If you bought regular or plus gasoline at the 5th Ave. Get-Go station between 9:30 a.m. Monday, July 12, and 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 15, you might have a problem. Somebody made a mistake and put unblended ethanol into the station’s fuel tank. You probably already got a call from the company if you used a credit card, which would have been the great majority. A few cash customers may have an expensive fix as the ethanol does damage to their cars.
What will it do?
We can assume there will be a high percentage of alcohol in the gas that was bad, but the exact number depends on the volume of fuel that was already in the underground tank. It was also diluted by the gas left in your car, so those who fill up at the 1/2 tank mark would see less effect than the “running on fumes” drivers.
I found a number of websites that explain how alcohol affects cars, some of them seem to be biased against the mix. I think there is an undercurrent of opposition from the petroleum industry, mainly because of “government rules are always wrong” kind of thinking. This story seemed to be a bit more fact based.
The most immediate change a driver would see from a high alcohol gasoline would be a drop in performance and gas millage. Depending on how your car computer interpreted the change in the gas, you might see warning lights.
The older your car, the more damage will happen, as the alcohol begins to dissolve rubber in the hoses and carburetor parts. However, new cars are built with alcohol mix fuels in mind, so the damage might be minor.
The worst effect will happen after the car sits overnight, and the fuel separates. A layer of alcohol on the bottom of your tank will sit, slowly absorbing water from the air. The water will crud up the fuel system if it gets sucked up the next time you run low, probably leaving you dead on the side of the road.
People who fill gas cans at the Get-Go,in order to use a gas discount, will leave the cans sitting somewhere, slowly sucking up water from small leaks in the gas can vent. The longer it sits the worse it gets.
I don’t think the mistake will be a car-killer, but getting your gas system flushed (and contacting the Get-Go company if you think it might have happened to you), will be priority for the drivers of the “drunk” cars. And stop using those gas cans to save a few pennies, you are exposing yourself to the chance of a huge flaming fireball if something goes wrong while filling or on the drive home.