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BMW 3-Series (E90 E92) Forum > E90 / E92 / E93 3-series Technical Forums > Mechanical Maintenance: Break-in / Oil & Fluids / Servicing / Warranty > Fuel experts please help!! - Dealer found 18% ethanol in my gas!!!



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      06-04-2008, 11:14 AM   #1
KingCobra
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Fuel experts please help!! - Dealer found 18% ethanol in my gas!!!

I am beside myself right now...

I have had my 2007 335i for about two months, and I notice that in the morning its really hard to start. It will crank for 5-10 seconds, then I will cut it off to avoid damaging anything. Second or third try it starts.

I took it to my dealer, figuring it was the known fuel pump issue. He said that was likely. After keeping it for two days, he reported that they did observe a longer than usual crank time when the engine was cold, but the car did not throw any codes. So they decided to test my gas, and found 18% ethanol! I almost always buy my gas at the Amoco next to my house (just filled up last week), and I always use premium. The dealer went so far as to tell me that if my fuel pump does go, it would be my/the gas station's responsibility to pay for it! I don't know what relation ethanol has to the fuel pump, anyone know if that's true? Also, they told me to go ahead and burn that tank of gas, then switch stations. If this really could damage the car, shouldn't they siphon the gas out rather than send the car out with gas that could damage it?

If anyone can give some insight as to the effects of this much ethanol I would greatly appreciate it. What kind of damage could this cause to the car? I know I need to report the station as a first step. They advertise up to 10% ethanol on the pump, not 18%. Anyone know what organization monitors or regulates retail fuel stations?

Thanks,

Mike
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      06-04-2008, 11:28 AM   #2
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..i would take you sample to bp and go from there b/c it is NOT supposed to go over 10%..it even says it on the sign..for the 13500+ miles i have only put in bp and i have put shell about 3 times..that's it..i always use bp..there gas is great and they get it from great sources..i would call them..i am shocked your dealer actually tested the gas..but if it is really 18% then i would call bp..and get some free gas out of it.. your asking what monitors? CALL BP
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      06-04-2008, 11:40 AM   #3
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I'm asking what org monitors this because I would suspect the station is doing it to dilute the fuel and increase their margins. I know there are regulatory organizations out there. Maybe they could take a sample straight from their pumps to document this. I doubt that BP would ship fuel that was out of spec. I will get in touch with BP as well to let them know about the situation.
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      06-04-2008, 01:21 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KingCobra View Post
I am beside myself right now...

I have had my 2007 335i for about two months, and I notice that in the morning its really hard to start. It will crank for 5-10 seconds, then I will cut it off to avoid damaging anything. Second or third try it starts.

I took it to my dealer, figuring it was the known fuel pump issue. He said that was likely. After keeping it for two days, he reported that they did observe a longer than usual crank time when the engine was cold, but the car did not throw any codes. So they decided to test my gas, and found 18% ethanol! I almost always buy my gas at the Amoco next to my house (just filled up last week), and I always use premium. The dealer went so far as to tell me that if my fuel pump does go, it would be my/the gas station's responsibility to pay for it! I don't know what relation ethanol has to the fuel pump, anyone know if that's true? Also, they told me to go ahead and burn that tank of gas, then switch stations. If this really could damage the car, shouldn't they siphon the gas out rather than send the car out with gas that could damage it?

If anyone can give some insight as to the effects of this much ethanol I would greatly appreciate it. What kind of damage could this cause to the car? I know I need to report the station as a first step. They advertise up to 10% ethanol on the pump, not 18%. Anyone know what organization monitors or regulates retail fuel stations?

Thanks,

Mike

I'd be furious with the dealer. He's making you do some massive leg work here. You'll have to test out the gas from the station. Next, go contact management about it. Then, link the car problem with the high ethanol content. Then, get it it comped.

Sigh... a lot of headache and time wasted.
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      06-04-2008, 02:47 PM   #5
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This is old but still valid

SI B 13 01 06
Fuel System & Control September 2006
Technical Service

This Service Information bulletin supersedes S.I. B13 01 06 dated March 2006.

designates changes to this revision

SUBJECT
Alcohol Fuel Blends in BMW Vehicles


MODEL
All with gasoline engines


SITUATION
Fuel blends containing a high percentage (above 10%) of alcohol, mainly ethanol, are becoming more commercially available. Customers inquire about the possibility of using alcohol fuels (e.g. E85) in BMW vehicles.

