Gas pump nozzle color mix-ups can hit your wallet

AAA

Every month in Life, Cindy Antrican, public affairs manager for AAA Allied Group, Inc., provides traffic safety tips and information for motorists. Email: CAntrican@aaa-alliedgroup.com.

As Miami Valley area families head out for spring break getaways, AAA urges drivers to be cautious when refueling vehicles at unfamiliar gas stations. AAA Tire & Auto manager Jason Brown says accidentally pumping the wrong fuel into your vehicle can lead to costly repairs.

Brown warns this can easily occur when a driver assumes a green nozzle at an unfamiliar station indicates the pump dispenses diesel fuel. While this is often true, it is not always the case. There are no legal requirements for fuel nozzle colors. Today, diesel fuel is dispensed through nozzles that may be green, black, yellow or any other color the retailer desires.

Buyers of E85 (85 percent ethanol) gasoline blends can potentially be caught out by this situation as well because yellow pump nozzles are often used to dispense this type of fuel.

Gasoline is routinely dispensed through nozzles that may be red, white, blue, black, green or almost any color of the rainbow. Sometimes the colors vary with the grade of fuel (regular, mid-grade, premium), but at other stations they are all the same. On some newer pumps, several grades of gasoline are delivered through a single hose and nozzle.

Nozzle colors are typically consistent between stations that sell the same brand of fuel. However, even then there is no absolute guarantee because the type and age of the delivery pumps can vary. Older fuel pumps may reflect an earlier color scheme, or have had nozzle repairs in which a different colored part was installed. And, to debunk another belief held by some consumers, the shape of a fuel pump nozzle is also not an accurate indicator of the type fuel being dispensed.

A related issue is fuel pump nozzle filler pipes, which come in three sizes.

  • Large-diameter filler pipes are usually found at truck stop diesel pumps where they are used to quickly fill the high-volume fuel tanks of over-the-road semis. A special adapter is required to use this size nozzle with most diesel passenger cars and light trucks.
  • Medium-diameter filler pipes are used to deliver diesel at passenger car fuel stations. This size pipe helps prevent misfueling of most gasoline-powered vehicles because it is too large to fit through the unleaded fuel filler opening.
  • Small-diameter filler pipes are used to deliver unleaded gasoline, but can also fit into the filler opening on many diesel vehicles. Some newer diesel models have an anti-misfueling device in the filler neck that prevents a smaller gasoline nozzle from being inserted.

So what can consumers do to prevent misfueling? Read the pump.

There are laws that require each type of fuel dispensed be clearly labeled. Rather than choosing based on nozzle color, a motorists should identify the pump labeling for the desired type and grade of fuel, then follow the associated hose to the correct nozzle, regardless of its color.

A few extra seconds when selecting fuel can prevent many hours and hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars in vehicle repairs.

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