A San Fernando Valley gas station may be costing drivers a lot more than $4 a gallon with a watered-down product.

A Valero station in Chatsworth has discovered a bad mix of gasoline in its pumps that could cause expensive damage to customers’ cars.

One family told KCAL 9’s Juan Fernandez the problem began immediately after filling up at the station at De Soto and Nordhoff.

“I drove less than a mile down De Soto and my car stopped working,” said Joni Merida. “I pressed on the gas, it wouldn’t go, I knew I was having a problem.”

Merida took her 2009 Corolla to the dealership and found out what was causing the problem.

“They gave us a call and told us, ‘There is water in your gas’,” she said. “So I knew right away it’s the Valero gas station that I went to.”

The Merida family is now driving a rental car while their vehicle is being repaired.

Jeff, the manager at the station, said a shipment of gas that came in earlier Wednesday had higher-than-normal concentrations of ethanol the corn-based biofuel used as a clean-burning additive to gas.

Studies show that at excessive levels, ethanol can cause engines to run improperly and damage rubber hoses, gaskets and engine parts.

Valero officials said ethanol lowers the octane level of the gas, and have offered an octane booster for all customers who filled up at the station on Wednesday.

Comments (27)
  1. Cheese Wonton says:

    Two errors occured here. Because ethanol is so hydroscopic, it is stored separately from the gasoline at the loading rack. Tank trucks usually have four compartments of different sizes for product. As the driver loads each compartment in sequence, he types in the total number of gallons for the compartment being loaded. Computers on the loading rack determine how much ethanol and raw gas to load so the ethanol blend is correct. On most racks, the ethanol is loaded, flow stops, then the gasoline loads.
    When the load is complete, a bill of lading prints out. The driver is supposed to check the amount of ethanol loaded and make sure the correct amount was loaded to achieve the correct blend. If the blend is incorrect, the driver is required to have the loading rack pump his truck off and reload it with the correct blend.
    What we have here is a combination of both equipment failure and a failure to follow procedure/ Of course we don’t know how much water was in the bottom of that gas station storage tank.

  2. Phiilip says:

    Valero has alwasy been a bit quirky. I had never heard of them but they sent me a credit card, so I started using their gas. Every single time I used the card it prompted me to ‘see retailer’. So I went inside, stood in line with all the construction workers buying single beers, showed my ID then was clearned to pump. I got so sick of it I eventually cut-up the card. Now I use Chevron..

  3. Rebulican Bush says:

    Valero gas is and always has been cheap gas, it burns out quickly… People trying to save a few cents by using Cheap gas $ 4.00 instead of using good gas chev/76/shell $4.13..What else can the poor working sap do ? cost of living is rising by the day, the poor just can’t catch up….

  4. Cheated in L.A. says:

    I just got ack gorm Las Vegas and we filled up Chevron Gas and it had no power to it. Maybe because it’s a small gas station and they don’t care about the quality of the gas. Either way i feel cheated when i pump gas, not enough comes out.

  5. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Chevron and Shell is the way to go – and your gas will last a lot longer. People are cheap and don’t realize that if you are saving 10 cents per gallon, there is a reason for it. S H E L L and C H E V R O N for ME. 🙂

    1. Scott M says:

      I thought it was my imagination, but your right…Shell and Chevron gas does last longer.

      1. Cheese Wonton says:

        Except there in no longer any actual Shell product in Southern California any more. Shell left a couple of years ago and sold their staions and refinery in Wilmington to Tesoro, which means Treasure in Spanish. Another big Texas oil company nobody has heard of.
        Shell allows Tesoro to use the Shell brand in this market because Tesoro knew that this keeps sales up. Believe me, they paid for the right.
        Shell acquired that refinery from Texaco when they merged back in 1994 or so. Chevron bought Texaco from Shell around 2002 or so (might have the date wrong) so if you see a Texaco station, it is Chevron gas, usually a couple of cents cheaper than Chevron sells it under their own name.
        Shell still has a refinery in Martinez that provides gas for actual Shell stations in Northern California.
        Ain’t the gas business grand? You never know who you are buying gas from.
        All those 7-Eleven stores that say Citgo on them? No Citgo in California, it comes from a Kinder Morgan loading rack and is a mixture of gas from all the refineries in the LA area bought cheap on the spot market.