INFORMATION
Fuels containing up to and including 10% of ethanol or other oxygenates with up to 2.8% oxygen by weight, that is, 15% MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) or 3% methanol plus an equivalent amount of co-solvent, will not void the applicable warranties with respect to defects in materials or workmanship.

Although, usage of such alcohol fuel blends may result in drivability, starting, and stalling problems due to reduced volatility and lower energy content of the fuel. Those drivability problems may be especially evident under certain environmental conditions, such as: high or low ambient temperatures and high altitude.

Only specially adapted vehicles (FFV - Flexible Fuel Vehicles) can run on high alcohol fuel blends. BMW, for the various technical and environmental reasons explained below, does not offer FFV models.

Usage of E85, or any other high alcohol content blend (e.g. E30) in BMW vehicles, will cause various drivability complaints (cold start problems, stalling, reduced performance, poor fuel economy, etc.), may cause excessive emissions, and may cause irreversible damage to engine, emission control and fuel delivery systems due to incompatibility of materials with alcohols.

General Notes Regarding E85 Fuel.

E85 fuel contains 85% (by volume) of ethanol and 15% of gasoline. Ethanol can be produced chemically from ethylene or biologically from grains, agricultural wastes, or any organic material containing starch or sugar. In the US, ethanol is mainly produced from corn and is classified as a renewable fuel.

Similar to gasoline, ethanol contains hydrogen and carbon; with additional oxygen molecules build into its chemical chain. This chemical structure makes ethanol's burning process slightly cleaner compared to the gasoline (lower tailpipe emissions).

On the other hand, due to lower carbon content, ethanol provides 27% less energy (for identical volume) then gasoline, resulting in the reduced fuel economy of E85 vehicles (approximately 22% higher consumption). Increased fuel consumption requires the appropriately enlarged fuel tank capacities (usually 30% increase), and the specific DME calibrations for the E85 lower Stoichiometric air/fuel ratio (10 compared to 14.7 for gasoline engines).

E85 fuel volatility is typically lower then gasoline (RVP 6-10 psi, compared to 8-15 psi for gasoline). Lower fuel volatility will reduce vehicle evaporative emissions, but it may cause cold starting problems especially with lower ambient temperatures.

Under certain environmental conditions, mainly lower ambient temperatures, ethanol separates from gasoline/alcohol mixture and absorbs water. The ethanol absorbed water molecules are heavier then gasoline or ethanol, they remain at the bottom of fuel tank and when introduced into combustion process they tend to form an extremely lean mixture resulting in misfire, rough idle and cold starting problems.

Certain materials, commonly used with gasoline are totally incompatible with alcohols. When these materials come in contact with ethanol, they may dissolve in the fuel, which may damage engine components and may result in poor vehicle drivability.

Some metals (e.g. zinc, brass, lead, aluminum) become degraded by long exposure to ethanol fuel blends. Also, some nonmetallic materials used in automotive industry such as: natural rubber, polyurethane, cork gasket material, leather, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyamides, methyl-methacrylate plastics, and certain thermo & thermoset plastics degrade when in contact with fuel ethanol.

In order to safely and effectively operate a motor vehicle running on E85, the vehicle must be compatible with alcohol use. Some manufacturers have developed vehicles called FFV (Flexible Fuel Vehicle) that can operate on any blend of ethanol and gasoline (from 0% ethanol and 100% gasoline, up to 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline). Ethanol FFVs are similar to gasoline vehicles, with main differences in materials used in fuel management and delivery systems, and DME control module calibrations. In some cases, also E85 vehicles require special lubricating oils.

Aftermarket conversions of gasoline-powered vehicles to ethanol-fueled vehicles, although possible, are not recommended due to internal materials and DME software incompatibility, as well, as the high costs of conversion.

In order to correctly diagnose various drivability complaints caused by fuel blends with a high level of ethanol content, BMW is providing you with an alcohol detection test tool (PN83 30 0 420 667).

Refer to S.I. B13 04 06 for operating instructions.

