Cost of repairs for cars with bad gas can vary widely
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent August 22, 2012 1:16PM
BP pumps sit idle at the Luke Oil at the corner of US 30 and Mississippi St in Merrillville Wednesday afternoon. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
BP claims response
Hot line: (800) 333-3991 or (800) 599-9040
Ind. Attorney General
Phone: (800) 382-5516
Updated: September 24, 2012 7:44AM
Sean Hussey’s Monday morning was just one of those days.
When he got in his 2004 Chevrolet Blazer to head off to work at his retail job in Hobart, the engine would not turn over.
“The car violently shaked back and forth and wouldn’t quite turn over. There was heavy smoke coming out of the tailpipe that had a real foul smell,” Hussey, of Chicago, said. He tried starting five or six times to no avail. He let it rest a bit and finally got it going.
Instead of work, Hussey headed to Mike Anderson Chevrolet’s service department in Merrillville. He was surprised to find himself behind six or seven other motorists experiencing the same problems. Soon, he would learn they were not alone.
Hussey is one of what could be more than 100,000 motorists to get a batch of bad gasoline blended at the BP Whiting refinery and shipped to gas stations throughout Northwest Indiana between Aug. 13 and 17. BP on Monday issued a recall of the tainted gas, citing a “higher than normal level of polymeric residue” in the 2.1 million gallons shipped during that period.
The affected gasoline could cause hard starting, failure to start and other related issues in vehicles, the statement from BP said.
Lee Stahr, service foreman for Mike Anderson Chevrolet, said the dealership already has serviced more than 100 cars with fuel-related problems.
“Unfortunately it’s tying up a lot of resources. It’s difficult to handle everybody,” Stahr said.
The level of repairs needed seems to vary with the model of the vehicle and the amount of tainted gas put into the tank. The most common repair involves draining the tank, flushing the fuel system and cleaning the injectors. That costs between $500 and $700 in most cases. In some vehicles more extensive work is needed including changing spark plugs and other parts related to the fuel delivery system.
“What (the foreign substance) does is it kind of creates film that gets viscous as temperature goes down. As it warms up it seems to get less viscous,” Stahr said. Some motorists have been able to run the substance out of their tank with the help of a fuel injector cleaning additive, others have had to have their vehicles towed for service.
Hussey ended up needing his fuel tank drained and cleaned, the fuel injectors cleaned, new spark plugs, fuel filter, wires and a distributor cap installed for a total repair bill of about $1,400.
“I just spoke with a representative from Speedway,” Hussey said Wednesday. “I was never able to get through on the phone lines at BP.”
He did use the company’s website set up specifically to handle consumer complaints relating to the fuel recall — www.bpresponse.com — to file a complaint, but he has not yet received a response.
“They claim they guarantee every gallon. I’m expecting them to make it as difficult as possible for people to receive compensation,” Hussey said. While he did not get a receipt for his Friday transaction – the pump was out of receipt tape – he did pay by debit card and has a copy of his bank statement to validate that.
“I feel sorry for the people who paid cash,” he said.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller shares Hussey’s concerns. On Wednesday, Zoeller said his office wants to make sure consumers’ rights are protected.
“Our office opened an investigation regarding the BP gasoline recall in order to protect the significant number of consumers impacted,” Zoeller said via press release. “We are closely monitoring the response by BP and will be reviewing their claims and reimbursement processes.”
Erin Reece, public information officer with the AG’s office, said Wednesday the office had received a handful of formal complaints stemming from the recall. She advised all consumers experiencing problems relating to the gasoline to go through BP’s claim process whether they have a receipt or not.
Reece also advised people to get a quote for the work that is needed on their vehicle or save the itemized bill for work completed. Consumers without a receipt or bank statement should also file a complaint through the AG’s office to cover all their bases.
“If they went through the claims process and BP did not give restitution … at least it gives us the opportunity to include them in any action we may take down the road,” Reece said.
Reece said it has not been determined if the AG’s office will take action at a future time, but consumers should take the steps to protect themselves. Consumers with receipts or bank statements do not have to file a complaint with the AG’s office to be reimbursed by BP but may also do so if they so choose.