Several cars were brought to a halt after being filled with contaminated fuel at a Sainsbury's petrol station in Exeter.

The fuel contained water and was then pumped into a number of cars at the supermarket’s Pinhoe branch.

Many of the cars with the affected fuel broke down soon after leaving the forecourt, with some making onto the main roads surrounding the city.

Sarah Walker, one of the affected drivers, told the Exeter Express & Echo that she had to pay the AA £400 to get the fuel drained out of the car's system and then pay for the tank to be refilled at another station.

Walker had only just left the site as well, showing how quickly the problem manifested.

This problem occurs when water disrupts the lubricating effect of the diesel fuel, causing serious damage because of the added friction on the internal parts.

Diesel engines are much more fragile than petrol ones and are very difficult to fix, due to the complex nature of their make-up. Both types of engine can be affected however.

A spokesperson from Sainsbury’s said: “Our team acted extremely quickly to isolate the affected pump and our forecourt is operating as normal while a full investigation takes place. We are in touch with the affected drivers and have apologised.”

A representative of the AA told the North Devon Journal that cases like this are “extremely rare” and the most likely reason for the fuel to be affected was the way diesel is stored and water seeping into the storage tanks.

Author: Jack Healey