SOS! Wrong Fuel: What Happens Now & What Should I Do?

Oct 10, 2018

Panic button is totally appropriate in this situation.

I have always wondered what will happen in case you or the gasoline boy accidentally puts the wrong fuel type into your car. Years ago, I’ve thought of that whenever we pass by a gasoline station and even wondered if we can just fill up our unleaded car with diesel since it is way cheaper. I thought that it could be possible and nothing would be wrong – until I became more knowledgeable about fuels and cars and how they work.

1. Fuel Mix Up Facts

Although it should be almost automatic for car owners, especially those who have owned cars for a long period of time, there would still be some occasions when fuel mix-ups happen – most of the time it's accidental as no one would want to have his car filled up with the wrong fuel.

fuels in gasoline station

Stress, confusion and sleepiness can sometimes cause us not to pay attention to the fuel we're putting in our vehicle

But then, it still happens to some. In fact, in the UK this fatal mistake happens every 3-5 minutes. So imagine how many people encounter this problem every now and then? At that rate, it seems that it happens quite frequently, and I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t happen in the UK alone.

In line with this, it is very important to know why we should be avoiding to put the wrong fuel in our car so we could be more aware whenever we stop at a gas station to fill our cars up.

2. Importance of Knowing What Fuel Fits Your Car

When buying a car, one of the most important questions you might want to ask your car sales consultant is what fuel powers up the car you want to buy. Or, you can already do your homework in advanced and research for the type of fuel that your dream car uses – most of the time, they are readily available from the internet. Traditionally, the type of fuel to be used in your car should be stated in the car owner’s manual. Whatever way you obtain the information, the important thing is you know the right fuel to use for your vehicle.

girl filling up her car

Whatever situation you're in, it is important to have a presence of mind when it comes to fuel up your car so it won't get damaged

Every car is designed for a specific fuel type. One may not work with the other so it is highly important that you don’t mix up your fuel. Doing so, like putting petrol/gasoline to a diesel engine and vice versa can do a tremendous negative effect in your engine. Confusing fuels is fatal to your car’s engine that may result to a high price to pay – like an engine replacement.

We sure don’t want that to happen, as we’ll be seeing money easily marching out of our doorstep.

3. What Happens When I Put The Wrong Fuel To My Car?

As mentioned, it could have adverse effects on the engine which may later on result to engine replacement. In details, here are the effects of putting wrong fuel into your car:

1. Diesel, being a lubricant and fuel at the same time, when combined with petrol, can cause damage to the fuel injector pump.

2. Given that diesel and petrol have different combustion properties, like petrol will explode quicker inside a diesel engine than diesel itself, it can cause misfires which eventually will lead to catastrophic damage to your engine.

3. If you start the engine with the wrong fuel on, it will begin fuel circulation as usual and send the wrong fuel to the entire engine system causing damages that may go beyond repair. These damages can become so fatal that it will result to the death of your engine.

4. Since wrong fuel can damage vital engine parts, depending on the damage incurred, you may need to replace the parts that have been so much affected – possibilities are: fuel lines, fuel hoses, fuel pump and fuel injectors.

4. What To Do When This Happens?

I know you will be at the verge of pressing the panic button, but as you know, panic will not do anything to help you out in this kind of situation. You have to keep your sanity and be mindful of what you need to do next. Here are some helpful steps on how to deal with this:

4.1. Sit down and calm yourself down

Let the fact sink in that the wrong fuel was placed in your car. Once it’s clear to you, you have to get back to your senses and do something about the mistake.

calm down

Taking a deep breath to calm down helps you focus on what you need to do to save your engine from failing

4.2. Tell the gasoline station manager or attendant about what happened

They should be able to help you out by calling an expert who is trained for this situation or they can at least give you an idea on what’s the next best thing to do.

4.3. Don’t start the engine 

This probably is the most important thing you should do in this situation. If you start the engine, the wrong fuel will start flowing into the parts of your engine that don’t really work with it. To avoid serious engine problems, do not start the engine.

dont start engine

Don't start the engine if you're using the wrong fuel - results can be catastrophic

4. Place your car on neutral and ask someone’s help to push the car over to a safe area

Since you cannot start the engine and we sure don’t want to be in other people’s way as well, it will be best to ask for help to push your car to the side as you plan the next steps.

pushing car

Put your car and neutral and have someone help you push your car to safety until your mechanic arrives to help you

5. Search for a professional who knows how to handle this wrong fuel situation

Either it could be your trusted mechanic, or you can search for people through the internet who are professionally trained to handle this kind of problem.

fuel doctor

In some areas, there are fuel doctors that provide assistance when you accidentally put the wrong fuel in your car

With their knowledge, they should be able to flush the wrong fuel out and help clean the engine as necessary. Have the car towed to an auto shop for safekeeping.

6. Call your insurance company

Worst case scenario, or at least in preparation for the worst, it's always best to inform your insurance company about it so they can advise you of your car coverage.

call insurance

Calling your insurance company can help you in determining your coverage for this kind of situation

Again, the best way to ensure that you don’t have to go through all these troubles is to have an alert mind and be attentive when filling up your vehicle. Always make sure you observe, guide and give clear instructions to the gas station attendant so you will avoid putting the wrong fuel in your car.

>>> Click here to get more helpful tips and advice for your safe driving

Source: Ivy Kristia Padura