• Jan 19th 2012 at 1:36PM
  • 333


Gasoline out of the pump to most drivers is like water out of the spigot. They assume that water is water and gas is gas, and that, in both cases, some regulating body has made sure that what is going into our stomachs and in our gas tanks is the right stuff.

Not so fast. Just as we find contaminated water from time to time, we also find contaminated gasoline. And just like bad meal can play havoc on the human digestive system, so too can bad gas cause expensive, unpleasant problems for your vehicle.

WHNT-TV out of Huntsville Alabama recently reported on a Trinity, Ala. couple whose car was acting terribly after gassing up, and then wouldn't start at all the next morning. Celestra Gordon and her husband were told by their mechanic that the fuel injectors were ruined after processing gasoline that had been contaminated with water.

After discovering the vehicle's warranty would not cover the damage, the Gordons contacted the gas station. The station shut down the pumps, and is reimbursing the Gordons for the repairs, reported WHNT.

The Gordons were lucky. It's not easy to prove a case of contaminated gas, as Clarence Davis of Texas found when he faced about $700 in repair bills and related costs.

Davis gassed up his car at a Bedford, Texas Kroger station last year. Afterward, his engine sputtered and died. A mechanic diagnosed it in writing as having water contaminated gasoline. Davis, reported the Dallas Fort Worth Star-Telegram, reported it to the Kroger as well as Texas Department of Agriculture, which regulates gas and gas pumps. The state inspector certified that Kroger's gas met state standards, and the Kroger disputed Davis's claim that it had water in its tanks, asserting that gas is tested multiple times a day and that there is a shutoff built in to the pumps if bad gas tries to circulate.

Going to court

Davis had saved a milk-jug of the gas taken from his vehicle with a notation from his mechanic. But a small claims court ruled in favor of Kroger because Davis's gas sample did not get properly tested by a third party, and also because it did not satisfy the standards of "chain of evidence." Water, in theory, could have been added to the milk-jug. Without the state inspector on Davis's side, it was going to be a tough battle.

The chances of getting bad gas in your car are small, but it does happen. The most likely time it could happen is when the tank at the gas station is near empty. Why? Gasoline is lighter than water. If there is water in the station's tank, it will be collected at the bottom of the tank.

The only thing Davis could have done differently was have his gas tested at a third party lab after it was given to him. That would cost around $300 at most labs. And even then, an opposing lawyer could charge that the gas was not taken from the Kroger pump.

There isn't much to do to guard against this problem. But one thing experts agree on is this--it's better not to fill up from a pump that is attached to a tank that is being filled up by a tanker truck. That was the case when Davis fueled up at the Kroger. It is at this moment that the tank is low, exposing possible water, and also the time that water, if it's in the tank, is sloshing around with the gas before it settles.



