I-Team Investigation: Inspectors check gas pumps for accuracy

Fuel inspectors check pumps for accuracy
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 6:30 PM EDT
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(WFSB) – Summer is here, and gas prices continue to force families to make the best use of every last drop of fuel.

Since all eyes are on the pumps these days, the I-Team wants to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.

Eyewitness News went along with the Department of Consumer Protection’s (DCP) weights and measures team to show you how they ensure you’re not getting shorted at the pump.

Gas stations are under more customer scrutiny now than ever before.

Eyewitness News gets complaints from viewers and so does the state.

The DCP said it got 122 complaints so far this year.

How many are valid?

Here’s how they find out.

“I’m from the state of Connecticut, Department of Consumer Protection,” said Daniel Adcock.

Gas stations never know when weights and measures inspectors like Daniel Adcock and his partner Luigi Zavarella will show up.

“I’m here to do a fuel inspection on your station today,” said Adcock.

The random inspections start with that introduction and a check of the license.

The true test comes at the pumps.

We’re at the Gulf gas station on Cromwell Avenue in Rocky Hill for a reason.

You can see the gas there is $4.79.

It’s the cheapest on the block and possibly the cheapest in town.

These days people will go out of their way to come here to save a few bucks, so we want to make sure it’s not too good to be true.

These doors are opened to make sure the previous inspectors’ work hasn’t been tampered with.

“This is the lead seal that goes on here. It’s been sealed once before, and we crimped over it so that way we know if it’s been tampered with or recalibrated,” said Adcock.

This one passes the test, but before they close the door, they do another check.

“We also check, while we’re here, for skimmer devices,” Adcock said.

Now it’s time to test the efficiency of the pump.

They start with regular unleaded and pump five gallons into a tank.

“What we’re doing here is making sure, you see that zero mark? That zero is exactly five gallons. What we’re checking for is the bottom of the bubble, we’re making sure that the bottom of the bubble is on the zero mark and at five gallons on the display,” said Adcock.

He moves on to premium and it zeroes out again.

“This is a pass,” said Adcock.

In addition to the five-gallon check, there are two other things inspectors do during this fill up to make sure we’re getting what we pay for.

“There’s a jump that we look for in the beginning which we didn’t see. We’re also looking for a creep. When you let go of the nozzle when you finish pumping, you want to make sure that display doesn’t continue to roll up,” Adcock said.

Once the inspection is over, the gas is pumped back to the station and pumps pass with this sticker or fail with this red one.

Gas pumps are inspected once every two years, but Adcock’s job is also complaint driven.

“We’re up to about 122,” said Adcock.

122 complaints statewide this year.

You can’t blame customers for putting gas stations under the microscope.

DCP said of those complaints, 10-15 percent of them end up being valid and they get the red tag.

So far this year, 22 pumps have been red tagged.

This is just a fraction of the number of pumps at the 1,410 gas stations across the state.

Officials said shorting customers is not common.

When it happens, it’s usually an issue with a particular pump.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen one where the whole station was short,” Adcock said.

Officials said most pump failures actually benefit the customer, meaning you get slightly more fuel than you pay for.

If you want to report a complaint, the state’s gas hotline is 1-800-842-2649.