Evolution of the Fuel Nozzle

By OPW | Jun 27, 2011

older-nozzleUnless you are old enough to remember, until the early 1950s there were no automatic fuel nozzles in use at gas stations. Drivers would pull their car into the station and the attendant would rush out to fill the gas tank, which involved inserting the nozzle and holding it open until the tank was full. Since automatic shut-off of the nozzles was not an option, no time could be spent washing windows or checking fluid levels, resulting in a relatively long refueling process.

old-nozzleHowever, this all changed when in 1949 Leonard H. Duerr, an engineer for OPW invented a 3-ball mechanism – or “automatic shut-off dispensing nozzle valve” – that could be used in conjunction with the venture located in the fuel nozzle. The use of the 3-ball mechanism allowed “the submergence of the discharge end of the nozzle in the dispensed liquid (to) cause a flexible diaphragm to function and cause the main or flow-control valve to close.” 

21Gv-Nozzle-3_4 (2)Duerr’s invention of the 3-ball mechanism essentially led to the creation of the automatic shut-off nozzle. More importantly, Duerr’s 3-ball mechanism was incorporated into the first-ever production nozzle that featured automatic shut-off. This nozzle, which was known as the OPW 1811 “Fil-O-Matic” nozzle, was first released in 1949 with the promise of “modern, safe, spill-proof service” and “positive shut-off assured every time.” Believe it or not, in the 62 years since its invention, Duerr’s 3-ball mechanism has remained the basic technology in automatic shut-off nozzles, despite the fact that the number and types of fuels being dispensed today has grown exponentially. 

For more on the history of the fuel nozzle, please read the article titled “Fueling the World” from Convenience & Carwash Canada magazine. 

Most of the fuel-nozzle enhancements since the 1950s have revolved around improving the overall reliability and performance of the nozzle. However, Duerr’s 3-ball mechanism design for the automatic shut-off nozzle is still for today’s average consumer. 

What other enhancements around the fueling island have made life better for customers? 

What enhancements are still needed? 

Share your thoughts with us. And remember to be safe when refueling your vehicle