BP recalling gas sold in Northwest Indiana after drivers report problems
Art Jackson of Valparaiso looks over his tool cart while servicing vehicles Monday afternoon at UAC Truck and Automotive Services in Valparaiso. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 21, 2012 7:50AM
BP is recalling unleaded regular gasoline that was shipped from the company’s Whiting fuel storage terminal between Aug. 13 and 17 after motorists throughout the region began experiencing problems with hard starting or getting their cars to start at all.
According to a statement from BP, the company believes fuel stored in a tank at the storage depot could cause hard starting, stalling and other issues. The gas may have been bought by motorists patronizing BP and other retail outlets in Northwest Indiana during the past seven days.
The issue surfaced Monday as dealerships and service shops throughout the region were inundated with motorists having difficulty starting their vehicles.
Tony James, owner of Northwest Indiana Auto Supply in Merrillville, said calls from dealerships and customers began rolling in Monday morning about cars having trouble starting or not starting at all. The business is an AC/Delco and Motorcraft distributor that, along with its retail parts business, supplies parts to a large number of local dealerships.
James said Schepel Buick GMC in Merrillville had 30 service inquiries Monday morning and Mike Anderson Chevrolet had eight vehicles towed in by noon.
“That’s pretty unheard of. It’s pretty widespread,” James said.
Just what is wrong with the gasoline remains unclear. BP did not cite a cause for the troubled gasoline in its statement, and service technicians who are draining gas tanks remain unsure what’s causing the problems.
James said the problem could be caused by water in the gas, too much detergent additive or some other unknown factor. Until the gasoline is tested it will be difficult to determine.
“We are still investigating so it is too soon to pinpoint the exact problem or how many shipments were involved, but we are acting with an abundance of caution and telling our customers to pull any fuel that we suspect to be bad from their gas stations,” BP spokesman Scott Dean said via email Monday.
The company is going through its shipping records and contacting Northwest Indiana customers who may have loaded tanker trucks at the storage terminal during the period and is replacing the contaminated fuel with fresh gas, according to the statement.
Motorists from Merrillville, Crown Point, Valparaiso and in at least one case New Buffalo, Mich., have been coming in or calling in with complaints about their cars all day, said Bill Vlietstra, service manager with Schepel.
The dealership had more than 30 vehicles come in with problems Monday morning and at least 70 additional calls. Vlietstra said in the tanks the dealership’s service techs have drained, it appears there might be water in the gasoline.
“It looks like water, but we’re not chemists,” he said. Most of the motorists experiencing problems filled up some time over the weekend with problems beginning to be reported Thursday and Friday.
Dean said the company began investigating the situation Monday after reports of the problem.
“Whenever we get a report like this we take it very seriously. We are out following up on complaints, checking sites and checking the supply chain,” Dean said.
At Costco in Merrillville complaints about the gasoline prompted the outlet to stop selling its regular unleaded gasoline Monday, assistant store manager Dale Robertson said.
“We’re not really sure what’s going on just yet. We were advised to just sell our premium,” Robertson said.
The petroleum division at Valparaiso-based Family Express was not immediately available Monday.
“BP is committed to fuel quality and guarantees every gallon of gasoline we sell,” according to the statement.
Customers who have experienced the problems with their vehicles during this period should contact BP’s customer hotline at (800) 333-3991.