With gas prices at the lowest rate seen in years, many travelers are taking time to visit more family and put more miles on their vehicles. With so many people filling up their tanks, it is important for people to know the fuel they are putting in their cars is the proper quality.

Some drivers in Laramie are beginning to question their gasoline, as some have had problems with their fuel pumps and other components in their vehicles due to impure or improper blends of unleaded gasoline.

Mechanics in Laramie have reported seeing problems with too high of ethanol concentration in vehicles over the last three weeks. Additionally, some vehicles have been seen with diesel mixed into their gasoline within the last week.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), most unleaded gasoline sold in the U.S contains some ethanol, but the content generally does not exceed 10% by volume. While the EIA says all vehicles can run off of a concentration of 10% ethanol, they say that only light duty vehicles from 2001 or later can run gasoline with a content up to 15%.

In addition, the EIA notes that only flexible fuel vehicles are capable of running fuel with more than a 15% ethanol content.  Many newer vehicles are flexible fuel vehicles, so they are capable of running on E85 fuel. The state of Wyoming considers gasoline to be E85 fuel when it contains between 75% and 85% ethanol.

This means non-flexible fuel cars can run the risk of damage if their fuel has a higher concentration of ethanol.

“You can melt the fuel pump, melt the fuel lines, melt the injectors and the last one we did, it melted the Schrader valve for hooking up the fuel gauge,” says local mechanic Robert Binkerd from RCB Auto Service.

He says RCB has seen four vehicles come in over the last three weeks with damage caused by a high ethanol content.

Putting gasoline with too high of an ethanol content in a non-flexible fuel vehicle can be a costly mistake. Binkerd says repairs could cost over $1,000 and, in rare cases, even closer to $2,500.

Still others in Laramie have reported vehicles with diesel mixed into their unleaded fuel. Diesel mixed into unleaded gasoline can cause problems with the fuel filter, fuel pump, and injectors depending on the vehicle and the diesel content.

Another local mechanic says vehicles with diesel fuel in their unleaded gasoline will run poorly, have low gas mileage, and may have the check engine light come on or begin flashing. When a car displays these symptoms, it is advised to bring the car into a mechanic right away.

Patrick Dehaan, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com, says he has seen cases where fuel is inadvertently put into the wrong storage tanks at gas stations, although it is uncommon.

“This is something that may happen at one station only once in the course of that station’s lifetime,” says Dehaan. “I’m not aware of this happening more than once at a station. They usually put some safeguards in place to prevent it from happening again.”

He says mistakes such as these are not usually the fault of a gas station. Dehaan says it would be more likely for a consumer to make a mistake than the gas station or the gas supplier, but that is not always the case. He adds that if mistakes are made filling the gas station’s tank, it is usually made by the supplier rather than the gas station itself. He says that people often believe there may be a problem with the fuel, but it may be a problem with the vehicle or even a contaminant in the gas tank itself.

He agrees with the local mechanics that getting the car checked right away is the best course of action if anyone thinks there may be something wrong with their fuel.

“The first thing when you’re encountering an issue, just like with any issue that you notice, especially with something like fuel which could really impact the performance of your vehicle, would be to immediately get it towed to a mechanic,” says Dehaan.

Dehaan says that consumers can rest easy knowing that these kinds of mistakes are very rare, and are usually covered by the company who made the blunder.

More From KOWB 1290