Distribution of the following tool will be through the Automatic Tool Shipment Program. Additional tools may be purchased through your PDC.



Alcohol Detection Test Tool
Order PN 83 30 0 420 667

WARRANTY INFORMATION
Components damage/malfunctions, or any drivability problems caused by use of fuels containing more then 10% ethanol (or other oxygenates with more then 2.8% oxygen by weight) will not be covered under BMW warranties with respect to defects in materials or workmanship.
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      06-04-2008, 03:40 PM   #6
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The alcohol test is flakey -- Knauz on more than one occasion has reported that Shell V-Power 93oct gas had 18% ethanol in it, but after repeatedly arguing with them they tested their own known-good gas and it also came back as 18% ethanol.

The "alcohol test tool" is just a syringe that they put some gas and water in, shake, then read the line of separation. The alcohol dissolves in the water easier than gasoline, so the difference between gas+alcohol/water and gas/alcohol+water gives (theoretically) the amount of alcohol in the gas.
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      06-05-2008, 07:58 AM   #7
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Thanks guys for the info and posting that TSB. It sounds like as long as I didn't try and put E85 in my car, this cant void my warranty. Besides, their test showed one tank of fuel with higher than normal ethanol. I don't think based on one tank they could say this has caused irreversible damage to the car, especially considering they recommended I drive it and burn through that tank before switching to a different station. If it was serious enough to void the warranty, they would be negligent for not recommending I have them siphon that gas out of the car. I will pick up the car today and go from there. Next time it doesn't start I wont interrupt it. They said if it stops cranking on it's own then it will throw a code. I'm betting this still turns out to be the fuel pump.
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      06-09-2008, 11:30 AM   #8
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BMW does not recommend Amoco gasoline.

Six of the world's top automakers, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen and Audi have defined a standard for top tier gas. Must be a problem for them to have formed this group.

TopTierGas ethanol standard:
Contain enough denatured ethanol such that the actual ethanol content is no less than 8.0 and no more than 10.0

See http://www.toptiergas.com/index.html

Standard: http://www.toptiergas.com/deposit_control.html

In Connecticut, only Shell is top tier.
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      06-18-2008, 08:48 PM   #9
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I'd ask the dealership to run the test again, preferably while you're there watching them do it. It's more likely that they screwed up the test or misread the result than some underhanded conspiracy by Amoco.
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      07-05-2008, 09:03 AM   #10
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Same problem as KingCobra

KingCobra...is it possible to update the status of your problem? have you resolved it? if so, how?

I am facing the same identical problem and I keep running into walls, I am curious to find out how you solved it.
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      07-05-2008, 09:23 AM   #11
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I switched to the Philips 66 gas as the dealer recommended, and there has been no difference. My car is completely embarrassing to start some mornings, and I know much more is going to start causing other damages. I was talking to my boss about this, and it turns out his brother in law is the service manager at another BMW dealer in the area, so I'm going to bring it there rather than argue the point with the dealer I have been going to. If I didnt have that option I would be at the dealer raising hell about this until something was done. They know the car isnt starting right, they even put it in their report that they observed extended start times. I think the problem is that BMW wont trust the service center's judgement on warranty repairs. Unless the car throws a code as proof of the problem, they wont pay for it. I would agree with a comment made earlier in the string here, that their test method for determining the ethanol in my fuel might not be the most accurate. I cant believe they dont have a way to monitor fuel pressure while they start it in the shop, code or no code.
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      07-05-2008, 12:37 PM   #12
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Interesting. On May 30th I got gas, just like you, at the BP Amoco down the street from my house. The next morning my car would not start. It got towed to the dealer and the first time they said it was the fuel pump. The next morning after I picked it up from the dealer, it would not start again, I had it towed for the second time in a week. This time the dealer changed the fuel filter. As I was waiting for my car to come out, the service adviser came out and said it would not start again...3 times in one week!

The third time the dealer ran tests on the gasoline and determined it had higher than 22% ethanol. Initially I approached the BP Amoco station, they said to contact BP Amoco since it was not their problem. I approached BP Amoco and they sent me back to the gas station saying it was not their problem since it was an independent dealer. The station sent me to their insurance, and my claim got denied, claiming there is not enough "proof" even though I have 2 continuous weeks of receipts, a report from the dealer saying that my gas contained more than 22% ethanol. I had the Department of Agriculture run tests on the gas station. I am waiting for the reports, but it's been over a month since I got gas there so who knows what the results will be.

