I have put the wrong fuel in my vehicle, what do I do?
Firstly don’t start the vehicle. If you’re at a petrol station forecourt you’ll find the staff are normally sympathetic to your situation as they will have seen this on many occasions. You may even get a push off the pumps into a parking bay!
Can I turn the engine on?
In an automatic vehicle you may find yourself in a situation where you want to start the engine in order to select neutral, and then push the car off a pump, or into a more convenient location. If the situation is critical then this can be done, but switch the engine off as soon as you have engaged neutral.
Because most fuel pumps will be drawing fuel from the bottom of the tank the brief period of time you’re switched (enabling selection of neutral, freeing up the steering lock) will most likely only bring through the remainder of the original correct fuel.
Will my filter need changing?
If the vehicle has been started it is a wise precaution to change the fuel filter fairly soon after the mis-fuelling incident has occurred. When a vehicle has been started after having been mis-fuelled a knowledgeable technician attending the vehicle will flush the correct fuel through the fuel delivery system before re starting.
Having carried out this process, and the vehicle is driven for a number of minutes, any contaminated fuel left in the filter will have been removed. However, a fuel filter is a relatively inexpensive part (generally £25.00 – £50.00) and simple to fit, usually half an hour to an hour max. One word of warning! If your vehicle is under manufacturer’s warranty take caution. If you go to your main dealer to change the filter they might ask questions about why you want the fuel filter changed.
Be wary how you approach this, as there have been cases where customers have been told there vehicle’s warranty will be invalidated unless they replace numerous components, including the fuel tank. This type of work will cost a minimum of £2,000.00 and can get into 5 figures depending upon the exclusivity of your car/ motorbike/ etc…
What types of repairs are going to be required?
Parts at a main dealership garage will normally include a new fuel tank and connecting pipes, new fuel lines, new filters, new fuel pump (sometimes there will be 2 to replace) and injectors. A local garage will normally drain and flush, however, they can also supply a new fuel filter dependent upon availability.
A mobile fuel drain unit will also carry out a drain and flush. Although a mobile unit will not normally be able to change a fuel filter on scene, some will offer a fuel additive as an alternative. These products help to clean, lubricate and dispose of any remaining contaminated fuel left in the vehicles system. More advanced additives can also boost cetane levels increasing combustibility.
Fuel Type Specific – What to do
Petrol in diesel. As previously discussed the best course of action is to not start the vehicle. However, with a diesel vehicle sensitivity to the wrong fuel is less so than in its petrol counterpart. Therefore, should you own a very modern automatic car, that doesn’t have the traditional key, and the car must be started in order to take it out of park and disengage the steering lock, a matter of a few seconds with the engine running is unlikely to cause any problems.
Call in the services of a mobile fuel drain company who can dispatch an technician to attend and drain the vehicle immediately, and no further action should be necessary. If the vehicle has been driven the same basic rules apply, however, it is highly recommended that a quality additive is included once the contaminated fuel has been removed and the vehicle re started, and for extra peace of mind the fuel filter should be changed within the next few days.
Diesel in petrol.
Again, it is highly recommended that the car or motorbike is not started. In this instance a mobile fuel drainage company, who can attend the scene of the breakdown swiftly, should be utilised to remove all of the diesel. From here the car or bike should be a simple re start. If they have been started, or driven, they will require a thorough flush through once the drain has been completed.
This process will normally take at least 50% longer to carry out than if working on a diesel engine equivalent. However, once completed the car or bike should start quickly, initially producing a fair quantity of smoke while any diesel residue is burnt off, then running as before the mis-fuelling incident.