Gasoline contaminated with water can ruin your fuel injectors. At about $150 each to replace, that can add up fast for a six or eight cylinder engine. While occurrences are rare, it happens, and it can be a very difficult thing to prove.
Car wouldn’t start
Last week, Trinity, Ala., resident Celestra Gordon stopped to fuel up. The following morning, her car wouldn’t start.
Gordon’s mechanic determined that there was water mixed with the fuel in the tank. Gordon contacted the gas station after she learned her insurance would not cover the damage. Since then, the station has shut down the pumps and will reimburse Gordon for damages.
But her scenario is not typical. Normally, contaminated gas is difficult to prove, and many stations will not be as upfront in their dealings.
No always so lucky
In August, Clarence Davis gassed up his car at a Bedford, Texas, Kroger station. While he was fueling, he noticed a tanker truck filling the Kroger station’s holding tanks. Later, when his car died, Davis’s mechanic discovered water in the tank.
Davis reported the incident to the Kroger station as well as to the Texas Department of Agriculture. The pumps were then tested by the agency and given a clean bill of health.
Taking case to court
This month, Davis took his case to small claims court, asking for the $700 he paid in repairs. He brought with him a milk jug containing the contaminated gas his mechanic had saved for him. The jury ruled against Davis because the gas in the jug could have been tainted after collection. Also, the court said, he should have gotten the gas tested by an impartial lab.
Most petroleum testing labs, however, won’t test small consumer samples. If such a lab can be found, they will likely charge about $300. Between that and the $100 required to file the case in court, Davis’ case was probably cost-prohibitive. And even a third-party test is no guarantee in court
Or the problem could be a misdiagnosis. Richard Armstrong, of the Armstrong Forensic Laboratory in Arlington, Va. said:
“Lots of unscrupulous garages say it’s bad gas when it’s a bad filter or this or that. The gas delivery system is pretty clean, actually.”
Because of frequent testing, the chance of receiving watered-down gas is extremely slim. When it does happen, it is usually pumped from the bottom of the service station’s tank. Phil Sorurbakhsh, of Texas OilTech Labs, explained why:
“Gasoline is lighter than water. So all the sediments and the water are on the bottom of the tank. With rain, every time the tank is opened up, humidity starts to accumulate, and it ends up in the bottom.”
Avoid tanker trucks
The best time to avoid fueling up is if you see a tanker truck refilling the holding tanks at a gas station. When tanks are refilled, it stirs up any water or sediment in the bottom of the tank and increases the chances of getting contaminated fuel.