As basic car care mistakes go, some can be a lot more costly than others; if you’ve forgotten to sort out your frosty windscreen on a morning before setting off to work then you will inevitably end up being a few minutes late for work – but one equally careless error could end up costing drivers thousands of pounds.

It’s an increasingly frequent concern of drivers worldwide who mis-fuel their tank – that is, refilling a petrol car with diesel or vice versa. While all instances of this are worrying, it will end up being far more expensive to put petrol into a diesel car.

The two kinds of engine work very differently; while a diesel engine compresses air before injecting the fuel, a petrol engine will compress a mix of petrol and air before igniting the whole lot to burn for energy. Driving a diesel car filled with petrol could irreparably damage its more sophisticated engine – and in the worst case scenario, metal particles from the engine could get into other parts of the fuel delivery system causing even more damage.

Depending on the model of car you’re driving, it may be necessary to install a whole new engine – this could run into thousands of pounds for the parts and labour. There are steps that you can take though to prevent damage, depending on how early you act.

Until you start the engine, it’s still possible to get away without damaging the engine as all you’d have is an incorrectly-filled fuel tank that hasn’t yet contaminated the working parts of the car. Call for roadside assistance as soon as you can; most breakdown cover services offer fuel drains which will remove the fuel from your engine for a small fee. The same goes if you’re unfortunate enough to have started travelling already; depending how quickly you’ve realised the mistake you might just get away with it.

Car manufacturers are already doing their part to prevent forecourt mishaps; some Ford cars feature the Easy Fuel system which, as well as preventing an expensive mis-fuel, also acts as a deterrent against fuel theft from opportunistic siphoning.

A spring-loaded latch over the fuel opening will only grant access if the petrol nozzle you’re trying to place within is of the correct size and definition. It’s just one of the many developments that car manufacturers are coming up with in an attempt to prevent what can be a very easy-to-make but costly mistake for drivers everywhere.