Did inspectors find problems at your neighborhood gas station?

It's monsoon season, and experts tell ABC15 all that dust and rain could end up in storage tanks at gasoline stations.

Dirty gas can hurt your car's engine, and that is what mechanics believe may have happened to Ivy Landis' car.

Her Buick LaSabre stalled in the intersection at 19th Street and Dunlap Avenue in Phoenix.

"Some random guy got out of his car, and helped me push it to the side," said Landis.

Her mechanic said it's tough to say for sure if dirty gas was the culprit, but the symptoms are the same.

"It will shut your car down. It won't run right, misfire, and cause the check engine light to come on," said Scott Anderson, mechanic for Kelly Clark Automotive Specialists.

Anderson said that's just a short list of potential problems that can lead to a long road of expensive repairs.

"It will do a lot of damage to the car," said Anderson pointing out that the cost of repairs can get very expensive.

Inspections

So, how do you know if you're getting good gasoline, or bad?

The ABC15 Investigators learned there are gas stations across the state that were cited for issues with fuel quality.

The Arizona Department of Weights and Measures is the office in charge of inspecting.

The department checks gas for things that can hurt your engine including the wrong grade of octane, particles or dirt, oxygen levels and whether or not there is any water in the gas.

The state issues non-compliance orders and can ultimately fine the station and/or close it down.

For example, if water is found in the tanks, inspectors will lock down the pumps until all the bad gas is pumped out.

The ABC15 Investigators pulled data for the past three years and discovered the state found problems at stations 114 times. That's out of a total of 1,900 inspections across the state.

There were 12 stations where the octane levels were either too high or too low, eight of them had water violations, and 34 had issues with oxygen level.

But state regulators say the amount of dirty gas out there could be a lot higher than the numbers reveal because drivers wait too long to contact them with problems.

Our Test

When labs test gasoline, they take samples and let them sit overnight to see if any particles are found in the fuel.

The ABC15 Investigators conducted a similar, but unscientific test.

We selected ten Valley stations with previous violations and took samples. We followed the same protocol as laboratories.

First, we purchased a gallon from each location and then poured the gas into separate mason jars.

We waited a full week before recording the results.

Nine of the 10 samples had particles in them. But one had a great deal more than the other.

Our test was unscientific, so state inspectors went back to the same gas station and conducted their own test.

Their test was several days after ours, and they found the station's current fuel passed inspection.

State inspectors say people need to call the moment they suspect a bad batch of gas.

"These stations pump thousands and thousands of gallons a day. If they don't call us immediately, that suspect fuel is long gone," said Shawn Marquez with the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures.

If you think the gasoline you just put in your car is problematic, you can call the Department of Weights and Measures at 602-771-4920 or File a Complaint online.

Anderson said this is a warning every driver needs to hear. "For a lot of people, as long as their car starts, that's the last thing on their mind. As long as the car gets them down the road, they don't care. But they need to care."

Map of Violations

The interactive map below has the locations of the gas stations that have one or more violations over the past three years from June 2009- May 2012.

The violations are notices of non-compliance which means a station is not complying with regulations.

Use the map controls to pan and zoom, also click on red dots to find more information.

Fail Codes and their Descriptions

  • 600 – (Product Transfer Document) – Means any bill of lading, loading ticket manifest invoice or other documentation used when a person transfers custody or title of motor fuel other than when motor fuel is sold or dispensed at a service station or fleet vehicle fueling facility.
  • 601 – (Octane) – A 601 fail code would be reported if there is an octane rating failure, octane is found to be out of specifications, too high or too low.
  • 602 –( Labeling) A 602 fail code would be reported if the required octane labels or oxygenate content labels were found to be missing or in disrepair in gasoline stations in area A and B.
  • 603 – (Labeling) A 603 labeling fail code would be reported in the remainder of State.
  • 604 – (Water) A 604 fail code would be reported if water were found in  service
    • stations underground storage tanks unleaded, mid, premium and diesel.
    • 605 – (Oxy content) A 605 fail code would be reported if fuel sampled was found to be out of specification for oxygenated fuel.
    • 606 – ( RVP) Reid Vapor Pressure- Is a common measure of the volatility of gasoline, vapor pressure is important relating to the function and operation of gasoline powered vehicles. A 606 fail code would be reported if laboratory results indicated RVP pressure out of specification.
    • 608 – (Olefins) – Are another general fuel property and performance requirement , a 608 fail code would be reported if laboratory analysis indicated any out of tolerance specifications.
    • 609 – (Sulfur) Are another general fuel property (diesel) a 609 fail code would be reported if laboratory analysis indicated any out of tolerance specification.
    • 610 (Distillation)  Are another general fuel property, a 610 fail code would be reported if laboratory analysis indicated any out of tolerance specifications.
    • 613 ( Flash point Diesel) – Flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which it can form an ignitable mix with air. A 613 fail code would be reported if laboratory analysis indicated a out of tolerance range either too high or too low.
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