Bad fuel has drivers under the pump
Engine repair bills could run into thousands, writes NEILMcDONALD
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.