The Wrong Fuel Problem Escalation

Modern Life is Stressful: The Main Cause of Mis-fuelling

People tend to fill up their cars in the morning on their way to work or just before the school run, consequently this is when fuel stations are busiest and motorists are at their most distracted whilst dealing with the pressures of modern living. When you’re used to driving a petrol powered car and you’ve just swapped to a diesel powered car, that’s when the wrong fuel is mistakenly put into the tank.

Some drivers will realise that they’ve put in the wrong fuel whilst refuelling, putting in varying amounts from a few litres to a full tank but most unfortunate souls will not realise until they’ve driven off the fuel station forecourt and have broken down a few hundred yards down the road and usually, thanks to Murphy’s Law, at a busy junction. Only then will the penny drop.

What To Do If You’ve Filled Up With the Wrong Fuel Type

There are so many different types of vehicle on the roads nowadays that it’s difficult to give standard advice as there are so many vehicle idiosyncrasies. The basic industry advice is:

  • Don’t start the vehicle – Easier said than done this one as you have to have realised your mistake whilst refuelling. In some cases, simply locking or unlocking the car can prime the fuel pump which will introduce contaminated fuel into the vehicle system and this is an action that most people would automatically do in this situation as the majority of people just wouldn’t have this level of mechanical knowledge.
  • Don’t Panic – Panic is a perfectly understandable and natural reaction. When you’re already under pressure to get to work on time or to get the kids to school on time, it’s very difficult to keep a cool head. Even more so if you’re hit with the worry that the car might need extensive and expensive repair work or even a new engine.
  • Call an Engineer to help – As this is an industry that many people are unaware of until they actually find themselves in this situation, most people either call their roadside assistance company or a local mechanic with a tow truck. This is most definitely not the best option. You need to be able to consult an expert in the removal of the wrong fuel type from a vehicle. Inform the forecourt staff of the situation and ask if they can recommend a wrong removal company or if they can find details for one if you don’t have a smart phone yourself.

What happens to your car if you’ve put the wrong fuel type into it?

Diesel fuel contains lubricants which ensure the smooth working of fuel system components in a diesel powered engine. Unleaded petrol does not have these same lubricants; consequently, if you try to run a diesel engine with unleaded fuel in the system you’re not going to get very far before your vehicle breaks down. You are also risking damage to the fuel system components of the engine due to the lack of lubrication; this is more of a problem where unleaded petrol has been added to a decent amount of diesel, which has gone unnoticed by the driver. The vehicle engine will perform poorly but will usually still run.

A professional wrong fuel removal engineer will listen carefully to your description of the situation and what has happened to the vehicle since the mis-fuelling and then, dependent upon the vehicle type, age and history, will make a decision upon a course of action. The most common solution in 95% of cases is to perform a fuel drain on the vehicle.

A fuel drain involves connecting a pump to the vehicle to remove the contaminated fuel from the vehicle fuel system. The vehicle will be protected from potential damage to the body work by the fuel lines and other equipment used during the process, by a large padded plastic blanket. The contaminated fuel is stored in a specialist storage tank on board the mobile fuel evacuation unit and can only be correctly disposed of by a fully licensed and qualified technician. Once all of the fuel has been safely removed, the fuel system can then be flushed through with fresh uncontaminated fuel of the type required by the vehicle to remove traces of the incorrect fuel type. The vehicle engine can then be started and tested to find out if it will run smoothly following the procedure or whether there is potentially some damage to the fuel system components of the vehicle engine which would require further investigation.

In the vast majority of cases the fuel system evacuation and flush through with fresh fuel is enough to solve the problem and the motorist can be on their way with peace of mind. In the rare cases where the vehicle needs further attention, all may not be lost. Depending upon the type of vehicle, replacement injectors, injector pump, fuel filter and fuel pump may need to be sourced and fitted to the vehicle if advised by the wrong fuel removal technician. Phone around for quotes, though; if you have a trusted mechanic that you can go to for advice then that would be best, a main dealer is going to be expensive for this type of work.

Wrong Fuel Removal – Don’t get duped

Unfortunately, as with most professions, there is a devious element at work within the wrong fuel removal industry. As mentioned previously, because this is an industry that most people are unaware of until they need the service, not many know of a reputable company. The forecourt staff may be able to advise you, or you may find a company through an internet search on your smart phone.

You need to be sure that the company engineers hold an SPA passport and are registered with the Environment Agency so that you know they are fully licensed and qualified to do the job. If your engineer turns up with a dodgy old van and looks like he intends to drain your vehicle fuel tank into scruffy looking plastic tanks, then don’t be afraid to turn him away. A professional wrong fuel removal company will show you identification and will carry equipment to protect your vehicle whilst draining the fuel tank into a certified steel container. Petrol is a very dangerous chemical and must be handled professionally. Also, your vehicle may be an expensive and precious possession so be sure that the vehicle and you are not put at risk during the process.

Hopefully, you will never need this type of service but records show that this type of incident is on the rise in the UK and abroad. If you do happen to come across this article and know of someone who has recently changed to a diesel car, or if you yourself have done so, if the worst should happen perhaps this information will prove useful.