Statistics show that 150,000 UK drivers every year will have that sinking feeling when they realise they have put the wrong fuel in their car. It can happen on the garage forecourt or a few hundred yards down the road when your car grinds to a halt. Interestingly, it is better to put diesel in a petrol tank rather than petrol in diesel. This is because diesel contains a lubricant, so if an engine is run without this then the damage is more severe. But having said that, either scenario is bad and you should take immediate corrective action. But how expensive is this momentary lapse of concentration, and what should you do when it happens? Here are our top tips.
How much of the wrong fuel is in the tank?
If you’re at the pump and you start filling up with the wrong fuel then stop as soon as you realise your mistake. Some mechanics advise that you can get away with up to 5% of petrol in a diesel tank so if you have only put a small quantity of petrol in then as long as you immediately fill up the tank with diesel you might be OK. However, it depends on the car so you may be better off getting the tank drained to avoid any risk of damaging the engine.
Don’t turn the key!
If you realise you’ve put the wrong fuel in your car then DON’T TURN THE KEY. Just starting the engine can cause damage so it’s best to seek help from the garage forecourt.
Who can help?
There are a number of specialist firms that can drain your tank, flush out the engine and clean everything out properly. The AA offer a fuel assist service where they will come out and fix the problem. Prices vary but it is available to non-members who will have to pay slightly more than members. Some breakdown services, including those provided by PayingTooMuch.com, will recover you to the nearest specialist who can then take the necessary corrective action. Your local mechanic can then deal with the situation and it may be cheaper than calling out a firm whilst you are out on the road. Some breakdown providers, such as Green Flag, will come out and remedy the situation within their standard policy.
Local garage or specialist – how much will it cost?
This can often be a costly mistake, with average prices around £250-300 to drain your tank and flush the engine. A full clean costs more, but this will remove all residue traces to ensure no further damage is done. If you can be recovered to a local garage then it can be cheaper, from £120 depending on the type of fuel and car model. Some main dealers can charge over £1000 for the same service.
What about insurance?
Individual policies vary but insurers like LV and Ageas will cover you for misfuelling incidents. They usually charge an excess so it’s worth doing your sums before deciding whether it would be worthwhile, and check the small print in your policy if you want to make a claim to ensure you are covered.
Prevention is better than cure!
If this has happened to you in the past then you are probably more cautious when filling up and always ensure you have the correct type of fuel. But there are ways of reducing the chances of it happening :
- Concentrate! Always double check the fuel you are using by looking at the pump and any markings or notices you have on the petrol flap. Many diesel cars have a notice next to the pipe to remind you which type of fuel to use.
- Petrol tanks often have smaller openings than diesel models so it’s harder to put a diesel nozzle in the pipe. However, for diesel tanks it can be easier to make a mistake as petrol nozzles are smaller. There are devices which reduce the size of the opening and therefore prevent a petrol nozzle from being used in a diesel tank. One example is SoloDiesel which costs around £40 and will physically prevent a misfuel.
- If you are driving a different car to your usual model, such as a hire car, then it’s worth using post-it notes to remind yourself which fuel to use.
If you have any questions about the insurance or breakdown services provided by PayingTooMuch.com then give our team a ring on 01243 219300. When your renewal is due then give them a ring and they can check the small print of each policy on our panel to ensure you have the right cover.