Because I want to post weekly, I’m “borrowing” from something I wrote and published close to three years ago. I’m happy to state it’s been a while since I’ve had a disaster. I can’t believe I just tempted fate!
I have long realized that I can best serve society not as a role model, but rather as a dire warning. But a particular incident several years ago exceeded even my high (low?) standards. Here’s what happened: A gas station attendant filled the tank for my diesel engine with gasoline.
I was on the New Jersey Turnpike and decided to stop at a rest stop to fill my tank. From lessons learned in the past, I now fill my tank when it is around the half-full mark. No, I’ve never actually run out of fuel, but there was the time the gauge hovered around Empty and there I was, in the middle of the kind of deserted road in Texas described in Jack Reacher novels. Every town was forsaken and the gas stations abandoned. Keeping me company on that lonely road was the voice in my head that sounded an awful like my late ex-husband, saying, “You know you’re never supposed to go past half-full. Why didn’t you fill up when you had the chance? How many times do I have to have tell you this before you’ll learn?”
So that’s why I stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, where Sunoco gas station attendants fill your tank, and entered the line labeled “Diesel.”
I figured that since (A) I was in the diesel line; (B) my tank was clearly marked “Diesel Fuel Only; and (C) the tank opening accommodated a diesel hose only (or so I thought), these factors ensured my tank would be filled with diesel. Wrong.
The attendant noticed the “Diesel Fuel Only” label when he removed the hose. That was when he notified me of the error. I was shocked, dismayed, horrified, and annoyed. I asked him to call the Manager.
Eventually the Manager came over. He was delayed because he first called his District Customer Service Department to find out how to proceed. He advised me to drive to the nearest repair facility, have the gas drained, and send Sunoco the bill, which would be forwarded to the company’s insurance company for my reimbursement.
I said I didn’t think so.
I demanded Sunoco drain the tank then and there. He said they weren’t equipped to do so. I said then call a tow company to take me to a repair facility. He asked if I had insurance to cover the tow. I said I certainly wasn’t going to pay for the tow with MY insurance. Sunoco would have to pay for the tow. And the repair. He asked me to move my RV out of the pump area while he called the District again. This is when I made my only mistake, but it was a doozy: I moved my RV.
Why did I move it? Well so as to not inconvenience the people in line behind me, of course. Why was this is a mistake? Starting the motor and driving the RV circulated the gasoline in the tank and fuel lines. It also occurred to me—later, naturally—that perhaps inconveniencing other customers would not have been such a bad idea after all. It may have cut the ensuring rigmarole from three hours to only two.
But that’s hindsight. Move it I did.
The next several hours consisted of the Manager getting in touch with the District to inform them of the difficulty he was having with this lady who continued to insist that Sunoco pay for a tow and all necessary repairs. At one point he put me on the phone with the District Customer Service Representative, who explained, “It isn’t company policy to pay for towing and repair.”
As much as I wanted to tell him what he could do with company policy, I calmly informed him that I really didn’t CARE about company policy, that I had been GREATLY inconvenienced and that I wanted Sunoco to pay for a tow truck to take me to a repair facility, where all repairs would be covered by THEM. I was firm. I was calm. I was insistent. I wasn’t budging from my stance that they would need to figure out a way for Sunoco to cover the cost of towing and repairing my RV. They finally realized hey, I guess we’ll have to figure out a way for Sunoco to cover the cost of towing and repairing this lady’s RV.
In the meantime, having just come from a Convention of RV’ing Women and participating in the workshop, “How to Avoid Stressing Out on the Road,” I was having difficulty convincing myself to follow the leader’s advice to tell myself, no matter where I found myself (particularly when lost, which for me occurs with great frequency), “This is a good place to be.”
I was pretty sure it wasn’t.
In any event, three hours later a huge tow truck appeared and my RV, my toad, my dog and I were taken to a truck repair facility about 30 miles away. By this time it was well after 5 p.m., the repair facility was closed; and it was dark. Good news, though: I was able to stay in the RV, which was parked approximately four inches away from a busy highway with truck traffic 24/7.
The following morning I was at the shop office as soon as it opened. For all the good it did. Special parts needed to be ordered. Special parts needed to be delivered. Special time needed to be found to squeeze me in. And the diesel fuel they were supposed to have on hand to fill my tank? Oh they were so sorry but they only had five gallons.
When the repairs were completed and I pulled out after 4 p.m. to head to a gas station, a dashboard warning light indicating “Water-in-Fuel” immediately appeared. I drove to the nearest gas station, asked the attendant fill the tank with diesel and WATCHED TO MAKE SURE he filled the tank with diesel, and then returned to the repair facility. As you can imagine, they were thrilled to see me.
So they hemmed and they hawed and came up with the following story: “Oh the sensor must have been jiggled out of place. We can order a new sensor this afternoon and it may come in tomorrow and we may be able to fit you in. But really it’s nothing to worry about. You could drive this RV back to California and it would be fine. It’s perfectly safe.”
At this point I needed to be in New York State the following day. I demanded that the repair facility, which at this point in the story I’ll call Repair Place #1, indicated on the invoice to Sunoco that the Water-in-Fuel sensor would need to be replaced and to expect another invoice, from me, to address this issue in the near future. Repair Place #1 did fulfill this request.
I made it safely to my destination, where I parked RV for a week.
Then I drove the RV to Repair Place #2, which was outside York, Pennsylvania, where the sensor was replaced. When the repairs were completed and I pulled out after 4 p.m. the next day to head for a gas station, the dashboard warning light indicating “Water-in-Fuel” immediately appeared. I drove to the nearest gas station, asked the attendant to fill the tank with diesel and WATCHED TO MAKE SURE he filled the tank with diesel, and then returned to Repair Place #2. As you can imagine, they were thrilled to see me.
So they hemmed and they hawed and came up with the following story: “Oh the sensor and the computer need to sync. The light should go off in the next 50 to 100 miles. But really it’s nothing to worry about. You could drive this RV back to California and it would be fine. It’s perfectly safe.”
Well I drove 50 miles, then 100 miles. And guess what? But you already know, don’t you. The dashboard warning light indicating “Water-in-Fuel” stayed on.
At this point I figured since the engine is a Mercedes diesel engine, I would take it to a Mercedes dealer. Interestingly, my first reaction was, “Oh no, that will be expensive.” Then I got ahold of myself and realized the repair costs were covered under Sunoco’s insurance.
Off I go to the Mercedes dealer/Repair Place #3. With no hemming or hawing, they came up with the following story: “The hoses going to the sensor are twisted. This caused the Water-in-Fuel sensor to light up, and has allowed fuel to leak in the engine.”
So much for “nothing to worry about,” driving back to California being “fine” and all in all everything in a state of “perfectly safe.”
The third time was the charm. After only four weeks, 325 miles of driving, often on toll roads, from one repair facility to the next and then to another, the Water-in-Fuel warning light no longer appeared.
I FOUND MORE PHOTOS FROM TWD TOUR 1