THV Extra: Is your gas pump ripping you off?

    11:40 PM, Nov 7, 2013   |    comments
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    (Photo: Thinkstock)

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The average price of a regular gallon of gas fell under $3 this week. It's good news for drivers, but is your gas pump ripping you off?

    "I would be very upset," says driver Mura Delisaidi. 

    Dianne Plemmons says, "I would think that the pump would not be calibrated correctly."

    Oh, I believe it," adds driver Joe Golden.

    Jason Kocher says, "Yeah, that wouldn't be right."

    It happens every day in Arkansas. Some drivers are not getting all they pay for at the gas pump.

    "We may get 10 complaints a month, says Roger Frazier. He's the field supervisor for the Arkansas Bureau of Standards.

    While Arkansas allows gas stations to hire their own testers, Frazier's team of inspectors travel across the state doubling checking their work making sure pumps are working properly and pump prices match the street prices.

    Lynn Bellott is responsible for four Arkansas counties. He uses specially calibrated tools to test gas tanks.

    There's 34,000 gas pumps in Arkansas. Only 6,000 of those get double checked for calibration by the state every year. Because of a tight budget, Frazier says its impossible to cover all of them.

    He explained, "Unless we start charging for inspecting gas pumps, I don't see us getting more employees the way the economy is."

    Frazier says 99 percent of pumps in Arkansas pass the measurement inspection, but consumers can technically still be cheated. That's because pumps can pass even when they dispense a little less than what the pump says. It's a margin of error the law allows.

    "Gas is already expensive," laughed driver Dianne Plemmons.

    So, a high-volume station that routinely sells a little less than a gallon could potentially rake in thousands of dollars a year extra for gas you never get. 

    And what about the gas going into your car?

    Chemist Supervisor Wilford Jones said, "All gasoline should be as clear as water."

    THV11 found out there's plenty of pumps not passing their test. So far this year, 173 of Arkansas' 2,300 stations have failed. Each were issued a warning for a range of problems including diesel in gas or water in diesel, which can both cause havoc in your engine.

    Jones explains, "If it is enough percentage of water that is coming through the nozzle you can actually leave that location and won't even make it a mile down the road."

    Car problems vary depending on the type of gas contamination. If a station doesn't fix the problem for the follow up visit, the state can fine them hundreds of dollars.

    "If they don't have everything done right, we're writing notices," added Jones.

    In the lab, 180 gas station samples are tested every week. However, Jones stresses  if a driver does get bad gas, it's the gas station that's liable and not the state inspectors.

    "They might not know they have a problem. We find it before they actually have any problems with their customers," said Jones.

    Driver Checklist for Good Gas & Accurate Prices

    1. Check the hose to make sure it's not leaking.
    2. Look at the inspection sticker. If it was checked more than a year ago, there could be a problem, so notify the station's attendant.
    3. Check to make sure the pump price matches the street sign price.

    As for other areas of the country, it's up to each state to make sure you're not getting ripped off at the pump. If you believe there is a problem at an Arkansas gas station, the Bureau of Standards will check it out for you. You can give them a call at 501-570-1159.

    GasBuddy finds the cheapest gas near you. Also, check out Arkansas' average prices. The Natural State repeatedly ranks in the top five of states with the cheapest gas.

    How to Reduce the Amount of Gas You Use:
    1. Drive more efficiently
    2. Keep your car in shape
    3. Plan and combine trips
    4. Choose a more efficient vehicle

    The U.S. Department of Energy has more useful links to save help save you money.

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