Notice something wrong with your car? Irma may be to blame

Earlier this week, 10 Investigates told you about increasing numbers of complaints from people who pumped gas around the time hurricane Irma stormed into town.

TAMPA, Fla, -- Finding his way around a car engine comes easy to Stan McMahan, a Brandon resident with an automotive background.

“When I crank it up you'll see, the motor's going to jump,” he said.

So he knew something was wrong Tuesday when he fired up his 2007 Nissan minivan.

The engine shutters.

“After the hurricane, we went out to do some errands, and almost immediately the van started to miss on multiple cylinders,” said McMahan.  “I told my wife almost immediately, I think we've got water in the fuel."

State regulators are launching more inspections of underground gas station storage tanks as they receive increasing reports of water ending up in motorists’ fuel tanks.

“You're going to experience sputtering,” said Chloe Smith with the Florida Department of  Agriculture.  “In extreme cases, your car might shut off in the parking lot of the gas station itself."

The water comes from storm water seeping into tanks, and from water that forms naturally from ethanol and sits at the bottom of the storage tank.

With demand so high, many gas station storage tanks emptied to the point that pumps might have sucked out water from the bottom of the tank.

“Well. the first thing I'm thinking of is how much it's gonna cost to repair this damage that's obviously been done,” said McMahon.

It's an expensive job, so Stan tried to use a fuel additive and drove the van around.  It didn't work.

Experts say don't run the car. If you think there's water in the gas tank, shut the engine down right away and call a mechanic.  Then report the gas station to the state so inspectors can check it out.

Stan pumped the fuel at a gas station near his Brandon home two days before Irma struck.  A manager there said she would relay our questions to a corporate office.

Stan knows there are many who had it worse during the storm, but Irma did get him in the end.

“Unfortunately, that's how it got us with the water in the fuel," said McMahon.

If you think you've gotten bad gas, call the state at 1800-HELP-FLA.

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