Wrong fuel in car - what to do

Wrong fuel recovery - fuel filling nozzle

A moment’s distraction can cost motorists dearly. Around 150,000 UK drivers fill their car with the wrong fuel every year. If you made this mistake, would you know what to do? 

What to do if you put the wrong fuel in your car

Why ‘misfuelling’ is damaging

Modern car engines are finely tuned and the wrong fuel can cause severe damage to internal components. Diesel cars use the fuel as a lubricant for the entire system; if corrosive petrol is pumped around instead, it will eat away at seals. It’s harder to fill a diesel car with petrol as diesel nozzles are usually larger, but this can also cause damage. 

Reduce the risk of choosing the wrong fuel

There are a few simple ways to prevent misfuelling. Most obviously, try not to rush at the pump: pay attention to what you are doing and read the signs carefully before beginning to fill your tank. You may find it helpful to place a sticker confirming the fuel type on the cap. You can also buy devices that only allow the correct nozzle to be inserted into the fuel neck. 

Wrong fuel recovery - gas station uk

What to do if you misfuel without driving off

You’re likely to feel embarrassed and annoyed if you realise you’ve chosen petrol instead of diesel, but resist the temptation to drive off. Even turning on your ignition could circulate damaging fuel through your engine. Tell the petrol station staff what has happened – you’re unlikely to be the first case of misfuelling they have ever seen. Then call your insurer or breakdown cover provider and follow their instructions. 

If you misfuel then start your engine

As soon as you realise you have loaded up with the wrong fuel, pull over and turn off your engine. Call your insurer and a recovery service, who will likely tow your vehicle to the garage. 

Wrong fuel recovery

What the mechanic will do

Sometimes misfuelling can be remedied at the roadside, by simply draining and cleaning the tank. If you have started the fuel pump or driven any distance, the damaging fuel could have entered the pump, fuel lines, filters and fuel injectors, damaging seals along the way. If components are contaminated they may be cleaned or replaced, but this can be very expensive. 

Where do you stand with your insurance?

According to the British insurance Brokers’ Association, 30% of UK insurers will not pay out for a misfuelling claim; a survey by Defaqto found that around 42% of policies contain a misfuelling exclusion clause. Sometimes misfuelling cover can be purchased as an optional extra. Even if you do have misfuelling cover, your insurer may refuse to pay out if you are considered to have acted negligently, for example by continuing to drive the car after you realise the mistake. Misfuelling policies usually only cover the cost of draining and cleaning the tank at the point of fuelling. If there are further engine problems, these might be covered under your accidental damage cover. 

The best way to protect yourself from a misfuelling mishap is to invest in car breakdown cover. Depending on the level of the cover, we can arrange for you to be taken home or to a garage of your choice. Speak to our motor insurance team today about car insurance and breakdown insurance.

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