Today is July 5th and my car is still at the shop....36 days! It has been over 1 month since my car has been at the dealer and no one wants to take responsibility, not the dealer, or the gas station, or BP Amoco, nor the station's insurance company. The total to pick up my car is over $3,000 in addition to the nearly $500 I already paid the first two times it got towed.

I am wondering if there are more people out there with this problem...it would be interesting to find out who really is at fault because it seems they are dumping the problem on us and it is much, much, much bigger than it looks.

Last edited by MyBeemer; 07-05-2008 at 01:15 PM.
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      07-06-2008, 08:33 AM   #13
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The proof will be in those tests from the DOA of course. I agree with others in the thread that its not likely BP is shipping fuel that is so far out of spec. I would be more suspicious of the station having the fuel cut with more ethanol to increase their margins. The trucking companies that pick up the fuel from BP and deliver it are independent as well, so this could be done at any point in the shipping process.

How do you owe $3000?? Did the dealer tell you ahead of time that it wasn't going to be warranty work? Sounds like they replaced the fuel pump the first time, and you took the car home. Where is this bill coming from all the sudden?
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      07-06-2008, 09:21 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cobradac View Post
This is old but still valid

SI B 13 01 06
Fuel System & Control September 2006
Technical Service

This Service Information bulletin supersedes S.I. B13 01 06 dated March 2006.

designates changes to this revision

SUBJECT
Alcohol Fuel Blends in BMW Vehicles


MODEL
All with gasoline engines


SITUATION
Fuel blends containing a high percentage (above 10%) of alcohol, mainly ethanol, are becoming more commercially available. Customers inquire about the possibility of using alcohol fuels (e.g. E85) in BMW vehicles.

INFORMATION
Fuels containing up to and including 10% of ethanol or other oxygenates with up to 2.8% oxygen by weight, that is, 15% MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) or 3% methanol plus an equivalent amount of co-solvent, will not void the applicable warranties with respect to defects in materials or workmanship.

Although, usage of such alcohol fuel blends may result in drivability, starting, and stalling problems due to reduced volatility and lower energy content of the fuel. Those drivability problems may be especially evident under certain environmental conditions, such as: high or low ambient temperatures and high altitude.

Only specially adapted vehicles (FFV - Flexible Fuel Vehicles) can run on high alcohol fuel blends. BMW, for the various technical and environmental reasons explained below, does not offer FFV models.

Usage of E85, or any other high alcohol content blend (e.g. E30) in BMW vehicles, will cause various drivability complaints (cold start problems, stalling, reduced performance, poor fuel economy, etc.), may cause excessive emissions, and may cause irreversible damage to engine, emission control and fuel delivery systems due to incompatibility of materials with alcohols.

General Notes Regarding E85 Fuel.

E85 fuel contains 85% (by volume) of ethanol and 15% of gasoline. Ethanol can be produced chemically from ethylene or biologically from grains, agricultural wastes, or any organic material containing starch or sugar. In the US, ethanol is mainly produced from corn and is classified as a renewable fuel.

Similar to gasoline, ethanol contains hydrogen and carbon; with additional oxygen molecules build into its chemical chain. This chemical structure makes ethanol's burning process slightly cleaner compared to the gasoline (lower tailpipe emissions).

On the other hand, due to lower carbon content, ethanol provides 27% less energy (for identical volume) then gasoline, resulting in the reduced fuel economy of E85 vehicles (approximately 22% higher consumption). Increased fuel consumption requires the appropriately enlarged fuel tank capacities (usually 30% increase), and the specific DME calibrations for the E85 lower Stoichiometric air/fuel ratio (10 compared to 14.7 for gasoline engines).

E85 fuel volatility is typically lower then gasoline (RVP 6-10 psi, compared to 8-15 psi for gasoline). Lower fuel volatility will reduce vehicle evaporative emissions, but it may cause cold starting problems especially with lower ambient temperatures.

