If you are aching when you pay $3.65 a gallon at the pump, think of the sting you will feel if gas prices increase another 75 cents by Memorial Day, as predicted by a consumer report released Wednesday.
Despite declining gas consumption, which should lower the price of gas, a cut in production by oil refiners may drive prices ever higher in the coming months, according to the report by the Consumer Federation of America.
Consumers may know that the decreased supply will hit them hard at gas pumps and grocery stores. But they may not know that the drop in supply could hurt them at auto shops, some Peninsula mechanics said Wednesday.
As prices skyrocket, some drivers wait longer to fill up their tanks, use cheaper gas and lower grade gas — all of which can take a toll on engines, said Yader Vargas of LC Electric and Mechanic in San Bruno.
“When gas [prices were] low, you could fill up for $20 or $30. Now it costs $60, so if you don’t have the money, you put in $20 and don’t fill it up,” he said.
In the long run, this practice can damage the car’s gas pump, because it works harder to pump the last quarter tank of gas than the first quarter tank, he said.
“If you wait to fill up till it’s empty, the fuel pump keeps losing and losing pressure, and you have to replace it sooner,” Vargas said. “The problem is some fuel pumps can cost $350 or $400, or sometimes even $650 or $700. It’s a lot.”
Joe Huang, a smoke technician at the 76 station on El Camino Real and Millbrae Avenue in Millbrae, said he’s seen some recent cases of fuel pumps going bad.
“We’ve had cars roll in here on empty and then fill up, but then the car won’t start again,” he said.
He said driving on empty all the time can cause both electrical and mechanical problems. Redwood City resident Maria Gonzalez is well aware that she may be damaging her car by not filling up, but she said she’s guilty anyway.
“Honestly, I never put more than $10 in. My gaslight is pretty much always on,” she said.