Diesel dis­as­ters

Putting petrol into a diesel car is in­creas­ingly com­mon and ex­pen­sive, writes Stu­art Innes

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News -

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

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