    2. Cheese Wonton says:

      C’mom. There is no difference in energy content between brands of gas, or between different octanes of gas. They are so heavily regulated for content (emissions, remember?) that the only slight difference between brands of gas are their additives. The difference is negligible. It’s just marketing BS, Shell with their V-Power and before that, many years ago it was TCP (Tomcat P_ss, lol).
      What matters is what is or is not at the bottom of the gas station’s storage tanks. What kind of crud lurks down there to be sucked up into your car? Goodness only knows. A hint, Costco has the best housekeeping of any gas station there is. There is NO water in their tanks, ever. 76 is pretty good that way and so is Chevron. Anything else is hit and miss, depending on how diligent the station employees and owner are.

  6. Wilbur says:

    I never hear those hilarious OnStar commercials anymore.

  7. sea suntoes says:

    Valero gas is owned bt Mr. Chavez, the Prez of Valenzulela in South America.

  8. Lou says:

    All harley owners seldom use Velro or arco. definitely a poor performace!

    1. Cheese Wonton says:

      There is absolutely no difference in energy content between brands of gas. What goes into gas is pretty regulated for emissions purposes, so there is essentially no difference between brands of gas.
      What counts is housekeeping. Does the station do what needs to be done to keep water from getting into their tanks from rain or hosing the station down? When water gets into gas with ethanol, the ethanol falls out of solution with the gas, sucks up the water and becomes a big heavy glob of crud that falls to the bottom of the tank, right where the inlet pipe is. This is what causes problems, not which refinery the fuel came from.
      Btw, Valero runs just fine in my BMW bikes and my two V-Rods. Never had a problem, but then all of these have big filters.

  9. lawboy says:

    Valero is NOT owned by Chavez or Venezuela. It is a US based (San Antonio, TX) publicly traded company whose ownership can be verified through its SEC disclosures. (The name “Valero” is reference to the Alamo, fhe famous Texas Landmark whose real name is – Mission San Antonio de Valero.)

    Regardless of where you are buying gas, you may be putting fuel in your tank from anyone of Valero’s refineries as they are the largest refinery chain in the USA.

    Citgo is the oil company owned by the Venezuelan government.

  10. Cheese Wonton says:

    Lawboy knows his stuff. Locally, Valero took over the former Ultramar refinery in Wilmington and in the Bay Area it was the Beacon refinery (Utramar bought Beacon along with Shamrock and Oasis over the years). If you buy gas at 7-Eleven, USA Petroleum, Costco, Wal-Mart, Albertsons Express (a few Albertsons stores have gas stations) and a bunch of other places, the gas probably came from the Valero refinery in Wilmington and was stored co-mingled with gas from other local refineries that is bought on the spot market and stored at the Kinder Morgan facility on Sepulvada Bl. in Carson (Sepulvada and Alameda).
    The Valero refinery is actually pretty modern, haviing put a bunch of new fractile distillation towers and other new equipment in in the early 2000’s. Kinder Morgan, however, is a tired old dinosaur that is very poorly managed. We drivers called it Cluster Morgan, loll, or worse! I have loaded rocks there. THere were pebbles mixed in the gas from their ancient tanks. You could hear these rolling through the trucks plumbing as you made your delivery, and if you opened the dome lid on top of the truck afterward there would sometimes be dirt on the bottom of your tank.

    1. lawboy says:

      Cheese Wanton,

      Obviously you know your stuff too. Great input on this topic.

      So many people have little idea that regardless of the brand name on the pump, the gasoline is almost always coming from one or two local refineries and/or mixing plants. There are very few completely vertically integrated companies out there who refine and market their product exclusively through their own outlets (if there are any left at all from the “old days”.)

