Gas Pain: Officials Conduct Surprise Inspections to Make Sure You Get The Type of Gas You've Paid For

VIDEO: Gasoline inspectors crack down on substandard gas that could harm your
WATCH Gas Prices: What Are You Paying For?

The average price of a gallon of gasoline now stands at $3.96 a gallon, according to the latest Department of Energy numbers just released.

Do you know that sometimes you pay all that money and the gas isn't what you think you're getting or it's contaminated and can harm your engine?

"Good Morning America" went along with Maryland inspectors cracking down on problems at the pump.

If you think a $4-a-gallon gas is bad, imagine not getting what you pay for. That's why Maryland conducts surprise inspections like these. Only 40 of the 50 states do, and when you see the results, you'll wish they all did.

"People want to know that they're actually paying for what they're getting," said inspector Patrick Dunkes.

First and foremost, the Maryland Comptroller's office tests to see if the gasoline is the correct octane level.

Inspectors also look for contaminants, like diesel, sediment and water in the gas.

Much of the fuel these days is a blend of gasoline and ethanol and if even a few drops of water get into it, it will separate. If you put that in your car, it will stall and could even ruin the engine.

The first station the inspector visits passes on all accounts. The second is a different story.

The premium sample from the pump isn't 93 octane like it should be. So Dunkes draws a sample straight from the underground tank. It fails, too.

Maryland's state of the art fuel testing laboratory provides the official verdict.

"It is a fail," Mark Brandenburg of the Maryland Comptroller's Office said.

The pricey premium gas that's supposed to be 93 octane is actually only 90.5 octane.

"When the economy is as bad as it is, see the gas prices rising, the food prices rising, everyone is very sensitive to whether they are getting a short end of the stick," Peter Franchot, comptroller of Maryland, told "GMA."

The inspector returns to the station and orders it to stop selling premium. The station blames the supplier.

Customers are not thrilled that their $4.12-a-gallon premium wasn't as advertised.

"It wouldn't make me happy," said one customer.

"That's pretty foul," another said.

Web-Extra Tips

The Maryland Comptroller's Office has one of the most aggressive fuel-testing programs in the country. Here's what the experts there suggest to make sure you're getting a fair shake on high quality gasoline.

1. Try not to purchase gas during or right after a station is receiving a delivery. Deliveries can stir up moisture in and on the tank, and when that water gets into the fuel, it can make the gasoline and ethanol separate. If straight ethanol goes into your tank, it will eventually make your engine stall.

2. Check your owner's manual to be sure you're using the right grade of gas. Putting a higher octane level than recommended does not provide any benefit. And if the manufacturer says premium is just "recommended" not "required," you can probably switch to regular. Ask your dealer.

3. If you feel you have purchased contaminated or subpar fuel, contact your state government quickly. Don't delay.

Here are the ten states that do not yet have a program in place to test the octane level and purity of gasoline:






New Jersey

Oregon Rhode Island


West Virginia