Gas is getting so expensive even some pumps don't want to put up with it. As gas prices flirt with the $4-a-gallon mark, the few station owners with old-style, analog pumps are struggling to deal with a problem almost no one felt they'd ever face - the price of gas is too high for the pumps to handle.
Gas is getting so expensive even some pumps don't want to put up with it.
As gas prices flirt with the $4-a-gallon mark, the few station owners with old-style, analog pumps are struggling to deal with a problem almost no one felt they'd ever face - the price of gas is too high for the pumps to handle.
Without retrofits, prices on many analog pumps top out at $3.99 per gallon, meaning if gas does hit the $4 mark this summer, analog pumps won't be able to keep up.
Bolton Street Service owner Bob Brown is one of the few local station owners still using the old pumps, and said he's considering upgrading if prices get much higher.
"It's more than just taking these off and putting new ones in ... (but) I'm getting ready to put new (pumps) in," he said between fill-ups.
As gas prices continue to stretch to record levels, owners of stations with old-style pumps like Brown are facing a tough decision.
Besides limits on how high the pumps can be calibrated, most also top out at $99.99 -- but many larger SUVs can cost well over $100 per fill up.
The problem for station owners like Brown? Upgrading doesn't come cheap.
"By law, when we're doing everything, we have to run all new lines...and there's got to be container bins...in case there's a spill or a leak," Brown said. "It'd be at least two, maybe three, weeks of work."
It's unclear exactly how many filling stations in the state still use the analog pumps, but most stations today use digital pumps, which can be calibrated to virtually any price.
"They can go up to $10 a gallon, or even $100 a gallon," Brown said.
But while the price ceiling may be a problem for station owners like Brown, it's not a new one.
During the oil crisis of the 1970s, the state briefly allowed station owners to go to half-gallon pricing when it was discovered pumps couldn't be set higher than 99 cents per gallon.
"That was just a short-term fix," said Charles Carroll, the deputy director at the state Division of Standards. "Computers at that time, there weren't a lot of them available that could compute over a dollar a gallon."
After three decades in business, even the signs advertising his prices are proving a problem for Brown.
The sign which would normally advertise his price for diesel gasoline is blank today, he said, because he simply doesn't have the right numbers to put on it.
"I don't think it was ever anticipated," Brown said, of the sky-high gas prices. "The price sign for diesel - it went up to $2.99, then when the price went over $3, it was only half a three!"
The same problem cropped up with his other signs, where a spray-painted "3" starts the prices.
"Even the big sign, you see the 3's, those were added on. It came with nothing and a 1 - there was no 2. It never, never entered their mind it would actually go that high...and it obviously has."
The MetroWest Daily News writer Peter Reuell can be reached at 508-626-4428, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.