First of all, don’t turn on the ignition or start the engine.
Turning on the ignition is likely to circulate the contaminated fuel and potentially cause expensive damage to your engine. Try to even avoid putting the key in the ignition or door, as sometimes this can begin the charge of glow plugs in Diesels. Then safely make a call to your breakdown service, such as AA, RAC or Green Flag, preferably via the fuel station telephone line (mobiles can cause sparks on the forecourt which could ignite fuel). Explain to them you put in the wrong fuel and they will send someone out to drain the tank for you.
It happens more often than you think.
Did you know that every year around 150,000 cars have been filled with the wrong fuel? In fact, many recovery companies now employ full-time ‘fuel assistance’ vans across the country to deal with this growing problem. It’s a simple mistake to make and is usually because many people drive several cars with different fuel systems. A good rule of thumb is to double-check the fuel cap label corresponds with the pump label before re-fuelling. Sometimes you’ll find the pump nozzle doesn’t actually fit which is a good indicator you’ve got the wrong fuel.
If you need to move the vehicle.
Since you’re stuck waiting for the recovery vehicle, you may be asked to push your vehicle out of the way of the pump by the garage. Don’t put the key in the ignition just in case. With extra help, put the car into neutral, take the handbrake off and slowly push the vehicle making sure someone is sat in the driver seat to steer (if the steering doesn’t lock-up) and brake safely – be careful, most car brakes are powered by the engine so may not work when the ignition is off! You should then re-apply the handbrake once stationary.
Damage to your vehicle.
Diesel fuel pumps work at high pressures and have subtle tolerances. Having petrol in diesel reduces lubrication which could cause pump damage via metal on metal contact. The particles of metal which separate then can go on to damage the whole of the fuel system. Depending on the damage, you could be looking at replacement of the fuel pumps, fuel rail, fuel tank, line filters, the injectors and at the very worst a new engine! Therefore, stopping an engine as soon as you can will limit the amount of damage caused and the expense to repair.
Petrol engines are also at high risk of damage due to their low-pressure electric pumps. These will start pumping the contaminated fuel around the pump and rail as soon as the ignition is turned on.
Top tips to prevent it happening.
- Double-check the fuel cap label and pump label fuel types match. If you don’t have a label indicating the fuel type on your fuel cap stick one on.
- If the fuel nozzle doesn’t fit correctly, check you have the right fuel for the vehicle.
- Always check your receipt after paying to ensure it states the correct fuel has been delivered for your vehicle.
- Before returning to your car, check that you used the correct fuel by looking at the pump nozzle once again.
Need some help?
If you find your car needs engine repairs becuase of the wrong fuel don’t worry. We’re happy to help if you are near Bath or Bristol and can get you back up and running in no time, even providing a courtesy car whilst yours is being repaired! Feel free to give us a call and we’ll happily advise.