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The Miserable Mistake of Misfuelling

Put petrol in a diesel? You’re not alone, every year approximately 133,000 Brits fill their car with the wrong fuel.

A quarter of these drivers attribute their mistake to being preoccupied, 13% on driving a new car that used a different fuel, 12% on driving a partner’s vehicle, 11% on using a hire car, 9% on filling up at an unfamiliar petrol station, and 7% on distraction while fuelling.

According to a recent study by the AA, business drivers are putting the wrong fuel in company-owned vehicles and blaming it on stress or being in an unfamiliar location. Last year 60% of the AA’s Fuel Assist service call-outs came from its business customers.

The mistake is especially common for drivers of company-owned or operational vehicles, who may be rushing between appointments to deliver goods or to secure business sales.

Misfuelling can potentially costs businesses thousands of pounds in repair costs

“Not to mention time in lost revenue while drivers wait for their vehicle to be fixed,” said Donald MacSporran, director, manufacturer services at the AA.

The AA’s own data shows that a refuelling mishap occurs once every three minutes across the UK’s petrol pumps, with the error costing drivers between £500 and £3,000.

What happens when you put petrol in a diesel engine?

As well as powering the car, diesel acts as a lubrication oil that keeps the fuel pump and other components running smoothly. Petrol, acting as a solvent when mixed with diesel, has the opposite effect.

Adding petrol to a diesel engine increases friction between parts, causing damage to the fuel lines and pump. If you drive away or even start the car with petrol in the mix, you could cause expensive damage to the engine.

What happens when you put diesel in a petrol engine?

Diesel pump nozzles tend to be larger than most petrol fuel necks, so misfuelling in a petrol car doesn’t happen all that often.

Luckily, putting diesel in a petrol engine isn’t as bad as the other way around. Because diesel needs to be compressed before it’ll ignite, chances are you won’t even be able to start the engine.

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

First of all, and this is most important: Do not start your engine. Don’t even put the key in the ignition.

If you’ve realised your mistake before starting the engine, here’s what you do:

  • Tell the petrol station what’s happened. 
  • Put the car in neutral. 
  • Have someone help push your car to a safe place. 
  • Call your company fleet administrator as soon as you can. 
  • If you have breakdown cover included with your lease or included as part of your manufactures warranty – they should be able to drain, flush and refuel your car.

If you aren’t so lucky and you drive off with the wrong fuel, you’ll soon realise what’s happened when the car grinds to a halt.

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