On July 24, Nathaniel Sarabura stopped at the Gas Plus in Langdon and filled the tank of his compact Mazda 3 with $46 worth of regular-grade gasoline.
Or so he thought.
When the time came to take his Monday morning commute into the city of Calgary a few days later, he noticed his ride was rather “sputtery,” and lagging.
Sarabura said he spent that evening fidgeting with his spark plugs and anything else he could think of that could have caused the issue. After that was not successful, he said he hooked up his Mazda to a diagnostic device. But once again, he learned nothing about whatever problem was plaguing his vehicle.
It was only after he began to scroll through his Facebook feed that he realized what was wrong with his easy-to-drive commuter car. In a Langdon community Facebook group, a conversation among residents who had experienced the same vehicular problems had emerged. The post was published on July 27, asking how Langdonites’ vehicles were running if they had recently filled up at the hamlet’s Gas Plus station.
“When I finally saw the post, it kind of made sense – that there was diesel in the tank,” Sarabura recalled. “Who could ever imagine that would happen?”
The post was flooded with commenters describing similar experiences to Sarabura’s – lagging engines, hesitation when accelerating, and some vehicles not starting at all.
Later that day, the root of dozens – if not hundreds – of people’s vehicle troubles finally had an explanation. The owner of the station, who made a Facebook account to communicate with the public about the incident, posted a statement they had received from GP Fuels Inc.
“We can now confirm that there was a mix of fuel delivered on Saturday, July 24 affecting only the regular and diesel tanks,” GP Fuels statement read in part. “Diesel fuel was delivered into the regular gas tank and regular gas was delivered into the diesel tank by the delivery company.”
The post went on to say motorists who purchased regular gas between July 24 and 27 received an 80/20 split of gas and diesel. Individuals who purchased diesel received about 60 per cent diesel and 40 per cent gas.
According to autoguide.com, putting gas in a diesel-powered car is much more harmful than putting diesel in a gas-powered car. However, both can be extremely detrimental to the health of a vehicle.
Diesel and gasoline have different combustion properties. A vehicle that uses gas has spark plugs to ignite the fuel and run the engine, while a diesel vehicle utilizes pressure made by the compression within the engine in order to run, according to JD Power
Diesel is thicker and denser than gas, the site added, so the fuel pump of a gas vehicle will have a hard time moving the diesel/gas mixture through its system. The diesel will not be able to pass through the fuel filter and will cause it to clog. Any diesel that ends up in the engine will clog the fuel injectors and cause the engine to seize, making the vehicle inoperable.
Putting gas into a diesel-powered vehicle is not any better, however. According to autoguide.com, the high combustion rate of gas will ignite much quicker in a diesel engine, causing incredible damage to the inner workings of the vehicle.
If Langdon’s community Facebook page is any indication, many people were affected by the gas mix-up in the hamlet; however, an exact number has not been determined as of press time. Posts and comments in the Facebook group developed into a series of recommendations for towing companies and mechanics, as more and more vehicles began to seize.
Sarabura said his Mazda is toast. Luckily, he has a spare vehicle – a 2004 pick-up truck – that has been his replacement for the commuter car. But while he is glad to have an alternate mode of transportation, he said the tank size and mileage on his truck are hurting his wallet.
“It is way cheaper for me to have a little beater car – like the Mazda – and only use the truck when necessary,” he said. “So, right now I am using the truck. But as you can imagine, there’s a big difference to fill a Mazda 3 and to fill a big truck.”
Frustration among those impacted is to be expected, he said, as vehicles are not cheap to fix and maintain. But Sarabura was not happy to see that frustration being directed at the owner of the gas station.
“First off, we should be nicer to our community members. It is not the fault of [the owner] at all,” he said.
Sarabura said he opened a ticket with the company through their website, which was provided along with a phone number at the end of the statement posted to Facebook.
He is seeking $5,000 for the loss of his vehicle, towing and rental car expenses, and the loss of his time the incident has resulted in. Sarabura has been in touch with the insurance adjuster representing the insurance company for GP Fuels Inc. and is expecting a visit from an appraiser soon.
He added he has also been in touch with his insurance company, who told him that even full comprehensive coverage would not cover the damage done by the mix-up – despite what the adjuster told him. The money Sarabura is seeking is heavily based on the liability he believes is on GP for the mistake.
“For something like this to happen, there had to been some pretty severe neglect on the part of – most likely – the person putting the fuel into the tanks,” Sarabura said.
“However, it does fall on Gas Plus’ shoulders to make sure that the education of their employees and the systems are in place, so these mistakes don’t happen.”
GP Fuels had not issued any official comments about the incident, as of press time – all information has been sent from the corporation, to the owner of the Langdon station, who then posts it on Facebook.
However, on Aug. 5, a screenshot of a letter from the adjuster working on behalf of GP Fuels Inc. was posted to the Langdon Facebook page by a community member, who was dealing with their own issues corresponding to the fuel mix-up.
“We ask that all customers experiencing engine difficulty subsequent to receiving an engine flush report to their auto insurer for handling,” the letter reads in part. “Please not that your comprehensive auto insurance provider will record the details of this letter and later present the claim to us on your behalf after making any necessary repairs.
“Depending on the volume of claims reported, our adjusters kindly ask for your patience while they review and respond to each of your individual claims. We thank you in advance for your cooperation and apologize for inconveniences in connection with this incident.”
Upon calling the number listed for citizens to make a complaint, the Rocky View Weekly was directed to a voicemail, and had yet to receive comment as of press time.
When reached, representatives from Gas Plus relayed the Rocky View Weekly’s request for comment to GP Fuels.
Anyone who is experiencing vehicle issues and filled up at the Gas Plus in Langdon with regular gas, mid-grade gas or diesel from 9 a.m. on July 24 to 9:45 a.m. on July 27 is asked to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with their contact information.
According to a statement from GP Fuels relayed by the owner, the affected tanks were drained and refilled with the proper contents by 4:30 p.m. on July 27.