WATERVILLE — Several customers whose vehicles were damaged after filling up their tanks at a Mobil station on Pleasant Street with the wrong type of fuel have filed complaints with the station’s owner and now are wondering how, and whether, they will be reimbursed for the fuel and repairs.

The vehicle owners all went to the Mobil gas station connected with the On the Run convenience store for a fill-up last week and expected to get the fuel that they selected at the pump, but instead, some customers incorrectly ended up with diesel and others with gasoline in their tanks. The results varied from simply needing to drain the fuel from the tank to amassing over $700 in repair work and new parts.

The franchisee and owner of the station, who would not give his name, said that he learned of the problem with the fuel last Thursday and has received at least six customer complaints. He said they were still working to figure out what happened, but that representatives from Mobil have taken samples of the fuel and are investigating the problem. For now, the owner is providing paperwork to customers to fill out so that Mobil can compensate them once the problem has been identified. He declined to answer further questions about who supplies the station’s gasoline, citing legal reasons.

In the meantime, signs have been placed over the super and mid-grade octane gasoline labels that instruct customers that the station has only regular 87 octane gasoline available. Bags also were placed over the nozzles at the diesel pumps.

Mike Cote said he repaired one of the affected vehicles Friday at the service department at Thompson’s Volkswagen in Waterville, where he works. He said that if the wrong type of fuel is put into a vehicle, the fuel doesn’t cool properly and can ruin components in the engine. In Cote’s customer’s vehicle, diesel was pumped into a tank that takes regular gasoline, which forced them to flush out the fuel from the vehicle and its fuel lines.

Diesel also was pumped into Kevin Strickland’s 2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer, and the damage from the diesel already had exceeded $700 in parts and repair work before he realized that the problem was related to the fuel from Mobil. He initially noticed a problem with his vehicle at 6 a.m. Thursday when he and his family tried to start up the vehicle to head to Boston. The engine ran for a few minutes and then stopped. He had it towed to M&M Auto Repair in Winslow, where the mechanics hooked his vehicle up to testers that indicated that the throttle body and secondary air pump needed to be replaced. The bill he received totaled $735 in parts and labor.

However, when Strickland tried to start his vehicle again Monday, the engine started to smoke and he thought he smelled diesel fuel.

When Strickland smelled the fuel, he said he started to put things together.

“All of a sudden we have an issue with our car, and I went to gas our other car up on the next day, I think Friday, and there was a piece of white paper that says ‘we have only regular.’ No super, no mid-grade, and I think no diesel,” he said. “So that would tell you, something is not right here. I started thinking, I wonder if they mixed (the fuels) up?”

Strickland said his theory became more probable when he talked to Tom Hachey, the owner of Arbo’s Towing and Repair in Waterville. Arbo’s towed the TrailBlazer back to the shop on Friday, at which time Hachey told Strickland that two of the tow trucks at Arbo’s experienced the same problem after filling up on diesel at the Mobil station.

Hachey confirmed his truck troubles Tuesday in an interview with the Morning Sentinel. Hachey said he had to drain diesel from two of his tow trucks after filling up at the Mobil on Friday. He said he had to replace the fuel filter on one truck, which cost $60, and lost about 60 gallons of diesel altogether. Hachey said he thinks that whoever supplies the fuel to the station made a mistake and dropped a pocket of gasoline into the diesel container and diesel into the gas container.

Hachey said he placed a call with the store owner and is waiting to hear about what recourse will be available to him.

Strickland also contacted the owner and explained what he was experiencing, and the owner told him he could come by the station and fill out a few forms. Strickland said he sympathized with the person who made the fuel error and understood it was probably just a mistake.

“It’s confusing as to how it happened,” he said. “I pity the poor guy that did it.”

Nevertheless, Strickland’s vehicle is still in the shop, and he fears that he could end up paying thousands to fix the damage caused by the diesel fuel.

“You know, to come up with $700 in a moment’s notice wasn’t easy, and now it could be that or doubled, depending on what the mechanic has to do. Now the important thing is are they going to do right by us? I would expect that since they (Mobil) did it, they should stand by their products,” he said. “It was a mess-up with their products, so they’ve got to pay for the consequences.”

John Bott, the communicatons director for the commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said his office has not received any complaints about the fuel mishap yet. For customers experiencing problems after filling up at the Mobil station, Bott said the department’s division of quality assurance and regulations would be the best place to file a complaint. He said the department then probably would send out an inspector to investigate the problem.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg


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