There's a lot of driving in The Walking Dead.

The survivors drive from Atlanta, then back to Atlanta, then away from Atlanta in a caravan of vehicles.

Where do they get the gasoline to fuel their vehicles?

If I recall correctly, in the premier episode, Rick was unable to find enough gasoline for his single police cruiser to make it to Atlanta, and had to switch to horseback.

Additionally, wouldn't accessing gasoline from gas stations require electricity to get the pumps working?

So how did the survivors get enough gas to keep their caravan moving?

  • Is this specific to the show, or is material from the comic usable as well? I can provide numerous references from the comic, but the show only provides a scene or two. Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 16:45
  • I think answers from the comic would be welcome.
    – Beofett
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 16:46
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    If they hadn't of blown it up at the end of The Road Warrior they could have gotten it from the feral kids refinery in the desert. Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 16:18
  • I think in the pilot it wasnt that the service station was empty it was that Rick couldnt or didnt know how to access the gas beyond lift the pump nozzle and see if anything came out plus the little girl freaked him out so he wanted to get away fast
    – severa
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 1:59
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    They render the fat from the corpses of slain zombies. It makes the cars go slow and let off a weird moaning noise from the engine, but gets them from a to b.
    – Paul
    Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 18:39

8 Answers 8


I imagine the most abundant and readily available source of gasoline would be abandoned or parked cars. Just siphon it out of the gas tank like T-Dog does in this scene. No electricity needed... just a crowbar, tubing, and a gas can.

There are also references to siphoning gas out of parked cars in the comics, as stated in this excerpt from the synopsis of "The Best Defense" (issues #25-30):

Glenn discovers the prison's armory, complete with shotguns and full riot gear. Inspired by the new equipment, the group plans to siphon gasoline out of the remaining cars in the prison parking lot.

In addition, in "The Calm Before" (issues #37-42) the group discovers several canisters of gas at a military base.

  • Actually in the series Survivors, gasoline eventually becomes scarce as well and was rationed. Which is more realistic. Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 13:31

There are places that gasoline and diesel can be found depending on how long it has been since society completely collapsed.

  • Other Vehicles - If you are patient enough you can siphon quite a bit of fuel from all the abandoned cars.
  • Gas Stations - While the pumps may not work due to lack of eletricity, if you pry up the lids over the main tanks (which are underground) you can either hand pump or use something like a well bucket to bring fuel up.
  • Farms - Most farmers have diesel and/or gasoline stored in large quantities to power their farming vehicles.
  • Tanker Trucks - The distribution system for fuel in the United States is massive. You are bound to find at least one tanker truck somewhere if you look.
  • Emergency Services - Most hospitals, police stations, and firestations have stores of fuel on hand either for generating power or for use in vechiles.

The real question is how long had services stopped before most of the people were wiped out. If it was a slow process there are going to be fewer resources, because of scrounging from lots of survivors. If the apocalypse happened fairly quickly then most of the resources should be untouched, because there weren't enough humans left to consume them.

  • This would be a good answer to a totally different question, but as it is, it's purely speculative. Some references to this behavior in-universe would be nice. Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 16:46
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    @IanPugsley A question like, in a zombie apocalypse where should I look for fuel? Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 16:51
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    Remove the word zombie and this is still appropriate. This isn't asking "where can I get fuel in an apocalypse," it's asking "Where do the characters from this story find fuel in this story?" Speculation is fine, but it should be secondary to actual in-story evidence. Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 16:55
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    @IanPugsley I don't agree that this doesn't answer the question. I think it answers it fine. The fact that there are so many available resources for obtaining gas is a proper answer to why is is only rarely seen in the show, they don't make a big deal out of it because it isn't really a big deal.
    – NominSim
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 21:20
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    @IanPugsley Ah I see, I figure it answers the question fine as the question doesn't really seem to be an in-universe question...seems similar to "how do Harry Potter characters breath air?" The answer isn't in-universe because the question isn't either.
    – NominSim
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 21:34

On the show, they occasionally show gas being siphoned or the characters finding some fuel somewhere. As near as i can tell, where the TV series is at now, it's only been a little less than a year since the ZPOC. If I'm correct, then most gas should be deteriorating or totally bad, but there's not much competition for it and they should be able to keep their vehicles running. Even with the ready availability of questionable fuel, it's still utterly ridiculous that they're driving full-size Ram pickups. Fuel economy would be ultra important, as you don't want to spend a lot of time stopping/scavenging for fuel/risking an empty tank while on a longer run.

The truth is, if they're still driving a few seasons from now, I'll have lost all respect for the show. The gas will be GONE by then.

I wish I'd followed the comic book; they're obviously ahead of the show on the timeline, and I'm wondering how they get around in later issues.

