1A Old gas pumps feel the squeeze too

By Dawn Schuett

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

HARMONY — The mechanical diesel pump outside Harmony Repair Service is a relic compared to the electronic pumps at most gas stations today.

Despite its antiquated scrolling dials, the old pump works fine, so there’s no reason to replace it, said owner Harry Wahl.

"Everything works good," Wahl said. "The lights even still work on it."


But not all mechanical pumps in small towns across the United States are dealing with the climbing prices of fuel quite so well.

The Washington Post reported earlier this month that many of the pumps lack the gears to go beyond $3.99 a gallon, forcing station owners to make costly upgrades as gas prices top $4 a gallon. The Petroleum Equipment Institute, a trade group based in Tulsa, Okla., estimates about 8,500 of the 170,000 service stations in the country still have mechanical pumps.

The price of diesel at Harmony Repair Service went up to $4.52 a gallon Wednesday, but it caused no problem for the mechanical pump.

"So far, it’s handling it," said Wahl whose station has an electronic pump for unleaded gas. "That’s all I can ask for."

At the Claremont Service Station in Claremont, owner Dave Matejcek replaced two mechanical pumps earlier this year with refurbished electronic pumps.

Matejcek’s wife, Romell, said the gears in the old pumps had to be switched when gas hit $3 a gallon. Rather than go through the hassle of likely having to switch more gears, the owners opted to purchase modern pumps.

"It was time," Romell Matejcek said.

Terry Throndson, owner of Throndson Oil & LP Gas Co., recently paid $100,000 each to replace three mechanical pumps at his station in west Rochester.


The old machines have a better track record for being dependable, especially in cold weather, than electronic pumps, Throndson said.

"They’re well-built and that’s why they’re still out there," he said.

Staff writer Jeffrey Pieters contributed to this report.

For more information, go to

Petroleum Equipment Institute

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