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

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

Find out the steps you need to take after misfuelling

It’s easily done — we’ve got so much going on in our busy lives that it doesn’t take much to get distracted and pick up the wrong pump at the fuel station. The good news is that you’re not alone in making this mistake; 150,000 motorists do this every year. In fact, it happens around once every 3 and a half minutes! 

Putting petrol into a diesel car is the most common mistake, as the petrol nozzle will easily fit in the diesel filling neck. However, it can happen the other way around. Whichever way it happens, it can be less than ideal!

Whilst your initial reaction may be to panic, it’s important to know what to do if you put the wrong fuel in your car. 

1. If you haven’t already, don’t start the car 

If you’ve realised what’s happened pretty much immediately, it’s important that you leave the ignition well alone. As inconvenient as it may be, leaving the car where it is and not starting up the engine can limit the damage done by incorrect fuel. Starting the engine encourages the wrong fuel to circulate in the system, with potentially seriously damaging results.

Let the petrol station attendants know that you’ve misfuelled, and, if you can, put the car in neutral and push it to a safe place. 

2. If you’ve started your engine, turn it off 

If you start the car before you realise, turn it off again as soon as you do — once it’s safe to do so, obviously! Put the car in neutral if you’re unable to turn the car off. 

3. Phone your breakdown cover provider 

Your fuel tank will need to be drained before you can drive the car, which will probably need to happen at the roadside. The provider of your breakdown cover should be able to help, or, failing that, a local on-call recovery expert. If you've opted for Warranty First breakdown cover, we could be coming to your rescue! Get in touch with us for more details on this service.

4. What happens if you don’t realise you’ve done it? 

To put it simply - you soon will. If your car starts at all, acceleration will be jerky, smoke may come out the exhaust, and the engine will misfire. 

5. Get in touch with your insurer 

If you’ve got fully comprehensive insurance, you may find that at least part of the costs of repairs following misfuelling may be covered by your insurance under ‘accidental damage’. It’s worth checking, but it’s important that you call them as soon as possible; informing them of repair costs retrospectively is a risk.  

6. Get any remedial repairs done 

If the fuel had a chance to circulate, chances are that it may have done some damage inside the fuel system. Once the tank is drained, you’ll need to have the car recovered to a garage in order to have it thoroughly looked at, and repaired if needs be. 

7. Avoiding misfuelling 

Hopefully, just knowing the hassle that putting the wrong fuel in your car causes is enough to make you double-check the pumps when you go to fill up, to avoid a costly and inconvenient mistake. 

If you drive a diesel car, you may be especially worried about grabbing the petrol pump, particularly if you used to drive a petrol-powered car. You can, therefore, get a handy device that prevents a petrol nozzle from entering the filling neck of the diesel tank, but still admits the diesel pump nozzle.