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View Full Version : Water in my gas tank. How screwed am I?


Rhubarb
06-27-2007, 02:03 AM
My car is currently being guarded by a pair of enthusiastically unfriendly pit bulls at an auto repair shop about 150 miles north of my home. My auto is enjoying this canine companionship because I was one of a handful of drivers to discover that the 87 octane unleaded gas we were accusomed to being served had been secretly replaced with dirty rainwater. Imagine our surprise!

Here are the facts:

2001 Saturn L300, 3.0L, V6 DOHC engine with 8.000 gallons of gasoline-contaminated water added to < 2 gallons of gas already in the tank.

The car has been towed to a repair shop where they;
1.) Tried to pump the water from the tank using the fuel pump. About a pint of nasty looking water came out, then nothing. Fuel pump runs, but no flow.
2.) Removed hose ahead of inline fuel filter to try to drain - still no dice.
3.) Scratched their heads and made less than comforting guesses.

When I left, they planned to drop the tank to drain it and check the fuel pump and any in-tank filters, clean or remove and clean the fuel injectors, replace the fuel filters and try to get it running.

Here's the question: What else, if anything, should be done to get the car back to it's pre- H2O state and what troubles should I expect/look out for in the future because of this incident?

Rick
06-27-2007, 04:12 AM
You are not nearly as screwed as the guy that sold you the watered gas. He has to pay for the repairs to put you back into the condition you were before you bought gas from him.* :D

In reverse order:
Once the repair is done, I can think of no lasting effects for you to worry about.

I agree the tank should be dropped. It sounds like the intank filter (usually a sock) is probably plugged. Obviously this filter will need replacing.

All of the contents of the tank should be discarded. The tank should be wiped out by hand to ensure that all the water has been removed. The problem with leaving some water in the tank is not one of hurting the car long term. Rather it is that the miracle ingredient H2O positivity prevents internal combustion. (Double points if any dopers can ID that reference) Any left over water can cause stalling.

The fuel filter needs to be changed.

The injectors should be fine once they get gas again.

There is a slight possibility that the spark plugs may need changing due to fouling.

A bottle of gas line antifreeze or rubbing alcohol in the first tank might not be a bad idea to bind up any left over water that was not removed during the repair.

*Make no mistake it is the station's fault. Don't let them try and tell you different.

Fear Itself
06-27-2007, 09:03 AM
A bottle of gas line antifreeze or rubbing alcohol in the first tank might not be a bad idea to bind up any left over water that was not removed during the repair.Rubbing alcohol? Most commercially available rubbing alcohol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubbing_alcohol) is 30% water, and would be less efficient at soaking up free water than a bottle of Heet (http://goldeagle.com/heet/index.htm).

Rick
06-27-2007, 09:57 AM
From the Auto Zone (http://autozone.com/selectedZip,91342/initialAction,accessoryProductDetail/initialR,NONAPP22427/shopping/selectZip.htm) web site ISO-HEET is an isopropyl alcohol formula that absorbs water
:D
If the shop did their job correctly this is a belt and suspenders thing. There should not be any water remaining at the point the alcohol is added, I suggested it only to bind up any remaining drops that might be hiding in a corner somewhere.
I have used both products in the past and not had problems. How do I know the rubbing alcohol worked, and it wasn't a case of there was no remaining water to be picked up? I don't, it is a belt and suspenders thing.

Fear Itself
06-27-2007, 10:17 AM
From the Auto Zone (http://autozone.com/selectedZip,91342/initialAction,accessoryProductDetail/initialR,NONAPP22427/shopping/selectZip.htm) web site
:DWhile both products contain isopropyl alcohol, Heet is a much higher concentration (http://imperialinc.com/msds0055120.shtml) (99%) than rubbing alcohol (70%). It is counter-intuitive to expect the latter to be as effective as the former in scavenging free water, when it is already a water solution.

FatBaldGuy
06-27-2007, 10:21 AM
So, I realize that this is GQ and not MPSIMS, but are you going to tell us how the dirty rainwater came to be in the station's tanks? And what actions were taken against the reponsible parties?

Max Torque
06-27-2007, 10:58 AM
Rubbing alcohol? Most commercially available rubbing alcohol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubbing_alcohol) is 30% water, and would be less efficient at soaking up free water than a bottle of Heet (http://goldeagle.com/heet/index.htm).
Well, perhaps, but it's not that hard to find isopropyl alcohol on the shelf at higher concentrations. I have a bottle of, I think, 93% alcohol that was right next to the more common 70% "rubbing alcohol" at Target. Its label indicates that it's to be used to clean and disinfect the skin before giving an injection.

Fear Itself
06-27-2007, 11:06 AM
Well, perhaps, but it's not that hard to find isopropyl alcohol on the shelf at higher concentrations. Again, I am not questioning the use of isopropyl alcohol; that's what Heet is. I am questioning the recommendation of "rubbing alcohol", which is not the same as some other alcohol preparations. If you say rubbing alcohol, it is most typically going to be what is labelled that way on the shelf, with 30% water.

Nic2004
06-27-2007, 11:15 AM
I have used Rubbing Alcohol in my lawn mower, my motorcycle, a go-cart and my trucks. It has solved the problem as well as any gas-additive product at much less cost.
If you'd feel better with the additive product, that will work also. I have used the alcohol in lamps as well and it makes for a nice clean flame.
IMO.

Rick
06-27-2007, 01:08 PM
Again, I am not questioning the use of isopropyl alcohol; that's what Heet is. I am questioning the recommendation of "rubbing alcohol", which is not the same as some other alcohol preparations. If you say rubbing alcohol, it is most typically going to be what is labelled that way on the shelf, with 30% water.
Full disclosure I was going to post Isopropyl alcohol, but for the life of me I could not remember how to spell Isopropyl. Since I have used rubbing alcohol in the past, and since I did recommend dropping the tank and swabbing it out with a rag, and then replacing the fuel filter this should eliminate all but a drop or two of the water. Pretty much any type of alcohol would work to bind the rest into the gas, so it can run through the engine.
I could have posted a link to this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacardi_151) or this (http://beerliquors.com/liquors/grain.htm) but rubbing alcohol will work just about as well for the small amount of water we are talking about.

Rhubarb
06-27-2007, 05:16 PM
Thanks for all the info. I was definitely going to use something to scavenge the remaining water, if any. It's good to know that common rubbing alcohol will work in a pinch if more concentrated forms of isopropyl alcohol are unavailable.*

Latest news from the repair shop - what was in my tank "looked like a mixture of butter, water and tar". How the hell that came to be in the gas pump is a mystery to me. Everyone else that I saw yesterday had what looked like dirty rainwater in their tanks. As to how that got in the underground fuel tanks, the current speculation is either a leak in the tank allowing groundwater contamination or an improperly sealed fill port. Wichita Falls (where this happened) got 5" of rain yesterday morning and the ground was already saturated, so the runoff was quite spectacular.

To Rick, there is no question that the station owner is paying for everything. He told all of us to bring him our receipts when repairs were complete, but I'm going one better and taking the bill directly to him. He'll pay it before I take my car out of the shop. And then I'll give him the receipts for my rental car and for the gas I burned in it. And then he'd better thank me, because I was the one that realized what the problem was so they could shut down the pumps before a lot of other cars got the water treatment.



*Would any other type of sufficiently concentrated alcohol work as well as isopropyl alcohol? Could you use a pint of Everclear (ethanol) or E85 fuel to get the same results? You know, in an emergency?

Rick
06-27-2007, 06:24 PM
Asking for gas money back might be a stretch, since you would have burned it anyway.
But cool.

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