Beware Potential Gas Station Fraud

Photo from Flickr user (3)

“Dear PoP,

This afternoon I was filling up my very empty gas tank – added 14.4 gal to be specific. I was surprised because I had never filled over 13 gallons before (have had the car for 6 years). Sure enough, I went home and checked and my gas tank only holds 13.2 gallons. So, what does one do in this case? I did a search but nothing came up. Which agency regulates this? The gas station in question is just over the line in MD on Rhode Island Ave.”

Anyone have any suggestions?

27 Comment

  • Department of Ag in Maryland Weights and Measures:

    Consumers who suspect they have an incorrect measurement should contact:

    Maryland Department of Agriculture
    Weights and Measures Section

    • I believe this gas station (Rhode Island and 38th St) was recently in the news as running illegal gaming machines so it would not surprise me that it has also fooling around with the gas machines.

  • No Fraud…Just another PoP grand headline…

    While this may sometimes be the case, more often there is a misunderstanding of the amount of fuel that can be stored into a vehicle. Auto makers provide a reasonable estimate for tank capacity.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      This was the title of the email I received. But I’ll work on some proper grand headlines for ya!

      • Don’t worry prince, the title is appropriate, cab is just an idiot. An auto maker estimate of your gas tank would never be over a gallon off the true size.

    • why do you read this site if you’re gonna be so hostile?

      • My guess: It’s a fantastic release for hostility, with the bonus of anonymity and relative lack of repercussion. How often does one truly have the full freedom to express oneself without filters? Neato.

  • whats listed is the tank capacity. your fuel line holds more. check the weights and measures sticker on the pump to see when inspected, there is also a number on the sticker.

  • What happened in this particular case, who can say. But there ARE problems with consumer rip-offs at gas stations — both incorrect pumps, and hot fuel. It’s not crazy for this reader to send in the question.

  • Hey PoP,

    I don’t mean to be hyper critical, but the headline and the photo unfairly implicates this popular, neighborhood gas station. Contrary to public perception, these small gas stations are often mom & pop operations that only use the big oil company names.

    In any case, it would be a lot better to just use a generic photo or photo of the actual gas station in question (and if it was out side the District – who even cares!)

    • Prince Of Petworth

      I have switched to a generic photo and added ‘potential’ to the title.

      It is most definitely still important if it falls outside the district because people work outside the district and fill up their cars outside the district. So if others have had this problem it is certainly worth exploring.

  • at 38th street in brentwood?

  • That photo is from Bogota!

  • If it was full-service, you probably got caught in the oldest trick in the book, particularly common in Latin American countries.

    You roll up and ask the attendant to fill it up, and he/she starts the meter with 2-3 gallons already on it. You pay the extra money for the gas you never received…and it goes into their pocket.


    If it was self-serve…then your back to calculating weights and measures!

  • Someone mentioned it earlier, but just to be clear… sometimes the amount of fuel that your entire fuel system holds, when filled from near-bone-dry, will be substantially more than the amount that your car manual says fits in your tank. The “neck” of the tank, or the pipe that connects the tank to the little door on the outside is the biggest culprit, probably capable of holding a gallon or more in bigger cars (where the pipe is longer). Also, there are hoses,filters,etc connecting the tank to the engine that also contain a smaller amount of fuel.

    That’s not to say that there was no fraud involved in this case, just that cars are capable of holding (slightly) more fuel than the manual says they can.

    A slightly complicated way of figuring out if you are getting your money’s worth is to 1)figure out your average MPG for a particular route using a known-good station for the fill-ups. 2)Starting with a full tank, drive the route and return to the questionable gas station. 3)Fill up the tank again, and recalculate MPG based on the amount of fuel used. If the station in question is over-reporting the amount of fuel dispersed, your MPG will be significantly LOWER than the MPG that you calculated in step 1, and you may be getting ripped off. If it is higher, you probably didn’t calculate your cars MPG properly.

    Here’s a link on calculating MPG:

  • I just love that little car! I want one… pity it’s probably only sold overseas.

    Anybody know the make and model?

    • My Guess = it looks like an old Lada Niva, maybe from the 60’s or 70’s. Lada’s are Russian/Soviet vehicles. This car looks very similar to my friends Lada Niva in South Africa, and yes, they were never sold in the US.

      • thanks! I guess I’m now in the market for a Lady Niva. I just really like the old European styling. So much more interesting than, say, a Buick.

        • Emmaleigh504

          When you get one, please take me for a ride! Such a cute car!

          (There appears to be now way to make that request without it sounding dirty.)

  • You commenters are always so quick to blame the question asker.

    He said he’d NEVER filled his car up this much. Most people fill their cars up at around the same point in mileage and on the meter. Thus, if he hadnt run the car more than he typically does before a fill up, why do you guys suspect human misunderstanding or human error before you suspect fraud or a misaligned pump?

    Everyone is so quick to jump to the defense of gas station owners, cops, and jim graham. I thought these were the ones we were supposed to bond together in our disgust!?

  • Sounds like you have reasonable cause to call weights and measures to go test this station. If it’s all above board, then no harm, no foul. Just because they are a ‘mom and pop’ store doesn’t give them a free pass to thumb the scales. That being said, jumping to the “fraud” conclusion is a bit premature, too, so I wouldn’t expect any redress. Make the call and move on.

  • I’m not gonna lie. I would say there is at least a 90% chance that nothing at all is going on here. And even if there was, what would anyone do about it? How do you “beware” of this? Bring a gas can and test a gallon first?

    I have a bad habit of running my car down to fumes and EVERY TIME I fill it that way, I get a half gallon or more than the rated tank capacity. A gallon seems at the high end but not outworldly to me.

    I suppose “gas station fraud” is possible but this is probably one of the most effectively regulated things in the world today. It would be difficult for a gas-station owner to tamper (the pumps are sealed after inspection) and get away with it, and the consequences would be severe. I really doubt that there are many systemic issues of this.

    If the “pumper” is concerned then make a report, but what else are you going to do? There’s no way to accurately verify what you’re pumping. Therefore there’s no way for anyone to “watch out” for possible gas station fraud.

    The real fraud is not a possibly inaccurate pump anyway… it’s the massive profits the oil companies are making…


    som basic info on the expansion of gasoline by temp. I dont know how accurate it is.

  • That car looks like a Renault R4!

    • Yes it is indeed a Renault R4, my uncle had one for as long as I can remember in Barranquilla. Beautiful little car and the stick shift is on the dashboard ahahahhahahaha

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