I put petrol in my diesel car: what to do if you put the wrong fuel in your car and how you can rescue your engine

Here is what you should do if you accidentally put the wrong fuel in your car.

Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 4:45 am

With the current fuel crisis in the UK creating problems for car owners everywhere, the increased stress at the petrol pump is leading drivers to accidentally fill up with the wrong fuel.

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Filling up a diesel engine with petrol can be devastating to a car, with the petrol increasing friction within parts of the engine leading to engine failure.

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Here is what you should do if you accidentally put the wrong fuel in your car. Photo: James Hardisty

Diesel in a petrol engine can also cause long-lasting damage, with the diesel clogging up the spark plugs and stopping the car from starting.

John Wilmot, CEO of car leasing comparison website LeaseLoco, said on the emerging issue:

“Even under normal circumstances, 400 motorists accidentally put the wrong fuel in their vehicles every day.

“But these aren’t normal circumstances, and with stress levels rising and tempers flaring at petrol pumps across the country, there's a very high chance that we could see a record level of misfuelling incidents.

“If you do put the wrong fuel in your car, what you do next can determine whether you’re going to face a huge repair bill, or not."

This is what you should do if you put the wrong fuel in your car.

Don’t turn the engine on

Leave your engine switched off and don’t put the key in the ignition.

The most serious damage from misfuelling occurs after starting the engine because this allows fuel to circulate around it.

Drain the fuel tank

The fuel tank needs to be drained to remove the contaminated fuel before you drive the car.

But before you can do this:

Put the vehicle in neutral

Put the car in neutral, let the staff at the petrol station know what’s happened, and push the vehicle to a safe place on the forecourt.

Already driven off?

If you’ve already left the petrol station, find a safe place to pull over as soon as possible, put the car in neutral and turn off the ignition.

Fuel drain services

Most breakdown cover policies won’t cover the costs of draining and flushing your vehicle after misfueling, but the big breakdown providers do offer the service separately whether you’re a member or not.

There are also plenty of specialist companies offering misfuelling services.

Insurance

Check your insurance policy to see if misfuelling is covered.

You may be able to claim back the cost of repairing your car under an accidental damage clause in your policy.

This generally only applies to comprehensive policies though.

Avoid misfueling

To avoid misfuelling, check the fuel grade indicator on the pump and the label on the pump trigger.

Never rely on the colour of the hose or nozzle.

You could also label your fuel cap with a prominent sign indicating the fuel type.

It’s also possible to buy a diesel filler cap that prevents petrol nozzles from fitting into diesel tank necks.

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