PanEuropean; 10-07-2012 at 02:46 AM.

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      01-31-2006 12:25 PM #7
      Think I'll fill first and wash second. I try to dry the insides of all door openings to prevent freezer lock after a winter car wash but until now neglected the fuel door. I do clean and dry that area when I do a detailed cleaning on fair days at home. Nice heads up for winter driving. Would a little WD-40 on the inside panel of the door (not the door itself) help keep water away and from freezing the door shut?
      RB

    8. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      01-31-2006 05:02 PM #8
      Hi Again Ron:

      Personally, I would not use WD-40. WD-40 is a very clever invention, it contains two-thirds Stoddard Solvent (a solvent), and one-third oil (a lubricant). (reference: Canadian MSDS disclosure for WD-40 Aerosol) The two components are, obviously, working at cross purposes to each other, but that explains exactly why WD-40 'works every time' - you spay it on something, and if the solvent doesn't dissolve the crud and allow you to work it loose, the solvent then evaporates and the oil remains behind as a lubricant. Kind of like the 'good cop, bad cop' routine.

      Volkswagen makes a silicone lubricant that is specifically intended to be a lubricant - the assumption is made that you will be applying it to a reasonably clean surface, so, there is no solvent in it. The text on the side of the can states "It prevents seals from freezing", which I think suggests it would be ideal for this purpose. You can buy (or order) a can of this from the parts department of any VW dealer.

      Michael

      Volkswagen Silicon Lubricant Spray

      Last edited by PanEuropean; 10-07-2012 at 02:48 AM.

    9. 01-31-2006 05:15 PM #9
      This just happened to me last week, who knew there was a thread on the forum just for this ... my technique involved discrete banging on it

    10. Member chrisj428's Avatar
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      01-31-2006 05:29 PM #10
      There is also a product that is a liquid teflon. I'll try & get a photo and more information. I have used this on Jettas to solve issues where the seal is making a creaking noise against the door.
      --Chris

    11. 01-09-2010 08:02 AM #11

      Hello Michael

      Just thought I'd thank you for your suggestion, having bought from Audi dealer a can of Silcon Lubricant Spray and tested in on my A5 it really helps prevent the window from being stuck at sub-zero temperatures.

      I have had this problem ever since I bought the car back in 2008, and also suffered the same issue with my previous car a 1994 Audi Coupe. Seem to be a design flaw by manufacturers making cars, especially coupes and convertables without frames around front windows.

      I carefully applied the spray yesterday and tested my window this morning at 8:30am when the temperature outside was -3.5 degrees. Window operated almost instantly, when the temperature last night reached around -6.0 degrees.

      Many thanks again, I'll post your tip and a link from this thread to other forums I am a member of.

      All the best.

      Dave


    12. Moderator PanEuropean's Avatar
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      10-07-2012 02:49 AM #12
      Photos re-hosted.

      Michael
      Please don't send me technical questions via IM - instead, post your questions onto the end of the most appropriate thread in the FAQ, so that everyone can benefit from the answer, and everyone can assist in providing the answer. Thanks, Michael

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