Service Secrets ... What to do if you Misfuel
Every year around 150,000 drivers put the wrong fuel in their car. Whether it's due to a momentary lapse in concentration or change of vehicle, here's what you should do if it happens to you ...
Adding diesel to a petrol tank
This is the less common misfuelling mishap to occur, responsible for only 5% of all incidents. This is because the nozzle of the diesel fuel pump is generally larger than a petrol tank filler neck, so this kind of misfuelling accident would require quite a lot of effort to achieve.
If you have managed to do this the effects of diesel in a petrol tank are not too disastrous but should still be dealt with immediately. Generally, the diesel fuel will clog up spark plugs so the car will not start.
Adding petrol to a diesel tank
It is much easy to add petrol to a diesel tank as the smaller petrol nozzle fits easily into the diesel filler neck, this kind of incident accounts for 95% of all misfuelling events.
Unfortunately, the consequences can be very dire. Usually, diesel acts as a lubricant preventing moving parts from rubbing together. However, when petrol and diesel are mixed a solvent is created which has the opposite effect and increases friction on moving parts. As metal grinds against metal small fragments can break off and start travelling around the engine. If these fragments reach the fuel injection system a blockage is created leading to a misfire or even causing the engine to cease. This level of damage can be extremely expensive to fix.
What should I do if I have misfuelled?
The good news is a misfuelling incident does not always have to mean the end for your vehicle. The sooner you realise your mistake, the less damage is done and the easier it is to put right. So here's what to do;
- DO NOT TURN ON YOUR ENGINE - do not put your keys in the ignition. If your car remains off, the incorrect fuel will be left sat in the fuel tank rather than circulating the engine and causing damage.
- Tell the petrol station attendant - don't be embarrassed they have probably seen this happen countless times and might be able to offer some help and advice.
- Push your car to a safe place - the petrol station attendant may ask you move your car so you are not blocking the pumps. Do not drive it, put your car into neutral and push it.
- Call your breakdown service - many will have a misfuelling service. Ordinarily the fuel tank will need to be emptied, flushed and then refilled with the correct fuel type and you can be back on your way. This process can take as little as 30-40 minutes to complete. If your breakdown service are unable to help, check with the petrol station attendant, they will probably have contact details for a local service, or do a quick google search on your phone.
- Call your insurance company - some policies will cover misfuelling and some do not. A quick call to your insurance company will let you know if you are covered.
If you have driven away from the petrol station and your car has then stopped working you should treat this as a usual breakdown. Driving any distance in your car will mean the incorrect fuel has entered the engine and is likely to have caused damage. You will probably need to have the vehicle towed to a garage so the extent of the damage can be assessed.
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23 July 2018
Written by Natalie Faughy