Top up with the Wrong fuel - what to do

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Martin Smith

Pegasus Couriers MD

Putting the wrong fuel in your car. This is what to do

Martin Smith explains the consequences of misfuelling a vehicle and how it could seize your engine, costing you a fortune to repair. Here we discuss how to limit damage, warning signs of topping up your vehicle with the wrong fuel and what to do if you find yourself in this situation.

Mistakes happen - don't panic.

Mistakes can happen, so we are here to provide the best advice on what to do if you find yourself in this situation.

Putting the wrong fuel in your vehicle can have serious consequences, but it is more common than one would think. In fact, according to RAC data, about 150 000 motorists in the UK make the same mistake annually.

It is essential to know what happens when you put the wrong fuel in your vehicle, such as decreased performance and engine failure. The most damage from misfuelling happens after turning on the ignition. Turn your vehicle off as quickly as possible after realising the mistake.  

About 95 per cent of these incidents occur when petrol is pumped into a diesel vehicle by mistake. This is because diesel pumps have wider nozzles that don’t fit into modern petrol vehicle filler necks, making it more challenging to misfuel. 

Does insurance cover you?

Most of the breakdown companies are well-equipped to deal with this.
While waiting for the breakdown, contact your insurer to see if this is covered. Some plans do include misfuelling as part of their more comprehensive cover.

Overall Consequences - it depends on the circumstances

A repair could be expensive depending on how much fuel was in the vehicle, how far you drove with it, and if the engine has already seized or you managed to turn it off. If you haven’t started the vehicle, it’ll be a simple case of draining the fuel and putting in the correct fuel to get you going again.

If you have driven the vehicle, the damage could be more extensive. If there is more significant damage, the vehicle will likely be towed to your mechanic for a closer inspection.

Fuel Doctor – who specialises in draining fuel tanks – says they can have the driver back on the road within 40 minutes in several scenarios. 

Tips and what to do:

Warning signs to identify if you have put the wrong fuel into the tank: 

  • a loud knocking sound coming from the engine
  • the engine warning light coming on
  • slower acceleration
  • the engine stopping or seizing
  • your engine misfiring
  • excessive smoke from the exhaust 

What to do: 

  • Turn your vehicle off; continuing to drive will cause more damage
  • Tell the staff at the petrol station, as most places have protocols to assist
  • Put your vehicle in neutral and push it to a safe place 
  • Contact your breakdown company, who will likely drain and flush your fuel system
  • Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible to inform them of what has happened.

How to prevent filling your vehicle with the wrong fuel:

  • Check the fuel pump handle – most filling stations have the fuel type displayed on the pump handles
  • Check the pump labelling – all stations have the type of fuel written on the pump
  • Once you have your receipt, you can see what fuel you used

I hope this helps you if you ever find yourself in this situation. 

Feel free to read some of our other articles, such as the importance of courier insurance or how we used an off-road vehicle to reach clients in the remote areas of the Scottish Highlands.  

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Other exciting topics we’ve recently covered include how one of our drivers rescue a stranded woman in the floods as well. More articles discuss Courier Driver insurance and professional courier driver tips.


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