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Wrong Fuel in the Car - How Big is the Problem and What to do? DIY Guide

By: Arjit Garg

Edited By: Arjit Garg


Last Updated: January 10, 2022, 18:06 IST

Image for Representation. (Reuters)

Image for Representation. (Reuters)

How big is the Wrong Fuelling problem and how to deal with it, we tell you in our Do It Yourself Guide?

If you drive a car, vehicle breakdown is something which is inevitable and various studies have suggested that tyre puncture is one of the primary reasons of breakdown. Accidents, empty fuel and low battery also play a major role in vehicle breakdown. But one barely recognized cause of breakdown is wrong fuelling in the car. While two-wheelers run on petrol only (leaving aside electric drive), cars can be powered by two types of fuel – diesel and petrol. This leads to a confusion sometimes on what fuel the car is running on, resulting in wrong fuelling.

This problem is most common with the first-time drivers who are not aware of the fuel type of their car, or someone driving someone else’s car or language barrier while you are travelling. As opposed to the other form of breakdowns like tyre puncture, battery down or empty fuel - diesel in petrol car or petrol in diesel car can lead to major damage in your vehicle. How big is this problem and how to deal with it, we tell you in our Do It Yourself Guide!

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How big is the problem?


Wrong fuelling is a big troublemaker as you can’t alone deal with this situation and have to visit a service station to get it sorted. The other breakdown causes can be tackled on the spot, be it flat tyre or empty fuel. Also, wrong-fuelling can lead to engine problems leading to irreparable damage to your car’s engine. Here’s what happens when you put the wrong fuel in your car-

  1. Petrol in Diesel vehicle - The engine can sustain a few kilometres of driving
  2. Diesel in Petrol vehicle - The engine can suffer major damage within a few seconds of starting the vehicle

How to tackle wrong fuelling?

Wrong-fuelling has become a common occurrence these days all thanks to the rapid sales of vehicles. People are moving from two-wheelers to four wheelers and they don‘t know what type of fuel their car is running on? There are two possible scenarios after wrong fuelling of the car and both of them need a different approach-

  1. You are aware of wrong-fuelling

- The most important thing to remember is - Don’t start your vehicle

- Don’t drive your car no matter what, and if need be, push your car to the nearest parking bay

- Call an emergency roadside assistance or nearest garage

- If your vehicle has an automatic transmission, you might have to start it to bring it to neutral. Turn off the engine immediately once done.

  1. You are not aware of wrong-fuelling

- Call the emergency services as soon as you realize the issue and stop the car immediately

What are the potential damages?

Wrong fuelling can lead to severe damage in the engine, however it is very difficult to assess the damage at the exact moment. The damage depends on how early you have detected the problem and called the emergency services. Here are the vehicle components you need to check and replace-

- Fuel pump

- Injectors

- Catalytic converter

- Fuel tank

- Valve guides and valve seats

How to recover the car?

Once your vehicle is contaminated with the wrong fuel, it’s advisable not to start the vehicle and call mobile recovery service. Below are the various methods which can be used to recover your vehicle. Remember, you can’t repair the vehicle yourself as the damages are inside the engine and the only option is a service station-

Method 1 – Call a mobile recovery service, also known as emergency roadside assistance. The technicians of these services are trained and they will use a fuel hose to access the fuel tank and will empty it. Once the tank is empty, the car is filled with the right fuel. However, this method has limitations and can only be used if the fuel has not entered the fuel lines. If you have started your car and the fuel has reached the fuel lines, the technician will have to flush them, before refuelling.

Method 2 – If the fuel has reached fuel lines, the only option is to take the vehicle to the nearest garage. As mentioned above, if petrol is filled in diesel cars, they can run for a few kilometres and you can yourself take the car to the garage. But you have to get it cleaned and checked properly. The mechanic will use a static pump to remove the fuel or they can remove the tank to manually drain the contaminated fuel. A filter change can also take place depending on the damage.

Method 3 – If, however, you have filled your petrol car with diesel and manage to start it, the only option is to have it towed to the garage, as you can’t start the car again. The service station will analyze the damage and perform a complete overhaul, replacing the damaged parts.

Our advise is to put a sticker on the fuel cap to avoid any confusion.

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