Bad fuel has driv­ers un­der the pump

En­gine re­pair bills could run into thou­sands, writes NEILMcDONALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

MO­TORISTS are fac­ing re­pair bills in the thou­sands from last week’s con­tam­i­nated fuel scare in Mel­bourne. Cars­Guide un­der­stands some driv­ers are be­ing quoted $3000 to $5000 to re­pair dam­aged en­gines in their late-model cars af­ter fill­ing up with bad fuel in the city’s north­ern and north­east­ern sub­urbs.

Now Con­sumers Af­fairs Vic­to­ria has stepped in to take up their case.

So far it has re­ceived one of­fi­cial com­plaint and 146 in­quiries about the con­tam­i­nated reg­u­lar un­leaded fuel, a prob­lem linked to six out­lets, none of them main­stream fuel com­pa­nies.

Sam­ples taken by the RACV and Vic­to­rian Au­to­mo­bile Cham­ber of Com­merce have re­vealed a sil­i­cone oil was the con­tam­i­nant.

CAV spokesper­son Sam Parkin­son says an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­tin­u­ing to es­tab­lish if the con­tam­i­na­tion occurred at the re­tail­ers or from the de­liv­ery tankers. He says con­sumers have sev­eral av­enues through which to chase com­pen­sa­tion. But they must act quickly.

‘‘We’re ad­vis­ing peo­ple to con­tact the re­tailer di­rectly and make a for­mal com­plaint,’’ she says.

‘‘It would also be ad­vis­able to ob­tained as much ev­i­dence as they can that con­tam­i­nated fuel has been pur­chased.’’

Mo­torists should keep fuel re­ceipts or bank state­ments that show fuel was pur­chased from an af­fected re­tailer, she says, get a sam­ple of fuel from their ve­hi­cles and a quote from their me­chanic for the re­pairs.

‘‘If pos­si­ble, get the me­chanic to pro­vide writ­ten ad­vice that it’s their opin­ion that the ve­hi­cle has been dam­aged as a re­sult of con­tam­i­nated fuel,’’ she says.

‘‘If they are not able to ne­go­ti­ate with the re­tailer they should lodge a com­plaint with the CAV.’’

She says sev­eral af­fected re­tail­ers have been con­tacted to make sure they are aware of their le­gal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to mo­torists.

If con­sumers are still wor­ried, the RACV is rec­om­mend­ing mo­torists use pre­mium un­leaded with ei­ther a 95 or 98 oc­tane rat­ing un­til the prob­lem is re­solved.

RACV chief en­gi­neer Michael Case says no con­tam­i­nants had been found in the higher oc­tane petrol, but en­gines that run rough, mis­fire or are hard to start could be con­tam­i­nated.

Other signs to look for in­clude white pow­der or film in the ex­haust pipe, if the en­gine check light comes on, or if there is a sickly sweet smell from the fuel and ex­haust gas or white pow­der on the spark plugs.

‘‘If ve­hi­cles show any of th­ese signs, mo­torists should stop driv­ing im­me­di­ately,’’ Case says.

Mo­torists ex­pe­ri­enc­ing prob­lems should con­tact Con­sumer Af­fairs Vic­to­ria, ph: 1300 55 81 81.

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