'Wrong fuel' problems hit 150,000 drivers a year

May 25, 2010 | By | In Statistics

Just bought a diesel car after years of owning petrol-powered models? You’re at risk of copping a repair bill of anything from £300 to £5000.

A new report reveals that drivers put the wrong fuel in their tanks 150,000 times a year. And the bad news is that, on average, one in three can’t claim on their insurance policies but will have to foot the bill themselves.

And it is easily done. Wayne Rooney has, it is reported, been caught out as has television presenter Philip Schofield. And even the Metropolitan police are guilty: they’ve spent £286,000 repairing mis-fuelled vehicles since 2006.

The British Insurance Brokers’ Association which compiled the findings says that, in 19 out of 20 cases, the driver puts petrol into a diesel-engined car. This happens because the filler neck for diesel is wider, while the pump nozzle for unleaded is narrower. For similar reasons, it is much harder to mis-fuel a petrol car. The commonest time for this to happen is on Monday morning or Friday evening because drivers filling up then are more likely to be distracted than at other times.

If you realise immediately what you have done and – this is important – do not drive the car, start the engine or even turn on the ignition (which activates the engine’s fuel pump), repairs will cost around £300. This will pay for the car’s tank to be drained and flushed. But if you drive off with the wrong fuel aboard, it could seriously damage the engine and land you with a bill of up to £5000.

If you have comprehensive car insurance, most companies will accept a claim for this as accidental damage. But some policies exclude mis-fuelling, so check the small print of yours. What’s more, if yours covers only third part, damage, fire and theft, it’s probable that it won’t pay out.

To stop this happening to you, writer a reminder on stickers and put them where where they’ll count – on the centre of the steering wheel, on your key ring and on your car’s filler cap. But if you get it wrong despite all, remember that not moving the car is key to keeping repairs as cheap as they can be.

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