The very first filling station was at a pharmacy in Wiesloch, Germany, where Bertha Benz refilled the tank of the first motor car on its maiden trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim in 1888. Thereafter other pharmacies sold petrol as a sideline to accommodate the wealthy’s requirement for fuel in their horseless carriages.
The increase in car ownership after Henry Ford started to sell vehicles that the middle class could afford resulted in an increased demand for filling stations that would later be named service stations,
The world’s first purpose-built service station was constructed in St. Louis, Missouri in 1905; the second was by Standard Oil in Seattle in 1907.
Reighard’s Service Station in Altoona, Pennsylvania claims that it dates from 1909 and is the oldest existing Service Station in America.
The single common denominator for all service stations from the past to the present is that the underground tanks are predominantly made from black steel plate that is rolled and attached to pressed dished ends, externally they are coated in a bitumastic paint to minimise rust, however the internals were deemed to not require protective coating as the through-put of fuel would keep them clean, this construction method and industry mind-set led to the second most important invention after the internal combustion engine that of the fuel filter.
Any surface area in an underground tank not covered by fuel is susceptible to flash rust, rust is abrasive to finely machined fuel components and when left sitting in fuel rails and injectors will promote rust of other ancillary fuel system components.
Water is the primary enemy of all fuel systems and remarkably it is in all brand new tanks at all brand new service stations.
To build a new service station from scratch is a major exercise and can take many months from the initial excavation for the tanks to the opening, with the tanks being first to go in, and the excavation creating an Olympic sized pool for ground water to accumulate, the tanks on instillation are immediately filled to the brim with water as ballast to prevent them floating out of the excavation during heavy rain.
During the commissioning process the ballast water is pumped out, however as anyone who deals with pumps will tell you, the pump will never scavenge 100% of the water, consequently from day one there is residual water left in the bottom of the tank.
How this can ultimately affect you and your vehicles will be discussed in next month’s 4X4 Action.