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The importance of a breakaway? A breakaway is a safety device, designed to allow a hose assembly to safely detach from a fuel dispenser (and actively stop fuel flow) when a customer accidentally drives away with a nozzle in the tank. It happens more often than you might believe.
Without an installed breakaway device, the result could be catastrophic. Before the implementation of the breakaway, it was not uncommon for dispensing equipment, or vehicles, to be severely damaged by a drive-off accident.
(Which, by the way, leads to another important safety device called a "shear" or "impact" valve, mounted beneath a fuel dispenser. It is also designed to stop fuel flow when a dispenser is sufficiently impacted by a vehicle or is pulled over by a drive-off incident.)
Some breakaways are designed to be replaced after a single drive-off incident and others are reusable. For a multi-use device, internal seals and machined surfaces are sometimes damaged - whether from the stress of the "forceful" separation or improper re-connection attempts.
Have you ever seen a pump that keeps counting up a sale, but no gas is coming out? Hint ... it's usually a damaged seal, leaking internally.
Ideally, every time a drive-off occurs, the entire hose assembly should be taken apart, visually inspected for damage, and repaired/replaced if needed, before it is put back into service. Realistically, however, it is easier to simply reconnect and proceed without an inspection.
However .. a damaged breakaway may leak - or fail to separate when needed.
A typical hose "assembly" consists of two hoses (one long and one short), a nozzle, swivel, and breakaway. Each of these components has a limited life and can be expected to be replaced - usually around 48 months (4 years) after manufacture. That date is stamped into or etched onto every hose assembly component - called the "Remove by" date.
Continuing to use components past their "Remove by" date - or the use of damaged components - may likely result in unreliable operation, including incidents involving fuel spills. In order to maintain operational integrity, we recommend that - regardless of age and outward appearance - your re-connectable breakaways should be replaced after 3 or 4 drive-off incidents.