Diluted gas: More common than you think

By Naomi Muller

Mechanics are reporting that they’re seeing an uptick in cases of water and sediment in vehicles’ gas tanks. Affected cars run normally for a while and later may require towing to be serviced. In such cases, repairs can add up as the tank needs to be drained and replenished if a fuel sample shows evidence of dilution. This is not typically due to tampering but from the gasoline sitting around for extended periods gathering sentiment and other external factors that allow water to seep into stations’ storage tanks over time.

Encouraging the growth of full service stations with attendants who are more likely to catch leaks is one solution but these are rare outside of Oregon and New Jersey where attendants are a requirement for business. So how can consumers spot possible dilution and protect themselves from purchasing bad gas in the first place?

Spot diluted gas while driving
The most common signs of water in the tank are hesitation in driving and acceleration, stumbling, and jerking. Notice if your vehicle suddenly has these issues while you’re behind the wheel. It can be hard to diagnose and requires testing of the fuel itself since cars don’t have alerts for water in the tank.

How to avoid fueling with bad gas
Some gas stations are more likely to have this issue than others. Avoid unbranded stations–they’re less likely to consistently pass inspections and change their fuel filters. If you have to refuel at a lesser-known station–avoid filling your tank while there is a tanker truck refilling their supply. This can stir up any sediment that can then slip into your tank.

What to do if you suspect you’re driving with diluted gasoline in your tank
Report bad gas to the station and call the number on the sticker at the pumps. You’ll also want to immediately address the affected gasoline in your tank at a reputable mechanic who can drain and refill it with fresh fuel.

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