      Flying J (which is primarily sold through their brandedt truck stops) had entered the refinery business and was selling their own product through their outlets, but ran into some financial difficulties and I believe they either sold their refinery or shut it down a couple of years back. I can’t really think of any others who are still around.

  11. shilo says:

    All I know is I want them to pay for the repair it cost me to have my vehicle fixed because of this mistake! They can be sure to add in my time lost from work too!

  12. kanna robinson says:

    i filled up @ Vlalero on Mountain View Ave, Loma Linda CA on the 15th, and yesterday my car died. there’s no phone # to be locarted to that station and i live 30 miles away. HELP

  13. kanna robinson says:

    oooppps, that date was the 19th @ Valero, Mountain View in Loma Linda CA. Can anybody help me?

  14. stopethanol says:

    “Valero officials said ethanol lowers the octane level of the gas, …” This is absolutely false, ethanol raises the octane of gas. If Valero is offering an “octane booster”, they may have forgotten to put the ethanol in the gasoline at the terminal. E10 regular is normally made with 84 AKI BOB which is not legal finished gasoline. It needs ethanol to raise the octane 3 points to make it legal finished product. It may also have some other properties that do not meet ASTM D4814 specs. If they put too much ethanol in the gasoline they broke a federal law. It is illegal to put any gasoline that has more than 10% ethanol in it in a non flex-fuel vehicle.

  15. Burnedbyvalero says:

    My car broke down with a few miles from the station located on Beverly and Norwalk in Whittier. I went back today and spoke with the owner who said he will reimburse me for my costs. Still, I filed a complaint and opened an inquiry with the corporate office. I also have all my evidence in place if they give me trouble. The owner said he will give me a free tank of gas as well- at this point I’d rather not get any more gas from that station lol.

  16. sunshine says:

    This happened to my on the 25th in city of MAYWOOD.
    Where can I file a complaint.

  17. Robert Phillips says:

    This happened to me. Same wednesday morning, same Valero on De Soto and Nordoff. Im still waiting for my truck to be fixed. I went into the Valero to ask who to talk to about getting my Mechanics bill paid for and they told me to come back monday. Does anyone else have anymore information??

  18. Scott says:

    Diesel in Castroville, CA got me. Melted the Turbo out of my 2003 F250. I was suppose to leave for Kansas yesterday. I might have my ride back by Wednesday. I keep trying to call the Customer Services line – 18003248464 option 5.

  19. drowned says:

    I had the same problems a while a ago
    Toyota norhtridge told me wateer in the tank they GUESSED. No evidence was taken or given. and after the repair detroyed – my full gaztank.
    Repair taking out and flushing out the gaztank $800.
    And: Toyota did not even fix the proiblem!
    Does Toyota Northridge and gazstations work together on this?

  20. Anthony says:

    How exactly does ethanol lower your octane rating when it has a higher octane than gas? Even water would raise the octane level since its essentially resisting combustion, which is all octane does.

  21. Thane Thomas says:

    Just tanked at Valero in Alameda, CA (94501), and got classic bad fuel- losing power at speed, then bucking, then overheating that’ll take out aluminum heads, smells like way high NOx/lean vs the usual inert just burnt moisture exhaust. Stuck on I-5 with an engine that barely runs, with a visa and air tik to Asia for half a year that I’ve been planning for 2. Called TX, they gave me the distributor, “Antonio”- same as listed station no. Called him- generic machine voice then he picks up. A legit business that hasn’t a real voice and screens its calls. He said “Gas is tested, it’s your car.” No, Bozo, it’s YOUR junk gas. Too much ethanol or cut with Diesel are the guess, but it doesn’t do me thing one of good to be stuck here watching myself lose my trip. If I went to the bank then Arco for their cash demand, I’d be on the way to SFO now, not stuck in Redding with a dead 2-year-old once perfect engine. Thanks, cheap*sses! Really f-ed my year for me.

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