Putting petrol into a diesel car is increasingly common and expensive, writes Stuart Innes
ENGINE repairs costing Australian motorists tens of millions of dollars a year are being generated by drivers mistakenly putting petrol into diesel cars.
Automotive associations say there is a plethora of labels on service station fuel pumps and hose nozzles, leading to confusion among motorists.
For some time, petrol cars have been fitted with a narrow fuel neck that prevents insertion of the wider-diameter diesel fuel nozzle.
But there is nothing to stop a petrol nozzle going into a diesel car’s fuel filler.
Nearly 30 per cent of new vehicles coming on to Australia’s roads have a diesel engine and the misfuelling problem is spreading.
Repairs cost from a few hundred dollars up to $20,000 for a premium brand car with a sophisticated fuel system.
‘‘ There are two types of diesel car owners,’’ says one recovery vehicle operator. ‘‘ Those who have put petrol into their tanks and those who are yet to do so.’’
Adelaide businessman Geoff Holdich said the bill to repair his current-model Mercedes C220 diesel had been more than $17,000— although he was lucky in it being covered by insurance— after he inadvertently filled a diesel tank with petrol.
‘‘ I drove about 100m and realised something was wrong with the way it was running and realised what I had done, so I stopped,’’ he says.
He admits to being embarrassed by his ‘‘ brain fade’’ but said he had been told by the car dealer’s service department it was getting at least one car a week with the same problem.
‘‘ I don’t have a particular excuse except that it is too easy to do,’’ he says of taking a petrol nozzle and putting it into a diesel tank. Holdich suggests a different shape or style of nozzle, more conspicuous signage on the fuel pumps, an audible warning device when the hose is lifted or separating petrol and diesel bowsers at the service station.
Motorist Jane Booth says she had filled her diesel Hyundai i30 with petrol and driven about 70km. It failed to restart. Her repairs were only a few hundred dollars. ‘‘ Vortex did it for me,’’ she says. At a Caltex service station, she was confused by a Vortex sign on the petrol pump, because Vortex was also the type of diesel her car normally took.
Caltex Australia spokesman Frank Topham says that Caltex is installing more diesel bowsers and customer focus groups had helped develop clearer pump labels that would appear soon.
Motorists in doubt about what fuel to put in their cars should ask an attendant.
Rushin’ roulette: Filling with the wrong nozzle can have catastrophic results