• Don’t turn the key!
• Stuttering to a halt
• Worse if you put petrol in a diesel
Filling the tank with the wrong type of fuel is a horrible realisation, but you’d hardly be on your own, as according to motoring organisation the RAC, it’s a mistake that 150,000 drivers in the UK make every year – that’s one every three to four minutes!
The reality might dawn on you while you’re still refuelling, as you pay at the counter, check the receipt or, worst of all, when you’re on the road and the car breaks down. However, whenever you discover your mistake, it is crucial that you always stay calm and follow the same procedure to resolve the problem, as doing so can prevent further damage and be the difference between a small or large dent in your wallet.
If you haven’t turned on the ignition, then under no circumstances do so, as this is the single biggest game-changer. Simply call for a trained technician to come to your rescue at the forecourt, where they will drain and clean the fuel tank, meaning that once it has been refilled with the correct fuel, you should be able to drive away like the incident never happened – albeit perhaps feeling a bit embarrassed!
Breakdown operators such as the RAC, offer a service to drain the tank and refill with enough fuel to get you going again. Although this could set you back a couple of hundred quid, the expense is a snip of what you could pay should you turn on the ignition and drive away.
Should you break down on the roadside, then, unfortunately, this is where the issue becomes more complex. This is because the vehicle’s fuel pump will have pushed the contaminated fuel at least through the fuel lines, and possibly into the engine. If the wrong fuel is caught in the lines then, as well as the fuel tank, they’ll need draining and flushing too. However, if it’s also reached the engine then, according to the RAC, repair costs could be as much as £5,000.
Most refuelling accidents occur when drivers add petrol into the tanks of their diesel vehicles, because while possible, it’s difficult to do it the other way around, due to the fact that diesel pumps have larger nozzles that don’t fit into filler necks of modern petrol cars. Diesel fuel in a petrol tanks also has less serious consequences.
If you mistakenly add petrol to your diesel fuel tank however, the aggressive solvent in petrol will erode the diesel’s lubrication properties in the fuel system, so the fuel pump will start to generate friction as the metal surfaces rub together and tiny fragments break off as particles that can cause damage.
To compound the problem further, the diesel injectors can be damaged as well. These components ensure your vehicle is receiving the right amount of fuel at any given moment, delivering fuel as a ‘fine mist’ into the cylinders.
If these metal particles get into the injection system, then some or all of injector’s fine holes, which need to be free and open, can become clogged. If severely damaged, your vehicle’s whole injection system may need to be replaced – and that is an expensive trip to the workshop!
With such a large number of drivers making the mistake every year, if it hasn’t happened to you yet, then continue to be diligent and think before you fill. However, if it does happen in the future, while your heart might sink and you may have some explaining to do when you get home, mistakes happen, and as we said earlier, how you resolve your error is pivotal.
If you’d like some extra protection, though, there are products available that can replace the existing filler cap and prevent you from making the mistake, which will cost an awful lot less than requiring someone to come and save the day.