  • I don't watch or read Walking Dead, but the United States currently uses more petrol than the entire rest of the world combined. In 2011, that was 134 billion gallons. Now, if a zombie apocalypse occurred, the number of people driving cars would drop dramatically. And the survivors would likely use far less gas individually (assuming they're not driving around in full-size pickups and Chevy Suburbans all the time). Between gasoline pipelines, tankers, barges, and storage terminals, there should be plenty of gasoline to supply the lucky few who come across them for quite some time. Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 5:29
  • So maybe 90% of survivors wouldn't have access to gasoline, but the other 10% would probably have more gasoline than they could use for a decade or more. Though they might need to add ethanol into the gasoline themselves or just run on pure gasoline, which burns less efficiently. Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 5:31
  • It's also important to note that they haven't really driven all that far. If you plot everything on the map, you're looking at less than a day or two of driving from furthest point to point in the comics and far less in the tv show.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 12:55

The Fuel would not stay good long enough for the Survivors to be using it depending upon how long it has been since the fuel has been produced. Gasoline is good for about 6 months and its effectiveness is greatly impaired without additives such as Sta-Bil but this is not in gasoline and has to be purchased in small containers so this to me is something that would not be readily available and would be considered an "Inaccuracy". Still Love the show though

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    Apparently petrol can be stored indefinitely in air tight containers. How did you arrive at your 6 month figure?
    – bitmask
    Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 10:28
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    I've also seen six months tossed around, but this thread claims 1-2 years. Although The Straight Dope doesn't list exact numbers, he does agree that improperly stored gasoline goes bad (and ethanol makes it worse). He also defines proper storage requirements, which I doubt the average abandoned car would meet. I suspect, depending on time passed, it's luck of the draw whether someone can find working gasoline.
    – John C
    Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 11:13
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    I let an ATV sit for a year while I was out of the country on business. When I got back it ran fine and used the remainder of the gas in the tank. The only problem is "varnishing" and that's in vehicles with a carburetor.
    – user12794
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 19:16
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    "Goes bad" doesn't mean a switch is flipped on day 181 and it's useless. It means deteriorating quality and mpg going down. If they aren't getting the 30mpg they were getting at the start of the show, they hardly have room to complain.
    – John O
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 19:30
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    I've seen a lot of sources agree that gasoline usually goes bad after some period of time. That duration varies quite wildly, though, due to a number of factors (not least of which is how long ago the gasoline was originally refined).
    – Beofett
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 19:32

In one of the pictures in the comic you see Glenn sucking the gas out of a gas station so that's one way. And the way every one is saying is they siphon gas from cars.


Dont forget that diesel powered equipment will run off virtually any oil. Motor oil,kerosene, lamp oil and even old cooking oil work just fine. The only problem is that many cooking oils turn solid in the winter in many places. But if you have a heater in the tank,that can be dealt with as well. The long and the short though is,if you have a months supply at the current rate of usage,then reduce the population of the US from 300,000,000 to 300,000 overnight, there is 1000 months supply available. What I want to know is why everyone drives crappy cars. Seriously,gas is hard to get,you have to scavange for it. On top of that,if your vehicle dies, then your in deep trouble. There are literally millions upon millions of brand new vehicles available. Yea,people would have grabbed them fast,but its not like when those people die,their vehicles suddenly burst into flame. Brand new SUVs and trucks would be a dime a dozen. Its not like the alien invasion plots where some sort of EMP fried the electronics that operate the modern vehicles. The answer is,they think it makes it look more "apocolyptic" for everyone to driver around 30 year old beaten up pieces of junk rather than brand new ford trucks. They just dont think it looks right to have a convoy of brand new Ford F150s,Cadillac Escalades and Chevy Tahoes.


Here's the deal. They are mainly siphoning gas, you cant suck gas up from an underground tank by mouth, way too much suction required. The creators should have reckoned this and anyone in a situation like this would do well to locate a good supply of diesel e.g. semi truck tanks ( often holding up to 150 gallons each). Ideally a tanker full of diesel modified with a cow catcher structure in front to clear road debris in order to get it back to base camp, then use the modified tractor to hunt down and relocate more tank trailers to base camp. This would provide a long lasting stable fuel source for generators etc. Diesel engines are longer lasting easier to maintain and there are many more that are rated for constant service and industrial duty unlike gasoline engines. Also any propane would be a huge plus as it doesn't deteriorate either


Based on the experience of being a refugee from Hurricane Katrina... The gas went quickly and was difficult to obtain within about 18 to 36 hours in the South East and there was extreme price gauging, legal or not. Even if the infection spread fairly quickly the usable supply chain would be used up rather quickly and having also lived through the gas crisis in the '70s people figure out siphoning quickly. In our small neighborhood many people were siphoning gas from one another. It is difficult to assess the theoretical situation but I think that the police and military would not go down like storm troopers who don't know how to shoot straight and that they would jump on most of the fuel and water supply rather quickly. Although the survival situation would expose many traditional leaders there would still be some mayors and so forth that don't soil there pants. Also groups like The Hells Angels would take over Walmarts if the police didn't though many of these stores would be depleted like in snow storms. The military would probably take over the distribution centers. The main things that would be available longer would be grain stored in silos and opium is stored in Fort Knox for such an emergency. Now we are in early Season 7 and about 2.5 to 3 years into the ZPoc and I am incredulous they still have plenty of good batteries and complete lighters. No talk of saving the flint and spark assembly. They are never covered with pollen which is very intense in the rural South. More roads would be shut down without the very important tree removal service in the South due to the type of storms they have down there. Haven't seen a fire ant hill ever on the show. Those hills can be 5 ft tall or more under normal circumstances. Not much talk about clearing the area for wild snakes which would be a real hazard when they are camping outside. Still love the show but there are lots of problems and don't get me started about footwear. Everybody just finds their size?

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    Hello Jim and welcome to the SF & Fantasy Stack. Have you taken the tour yet? We're not a forum or a message board. Your answer isn't really an answer but rather a critique of the show. But don't worry, please stick around and try your hand at another question.
    – SQB
    Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 12:57

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