Tainted Gas Complaints on the Rise After NBC 5 Responds Report

Drivers say they’re getting the runaround on reimbursement for repairs

Two Chicago drivers say they were hit with big bills and big headaches after pumping tainted gas into their tanks at the same Mobil gas station, on the very same day.

The station has acknowledged water leaked into an underground tank, yet the drivers told NBC 5 Responds they couldn’t get answers about whether the gas station would pay for nearly $2,000 in repairs.

The drivers’ concerns follow a recent NBC 5 Responds report where other drivers had almost identical experiences at a Citgo on North Milwaukee, racking up more than $1,000 in repairs. Those drivers were eventually reimbursed. Since that report aired last month, at least a half dozen more motorists say it happened to them too, at various gas stations across the Chicago area.

For Josh Smith, the problem at the pump started with a phone call from his wife who said their 2013 Audi wouldn’t start.

"It was a huge pain," Smith said. "The first thing I thought was did you fill up last night?"

Smith’s wife confirmed she had filled up the night before at a Mobil station on North Halsted. Smith said the next morning, the car wouldn’t budge.

"When I would try to start it, it sounded like it wanted to turn over but it wouldn't," Smith said.

His car towed to the dealer, Smith learned the gas in his tank had water in it. Nearly $800 in repairs later, Smith called the gas station to complain.

“They said they’d have a manager call us back. The manager never called back,” Smith told NBC 5 Responds.

That same day, Aaron Bensinger said it happened to him too, at the same Mobil station, writing, ".. the vehicle was running rough and had died."

"After towing the vehicle to the dealer my suspicions were confirmed," Bensinger wrote. "Ninety percent of the tank was water."

Bensinger’s bill was more than $900. The Oak Lawn man said he too got the runaround when he called the gas station to complain.

Chicago attorney Karl Leinberger said it’s a story he hears all too often.

"Everyone wants to point the finger and of course the people who suffer are the people who've done nothing wrong,” Leinberger said.

In the more than a dozen tainted gas complaints he’s handled, Leinberger said there are commonalities:

"If a gas station isn't profitable or the owner isn't taking care of the underground tanks, they just don't invest in proper maintenance,” he said.

Add a rain storm to the mix – like the one that hit Chicago the night before Smith and Bensinger’s cars were filled up – and the odds of getting watery gas can increase.

Did that happen here? The manager at the Mobil station seemed to admit just that, telling NBC 5 Responds rainwater did seep into an underground tank after a lid was not properly closed. That tank was shut down and cleaned, and is now back open. When we asked the station why the two drivers weren’t compensated, Mobil’s insurance then said “yes” to Bensinger’s claim. But “no” to Smith’s -- even though it was the same day -- citing only “no applicable coverage.” The insurance company declined to comment for our report.

That news did not sit well with Smith.

"Definitely felt like I was getting the runaround," Smith said.

When we questioned the denial in Smith’s case, the Mobil owner then decided to reimburse him directly. He picked up his $773.32 check the next day.

"My wife asked me, ‘Do you think we're going to get our money back?’ And I said, ‘I really do think we are.’ So you guys came through, proving me right," Smith told NBC 5 Responds.

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