Under certain environmental conditions, mainly lower ambient temperatures, ethanol separates from gasoline/alcohol mixture and absorbs water. The ethanol absorbed water molecules are heavier then gasoline or ethanol, they remain at the bottom of fuel tank and when introduced into combustion process they tend to form an extremely lean mixture resulting in misfire, rough idle and cold starting problems.

Certain materials, commonly used with gasoline are totally incompatible with alcohols. When these materials come in contact with ethanol, they may dissolve in the fuel, which may damage engine components and may result in poor vehicle drivability.

Some metals (e.g. zinc, brass, lead, aluminum) become degraded by long exposure to ethanol fuel blends. Also, some nonmetallic materials used in automotive industry such as: natural rubber, polyurethane, cork gasket material, leather, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyamides, methyl-methacrylate plastics, and certain thermo & thermoset plastics degrade when in contact with fuel ethanol.

In order to safely and effectively operate a motor vehicle running on E85, the vehicle must be compatible with alcohol use. Some manufacturers have developed vehicles called FFV (Flexible Fuel Vehicle) that can operate on any blend of ethanol and gasoline (from 0% ethanol and 100% gasoline, up to 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline). Ethanol FFVs are similar to gasoline vehicles, with main differences in materials used in fuel management and delivery systems, and DME control module calibrations. In some cases, also E85 vehicles require special lubricating oils.

Aftermarket conversions of gasoline-powered vehicles to ethanol-fueled vehicles, although possible, are not recommended due to internal materials and DME software incompatibility, as well, as the high costs of conversion.

In order to correctly diagnose various drivability complaints caused by fuel blends with a high level of ethanol content, BMW is providing you with an alcohol detection test tool (PN83 30 0 420 667).

Refer to S.I. B13 04 06 for operating instructions.

Distribution of the following tool will be through the Automatic Tool Shipment Program. Additional tools may be purchased through your PDC.



Alcohol Detection Test Tool
Order PN 83 30 0 420 667

WARRANTY INFORMATION
Components damage/malfunctions, or any drivability problems caused by use of fuels containing more then 10% ethanol (or other oxygenates with more then 2.8% oxygen by weight) will not be covered under BMW warranties with respect to defects in materials or workmanship.

Thanks for posting. Can anyone make sense of this paragraph?

Under certain environmental conditions, mainly lower ambient temperatures, ethanol separates from gasoline/alcohol mixture and absorbs water. The ethanol absorbed water molecules are heavier then gasoline or ethanol, they remain at the bottom of fuel tank and when introduced into combustion process they tend to form an extremely lean mixture resulting in misfire, rough idle and cold starting problems.

Since alcohol is much more miscible with water than gasoline, then doesn't that mean gasoline is more prone to water collecting at the bottom of the fuel tank in high concentrations? Anyway, based on this logic, alcohol might be an advantage.
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      07-06-2008, 11:55 AM   #15
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To KingCobra;

$50 deductible for fuel pump (1st tow - under warranty)
$379.34 for fuel filter (2nd tow - not under warranty but maintenance cost)
$3,009.66 due now for fuel pump + fuel filter + cleaning of the tank (after they found out it was due to fuel contamination - not under warranty)

KingCobra, do you think you can call the Department of Agriculture in your state and get them to test the fuel at the BP Amoco where you got your fuel? Additionally, can you get a sample from your tank and have them test it as well? Can you post the results once you have them?

Last edited by MyBeemer; 07-06-2008 at 12:45 PM.
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      07-06-2008, 01:17 PM   #16
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I'm concerned about this too.

Would someone post how/who/cost they use to test their own sample of gas?

I know that the best step if there is a suspected station is to go there, look at the stickers on the pumps that ID who is responsible for certifying the gas and pumps (some government agency) and contact them. But like some of the earlier posts, I'd like to be able to get my own sample tested too.
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      07-07-2008, 09:08 AM   #17
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Quote:
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To KingCobra;

$50 deductible for fuel pump (1st tow - under warranty)
$379.34 for fuel filter (2nd tow - not under warranty but maintenance cost)
$3,009.66 due now for fuel pump + fuel filter + cleaning of the tank (after they found out it was due to fuel contamination - not under warranty)

KingCobra, do you think you can call the Department of Agriculture in your state and get them to test the fuel at the BP Amoco where you got your fuel? Additionally, can you get a sample from your tank and have them test it as well? Can you post the results once you have them?
I guess my question on that was, did they tell you before they did the repair that you were responsible to pay for it? If they said it was covered under warranty, and then after testing your fuel on your next visit decided they were wrong and you need to pay for it, you might have a case there. They have to tell you when you are responsible to pay for something and give you the opportunity to make that decision yourself before doing it and handing you a $3000 bill. What's with the deductible? Is this the original factory warranty?

