3OYS: Accuracy At The Pumps. Are Gas Pumps Sucking You Dry?

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by LiAna Gonzales

Video report by Gary Harper

Posted on August 15, 2014 at 9:58 PM

PHOENIX  -- Ever feel like you got cheated at the gas pump?

An east Valley woman thought one pump ripped her off, so she contacted 3 On Your Side.

“You just have to have a car in Arizona.”

Like most of us, Linda Wright depends on her car to get around. “For my job, for my grandchildren, my children, to get everywhere," she says.

But all that driving isn't cheap. So, Linda says she keeps a close eye on her gas gauge. “I pay attention, especially with the gas prices getting higher," she says.

And when it comes to filling up, her calculations are usually always the same. “It's almost always 15 gallons or less.”

So Linda says when she recently put gas in her car, she was shocked when it took more than her usual amount.

“It's telling me that it took 17.5," she says. "That would be 19.5 and my car doesn't hold that much.”

This caused Linda to get very suspicious.  “The pump was wrong," she says. "It was either registering wrong or it kept pumping; I don't know.”

Getting cheated at the gas pump is a frequent concern, and not just from 3 On Your Side viewers.

“Oh it's a common complaint, we get complaints daily.” JJ Stroh is with the Arizona Departments of Weights and Measures, the consumer protection agency which regulates gas stations and pumps around Arizona.

Basically, it's their job to make sure you’re getting what you paid for when filling up.

“We're checking the volume of the fuel to make sure when you come in to get gas you get the right amount," he says. "That it's the right grade, that all the calculations are correct. That all equipment is operating as manufacturer designed.”

The Department inspected more than 1,600 during the last year, and more than 80 percent passed.

As for the 20 percent that did not pass, most of the inaccuracies favored the consumer.

“Based on our testing the fail safe in the system, the average consumer should be fairly confident they're getting their money's worth," he says.

So, we asked state inspectors to check out the gas pumps where Linda thought she might have been shorted. So, did the pumps check out?

Producer: "This pump is correct? "

"Yes ma'am," she was told. "It's correct and current. The computations were right. The amount of volume that came out was right. So this one would pass."

Stroh says in many cases, it's your car's gas gauge that's inaccurate and measures wrong, and sometimes fools drivers.

Extreme weather, like Arizona's heat contributes to the problem, because your tank can expand or contract, tricking consumers.

For Linda, it's a learning lesson.  And as for The Department of Weights and Measures, they say that's what they’re here for.

“Our number is on all the dispensers. Do not hesitate to call.”

The Arizona Department of Weights and Measures has more information online.

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