Putting the wrong fuel in a car, whether it’s petrol or diesel is something many motorists will always worry about happening to them, ok, maybe not drivers of electric vehicles. Most of us tend to put the world to rights in our mind while filling up at our local petrol station, maybe just thinking about what coffee to buy, unfortunately it only takes a second to make the mistake if you’re not paying full attention, and the consequences can be both financial and personal embarrassment once it happens.
UK Motor trade industry data reports approximately 150,000 drivers make this mistake every single year, with it more likely to happen when driving an unfamiliar vehicle, like a hire car or vehicles on trade plates which are mainly driven by motor trade employees, but none of us are immune to the potential of fuel filling mistakes, so there is no need to feel bad if it does happen to you!
So, what exactly happens when the wrong fuel enters a vehicle? In this article we look at what we need to know and what can be done about it.
Statistically, the error is more common in diesel vehicles than petrol, this is because the petrol hose will fit a diesel tank, but diesel nozzles are usually too large to fit petrol tanks. Diesel owners can also buy a device which prevents a standard petrol nozzle from fitting the tank, but the best solution is to have a label on the inside of the fuel cap to remind you of which fuel is required.
Any qualified motor mechanic will tell you diesel will cause more engine damage than the other way round, as inside a diesel engine the fuel acts as a lubricant whilst petrol does not have this same functionality, so as soon as the wrong fuel enters a vehicle it can damage parts of the engine.
If you realise your filling mistake straight away, the first step is to ensure the fuel doesn’t get circulated, it’s important to continue to keep the engine switched off, only push the vehicle away from the pump in question if you need to move it.
If you only start to realise the problem once you’ve already started driving away, then pull over and stop the vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so, then call for assistance.
If you are lucky enough to have breakdown service included with your private or motor trade insurance policy, make this your first telephone call. If you do not have this type of insurance policy, there are several companies working within the motor trade industry who specialise in these types of mechanical problems, they will also travel to you like any roadside breakdown service.
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This will help you save money on any motor repairs required which may be caused by the incident.
On top of offering advice on how to proceed and what to look out for once back out on the road again, the motor trade professional you contact will start by draining the wrong fuel out of your tank, then flush the system by entering the correct fuel to override the initial problem.
If you do happen to notice your mistake whilst filling up, it can be possible to correct this error by changing over to the right fuel immediately and by then filling up the tank completely. However, it is well worth consulting a professional before doing this, as you do not want to cause any further damage and this can be a gamble.
The best advice if you want to prevent this costly inconvenient mistake is to avoid distraction whilst at the petrol station, it’s easy to make a mistake whenever preoccupied, like chatting away or planning your route ahead. Always make sure you double check the labelling on the fuel pump and don’t ever just rely on the colour of the hose or position of the nozzle.