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


Published 12/02/2019
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Would you know what to do if you put the wrong fuel in your vehicle? It isn’t a very common mistake as fuel dispensers are colour-coded for each type of fuel. But a momentary lapse from you as the vehicle owner, or from the petrol station worker, can lead to diesel being put in instead of petrol, or vice versa.

This isn’t a common mistake if you’re filling up your own car. However, if you’re using a work vehicle, a friend’s car, or a hire car it may happen more often than we think.
If it’s you as the driver who makes the mistake, then it will be you who has to pay for the costs of the damage. But if it’s the petrol station attendant who has made the mistake, then it’s another matter.

If it’s the service station employee who gets it wrong, you have the right to claim compensation (if it’s a self-service station you can’t claim for anything at all). In legal proceedings, you’ll need to provide all the necessary evidence to prove negligence by the attendant. If the damage amounts to less than €2000 you can avoid the legal process by reaching a compensation agreement through voluntary arbitration between the parties.

What happens to your vehicle if you put the wrong fuel in?

If you fill up a petrol vehicle with diesel and start the car, the engine will display warning lights until it stops running. Normally, by emptying and cleaning the fuel tank, cleaning the pipes, and changing the fuel filter you can repair any damage done. But if the diesel has reached the catalytic converter then you’ll need to replace it, which will make the repairs considerably more expensive.
If, on the other hand, you put petrol in a diesel vehicle by accident, the engine will misfire and possibly stop running. This mistake can be more costly as emptying and cleaning the fuel tank and pipes, and replacing the fuel filter will most likely not be enough to get it running again. The expensive injection pump and other pumps are often damaged, which increases the price of repair work.

What to do if you put the wrong fuel in

If it happens, you should bear the following recommendations in mind:

  • If you’ve filled up with the wrong fuel and you realise before starting the car, you’re in luck. Just call a breakdown service and they will take care of transporting the vehicle to a garage to get the fuel tank emptied and cleaned.
  • If you have turned the engine on, it will normally break down shortly after. Don’t force the engine to try and make it better. You need to call a breakdown service straight away.

The best case scenario is that you haven’t started the engine. This slip-up can cost you around €100, provided your car insurance covers transportation to a garage.
The worst case scenario could see the repairs being very expensive, especially if it’s a diesel engine as repairs are much more costly, coming in at around €3000.
To avoid filling up with the wrong fuel, pay attention to the label on the fuel tank and the signs on the fuel pumps and dispensers at the petrol station and also make sure that the petrol station attendant is clear on what fuel to put in. By doing so, you’ll avoid unnecessary and expensive damage from a momentary lapse in concentration or poor communication.

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