With gas prices nearing $4, more of us should follow Richard
Bellucci's lead by reading the owner's manual that auto
manufacturers have thoughtfully tucked into our glove compartments.
Among other things, this handy document explained to Richard that
the capacity of the gas tank in his 2005 Honda Civic is 13.2
"But when my wife pulled up to a station on Route 17 in Paramus, the tank took 14.128," the Ho-Ho-Kus reader recalled.
Hmm. Is this some kind of gas station magic or has someone tampered with the pump's meter?
Let's just say that Richard doesn't believe in magic. Indeed, he leaves little to chance, so he sent me a copy of the $52.82 bill, which is roughly $3.60 more than Theresa Bellucci requested when she said "Fill it up."
Magic or tampering notwithstanding, there's another way that 13 can become 14: By topping off the tank -- continuing to feed gas into the tank after the pump automatically shuts off. By doing so, attendants can often squeeze another gallon into a car. But it's a bad idea because tanks need extra room to allow gas to expand. Extra fuel might evaporate into a vehicle's vapor collection system and foul it up, resulting in poor gas mileage.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and managers of well- run stations discourage this practice because it contributes to air pollution, it can foul a station's own vapor recovery system, and it can cause gas pumps to fail. County inspectors often level heavy fines on stations for this failing, so the Belluccis or anyone troubled by this poor practice are urged to contact weights and measures offices -- 201-336-7920 in Bergen and 973-305-5750 in Passaic.
Here are more gas-station issues troubling readers:
Q. Although filling my tank can cost almost $100, some attendants won't accept $100 bills. Is that legal? -- Sam S., Morris Plains
Yes, gas stations can generally set their own rules for payment. In my own case, the local Delta attendant -- Hank -- greets each customer with these words: "I don't take $100 bills." I've done my best to counsel Hank about salesmanship. Surely, he would get more repeat business if he found a more positive opening line. And he ought to take a look at secretservice.gov/money_detect and other related websites to learn a little about spotting phony bills. For one thing, genuine currency has blue and red fibers embedded inside the paper so they glow red when put under ultra-violet light. If Hank held a legitimate note containing Benjamin Franklin's portrait up to the light, he should be able to spot a watermark, too. Color- changing ink on the bottom right of "100" on the bill should change color when tilted in any angle. But Hank isn't
buying any of this. "I've been
burnt twice by hundreds," he said, although he gladly takes smaller bills. I didn't have the heart to tell him that some of the more sophisticated identification techniques mentioned here aren't used on single-dollar bills.
Q. I agree with your suggestion to speak more clearly when ordering gas so attendants don't give you more than we want, but drivers should also always say "dollars" when they placing orders, as in "20 dollars." There's less chance for mistakes, that way. -- Mark Pettigrew, Westwood
Good, clear advice, Mark. Here's more:
Q. As a former police officer, I've responded to many calls involving disputes at the pump, and they all stemmed from the inability of the attendant to understand English. My suggestion is for drivers to write down the amount they want on a piece of paper to avoid confusion. -- Gabe Fiore, North Arlington
That makes sense to me, but I asked Gabe how non-English- speaking attendants might understand the written word unless it's written in their native language. His answer was as sensible as Mark's: "Almost everybody understands money."
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