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  • 333 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      I had the same thing happen to my, at the time, new 1973 vehicle after filling up at a Amoco (BP) station on my way to work and had to lose a day of work. After contacting Amoco they claimed to have gone to the station and that their gas was good. I had to have my vehicle towed to the dealership, they dropped the tank, drained and cleaned it, put in new gas filters and after renting a vehicle to go to work the next day I called Amoco again only to be told again it wasn't from their gas.......go figure. I was out not only the cost of the gas but a day of work and the cost of a rental vehicle. I never stopped in that station nor did a family member again.
      hvtalbott
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ethanol attracts water, That is what causes most water problems at gas stations. But most companies that deliver gas to stations check for water and will not deliver if there is more than 1/4 inch in the tank.
      cherokee
      • 3 Years Ago
      It has alway been hard for me to understand why water will screw up your injectors. But a few years ago I got a lot of water in my diesel fuel tank on a big farm tractor and it messed the, brand new, injectors up bad. Water has always been some what of a problem in gas and diesel fuel. It seems to me that people are just taking advantage of the problem. I know of a case where a Lady filled her car up with diesel fuel by mistake. She took it to a "shade tree mechanic" and he told her that her engine would have to be torn down and rebuilt. She let him do the JOB. What a rip off.
        rwilliamhoward
        • 3 Years Ago
        @cherokee
        Water is more dense than gasoline. Not sure about diesel. This could enlarge the outlet side of the injector. It coulds also cause RUST in the injectors. Doesn't take much. That 'shadetree mechanic' did a job, alright. On her.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @cherokee
        Sad when unaware people cannot know how they are being taken advantage of. If you are familiar with storing engines over a long period or even winter season, you can "pickle" the engine by taking a diesel fuel container and open up the air intake source, and pour diesel fuel into it while revving the engine slightly, this coats everything for resistance against the elements.. Easily removed when you get ready for the season, the spark plugs are removed, engine cranked over a few revolutions then the spark plugs are cleaned with carb cleaner. Get the rest of things for your boat readiness complete, and enjoy. Should NEVER have to rebuild a gasoline engine for the sake of putting diesel fuel in it.
        hattie54
        • 3 Years Ago
        @cherokee
        I know of one person that filled up her hubby's nice truck with diesel.I think it cost a lot to fix it.The wife has memory issues anyway.
      2potters
      • 3 Years Ago
      From now on, stations that have those little bags on the pumps out of gas should be a signal to us all to go to a different station.
      surfherenomail
      • 3 Years Ago
      I got water in the gas about 20 years ago suprised this still happens. Boats use a fuel/water seperator that seem to work quite well. You'd think the gas stations would be mandated to have such a device on their pumps considering the potential for severe damage to modern fuel injected cars.
      LOUIE
      • 3 Years Ago
      the gas is crap i call it pancake syrup corn . i have a old classic car and this summer was running bad .put new plugs .wires got the carb rebuilt and the same thing banging in the engine.its the gas 93 octane shell.then i drained the tank and started putting sunoco in it the knocking seamed to go away but lacks power because i need hightest but the 93 octane is not 93 its 87 octane from all the stuff in it its not pure gas also i ad the fuel stabilizer ever time i get gas and that takes any water out i always get gas at half tank because any water you do have layes on the bottom
      FredRK
      • 3 Years Ago
      Don't a lot of Gas Stations, large ones, have multiple underground tanks? Like at CostCo, and some large Interstate Auto/Truck Stops. I would think the odds of getting water in your gasoline is extremely low, and maybe one can't just rely on a tanker truck at the fueling station to be always a negative sign, if you're fueling from another underground tank than the one being filled! Not clear on how much damage water can cause in an engine anyway. We're not talking about a whole lot of water here!
      • 3 Years Ago
      I should have added to my first post 12 minutes ago...that the reason the law was made a long time ago in Florida was to lessen the chance of a static electricity spark while the fuel is being dumped. The under ground storage tanks are in sand. With the temperature difference of the fuel and the storage tank temperature, quite a static charge builds up. And unlike fueling planes..no ground line is attached to the vehicle before the fuel nozzle is put into the tank at the gas station. But all the other comments on stirring up junk from the bottom of the tank make sense to!
      • 3 Years Ago
      I used to live in Kuwait because my husband was in the army. I drove a Suburban. i filled my car up with gas 4 times in 1 year! I am telling the truth. I have always suspected that our gas in the US is tampered/watered down? SOMETHING! This proves it. I drove, in traffic, even day to my ckids school, and then back home. Two trips a day and my gas gauge hardly moved. The gas was Q8 gas...what are they doing to our gas here in the US?
        brianp67
        • 3 Years Ago
        Q8 is not big nor do you have to sit in traffic nor wait at a fastfood joint like you do in america i myself get 380 miles on my toyota yaris in los angeles county the secret is I drvie 60 mph instead of 80 like I use too if am going to set in traffic for more then 5 minutes I just shut the car off since you have a monster of a car here in LA you will burn a lot of gas just because your idle speed alone or better yet the horsepower will eat your gas alone the lower the horsepower the less gas consumption needless to say a v6 vs 4 cyl will kill your gas budget esp if you do alot of driving in LA and yes I been to K8 lots of sand
      HATCHETMEN
      • 3 Years Ago
      My mother used to own a gas station here in PA and when she had new tanks installed they used water in the bottom to hold the tank in place while setting the pipes and back filling the whole. Guess what it doesn't get pumped out then, they simply set the pumps to grab higher than the water line in the tanks.
      AMANDA
      • 3 Years Ago
      glad to hear the gas station was willing to take care of all their customers expenses. Could of been worse and they denied it.
      gedking
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's the alchol in the gas that atracts water. and E85 is worse.
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