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topic 10709

Copper penny in gas tank


Q. What is the reaction when a copper penny is placed in a gas tank of a lawnmower?

Steven Younger
- Laplata, Maryland, USA


A. My reaction would be "Gads! Somebody put a penny in the gas tank. Better get it out!" -- and I'd grab a "gotcha" and try to extract it.

Only pennies 1982 and earlier are solid copper; after that they are a zinc blank with a thin copper coating. In general, water-free solvents like gasoline do not react much with metals. But gasoline tanks eventually collect some condensation water which may react a bit with the copper and zinc, causing some corrosion. Still, water is so harmful to an engine that a tiny spec of metal corrosion probably wouldn't be any worse :-)

If you are a student and this is a chemistry homework question, please post a hypothesis and maybe someone will confirm it or steer you away from it. Thanks!

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. Believe me, gas will work better than a copper penny!

Bill Reynolds
Bill Reynolds
   consultant metallurgist
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
We sadly relate the news that Bill passed away on Jan. 29, 2010.

October 25, 2013

Q. Somebody put pennies in my gas tank....will this do harm?

Marcel Campeau
- Nanaimo, BC, Canada

October 2013

Hi Marcel. Second opinions from other readers are always welcome, but I already posted my response.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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