I will look into that with the DOA. If they are selling a product that is not as advertised, they should be held responsible for it.
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      07-07-2008, 09:12 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mech_Man View Post
I'm concerned about this too.

Would someone post how/who/cost they use to test their own sample of gas?

I know that the best step if there is a suspected station is to go there, look at the stickers on the pumps that ID who is responsible for certifying the gas and pumps (some government agency) and contact them. But like some of the earlier posts, I'd like to be able to get my own sample tested too.
I'm sure you could have it done at any dealer. Not sure what they would charge for it..
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      07-07-2008, 12:35 PM   #19
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Actually it is still not fixed, that is why after 36 day is still sitting at the dealer's since no one want to take responsibility. I am dealing with this nightmare right now and that is the reason why I went to this website to see how many BMW owners are getting hurt and getting dumped with this problem.

You do not want the dealer to test it since it would be a biased test. I contacted the Department of Agriculture after getting a sample from my car, but my gasoline had so much water content, they refuse to test it saying it would damage their equipment. Mech Man is right, it would be nice if someone knows of an independent testing facility.

You know this is just the beginning... it is going to get worse. I read a couple of postings and the BMW owners have no clue that the fuel pump and starting problems they are having has to do with the ethanol...until their car completely fails (like mine did) and they get hit with massive bills and no one will want to take responsibility is that this is going to begin to take a life of its own.

I wish we could stop it by:
a) warning BMW owners,
b) make them realize that the problems they are facing are not mechanical problems but ethanol content problems
c) maybe figure out who to approach to take a stand on this issue before it gets worse.
d) collect as much data as possible to see how bad this problem really is
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      07-10-2008, 02:46 PM   #20
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My car is an 08 335 coupe with 4k miles. two weeks ago while driving, it simply kicked over into a limp mode. it was missing and was barely driveable. I took it to the dealer. They told me that I had gotten a bad tank of gas with water in it. They gave me an additive, a list of "top tier" gas stations in the area, and told me to wait until tank was bone dry and then fill up with the top tier gas, including the additive. I did as I was told and the next day, the car did it again. I took it to the dealer again. They kept the car for a week, "stressing" the fuel pump, trying to get it to fail. they were convinced it was not a fuel pump issue. they tested my gas and said it was 20% alcohol. They recommended draining the tank and flushing the fuel system for a cost of $500. I said, "Let me get this straight: you tell me how to fill up, where to fill up, what to add to my gasoline, and now you want to charge me $500 to drain the gas because it was bad????" They quickly changed their tune and said to simply drive the car and refill at a different gas station. This is bullsh!t. I've now gone to two different gas stations with the same problem. If the car won't run on the majority of commercial gas stations available, then it would seem the car is defective. Has anyone had the problem resolve by changing fuel??
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      07-10-2008, 05:30 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MyBeemer View Post
I contacted the Department of Agriculture after getting a sample from my car, but my gasoline had so much water content, they refuse to test it saying it would damage their equipment.
Water in the gas will show up as alcohol content on the BMW test. If they read wildly high alcohol on their (really simplistic) test, and the DofA followed up with high water content, you may be looking at a case of the gas station watering down their tanks to increase profit. I've heard of a few instances of this in the news media lately.

Did you get the DofA to test the station's tanks? They might have stopped diluting after you called them on it.
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      07-10-2008, 07:06 PM   #22
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I sure did, Florida's DOA tested the station's tanks and as you guessed it, it came back with under 10% ethanol.

I went to my car though and had the BMW technician take a sample from my gasoline tank in front of me, then I called DOA to test it for me. Since the tube with the gasoline sample stayed in a vertical position overnight, the next day you could see the entire bottom was just water...and I am talking a huge ratio compared to the total gasoline amount. That is how the DOA guy could tell just by looking at the sample tube.
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