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

Have you put the wrong fuel in your car? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. You’d be surprised at the number of people who have done the same thing.

Here’s what to do if you’re one of them...

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

It’s an easy mistake to make, let’s face it. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, it can happen to anyone. Putting petrol in a diesel is easily done and vice versa, what matters the most is what you do next. What’s your next move going to be?

You don’t turn your engine on. That’s what you’re not going to do. The worst thing that you could do would be to turn your ignition on and risk causing some serious damage.

So if you realise sooner rather than later that you’ve just accidentally put the wrong fuel in, this is what steps you should take:

  • Leave your engine off and don’t feel tempted to turn the ignition on
  • Let a member of the staff know at the petrol station what happened
  • Put your car in neutral and push it off to somewhere safe
  • Give your breakdown cover a ring, you’ll need them to drain and flush your fuel
  • Contact your insurance provider

If you want to limit the damage, just remember to leave your car switched off, that’s the best thing you can do.

What happens when you put the wrong fuel in

We’ll be honest, putting petrol in a diesel is more serious than putting diesel in your petrol car. These are the common misfuelling damage to both car types that can happen:

Petrol in diesel

Did you know that this is the most common type of misfuelling? It’s true because the petrol nozzle can fit so easily into the neck of your diesel fuel tank. It can cause a great deal of havoc, a lot more than it’s worth.

If you start the engine, the fuel will circulate and you’ll wreak your entire engine system. Let’s not even get started on the cost of the repair. Any type of car repair can be expensive, never mind the cost of replacing your entire fuel system. So, don’t start your engine until your tank has been completely drained.

Diesel in petrol

Putting diesel in a petrol car is a little less serious, but it still happens. If you put diesel into a petrol car, you should still avoid starting the engine. If you can drain your fuel system as soon as you can, you’ll be doing yourself a massive favour.

Diesel is a heavier fuel than petrol, so even if you filled up your petrol car with diesel, and you started it up, it might not start anyway. The diesel just isn’t as easy to ignite the engine compared to a petrol car.

If it does manage to start, you might find the engine gives off a puff of smoke, or it might cut out. No need to panic though, you just need to start with a complete flush and get your car back on the roads.

What to do if you start your engine after misfuelling

If you did happen to start your engine after you’ve just filled up with the wrong fuel:

  • Turn the engine off as soon as you can and pullover
  • Put your car in neutral
  • Call for your breakdown cover

Follow these steps and you should be fine. You might be worried about the repair costs at this point, but don’t be. You might find that you’re able to claim back the cost of repairing your car through your insurance policy. If it's accidental damage, then this may be covered for you, if you have a fully comprehensive policy, it's definitely worth checking.

How to avoid putting the wrong fuel in your car

It sounds easier than it looks, but paying more attention to the petrol station will ultimately stop this mistake from happening. If you're easily distracted, this is probably easier said than done.

There are a few other ways that could help you avoid the wrong fuel, including:

  • Double-check the colour of the nozzle that you're using and read the label on it
  • Pop little reminders in your car to let you know what fuel it is
  • Don't get fuel-hungry or stressed out when you're at the petrol station, you might be more likely to make a mistake
  • Own a diesel? How about buying a device to stop the petrol nozzle from fitting into your diesel tank?

Given the costs that can be involved with misfuelling, all of the above are worth considering. You'll be thanking yourself in the long run if you did one or more of these and it prevented you from putting the wrong fuel in.

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