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Misfuelling mishaps – how to avoid a fuelling fiasco

Misfuelling mishaps – how to avoid a fuelling fiasco

Most drivers, at some point in their lives, have experienced the sickening feeling that they might be filling up the car with the wrong fuel.

The ‘feeling’ usually turns out to be wrong, but not always. In fact, misfuelling, as it’s known, is surprisingly common.

Misfuelling is a fairly common occurrence

Statistics from the AA’s Roadside Recovery service show that it’s mechanics are called out to an average of 80 ‘wrong fuel mishaps’ every day (Source:

Diesel or petrol misfuelling – which happens the most?

Getting to the garage and mistakenly filling up a diesel car with petrol is more common that putting the wrong fuel in a petrol car. That’s because diesel pump nozzles are bigger than the petrol filler necks while on the other hand, the petrol nozzle is small enough to fit the diesel.

That doesn’t mean you’re unable to misfuel a petrol car with diesel, it’s just more likely to happen if you have an older petrol vehicle.

Which is worse?

Those who fill their diesel cars with petrol usually suffer greater damage to their vehicle. A diesel car with petrol poured into it can actually start and be driven away, but this badly damages the engine.

A petrol car, however, usually won’t even start if it’s had diesel put inside, so there’s less chance of engine damage occurring.

The good news for those with more modern vehicles is that they often have anti-misfuelling devices already fitted.

What should you do if you misfuel?

Fortunately, it’s not all over for your car if you do accidentally put the wrong fuel into it!

There are a number of key things you can do if you do misfuel to help save you from potentially expensive repair costs:

  • The most important advice is that you don’t try to start the car! This is assuming that you realise you’ve misfuelled before you leave the petrol station.
  • Put the car into neutral and tell the staff at the garage what you’ve done.
  • If you don’t have anyone with you who can help push the car, ask for assistance. Then try and push it to a safe place.
  • If you have breakdown cover, call the company and ask for assistance.
  • The breakdown mechanics should be able to drain the tank and then flush it. This should allow you to refuel. Hopefully with the right fuel this time!
  • If you start your vehicle and drive away, you’ll soon know you’ve misfuelled as it will eventually grind to a halt! If so, try and get to safety and call your insurer or nearest garage.

Useful gadgets for avoiding misfuelling accidents

A top tip for avoiding any potentially costly incidents is to buy and fit one of the anti-misfuelling gadgets currently available. These usually replace your car’s existing fuel filler cap.

A couple of options are ‘Fuel Angel’ or ‘Solo Diesel’ – although well-known independent car advice specialist, ‘Honest John’, says these can lull motorists into a false sense of security!

However, such devices still add another layer of protection, which might be sensible for many drivers.