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According to the RAC, approximately 150,000 people a year in the UK make the mistake of putting the wrong fuel in their car.

wrong fuel car repair 900702

The important thing is to take remedial action as soon as possible.

If you put petrol in a diesel car

This is the more common mistake as petrol nozzles can fit into the filler necks of a diesel car’s fuel tank. It also presents a more significant problem.

If you start the engine, the fuel will circulate and damage the fuel pump and engine system. It can result in an expensive repair of the fuel system, or complete replacement of the fuel pump, diesel injectors, filters and fuel tank.

If you don’t start the engine, the fuel tank has to be drained before you can drive the car.

If you put diesel in a petrol car

The nozzles of most diesel fuel pumps don’t fit into the filler necks of petrol cars.

But if you do manage to put diesel into a petrol fuel tank, the important thing is not to start the car. If you do, the fuel will circulate and contaminate the system.

The heavier, oilier qualities of diesel mean it isn’t easy to ignite in the engine, but if it does circulate, the engine probably won’t start. If you haven’t started your car, you’ll need to thoroughly flush out the fuel tank to eliminate any contaminated fuel.

What to do if you make a mistake

If you realise you’ve put the wrong fuel in before you start your engine, you need to:

• Make sure the car isn’t started – put it in neutral and take the key out of the ignition.
• Let the petrol station attendants know.
• Push the car to a safe place if possible.
• Call your breakdown cover provider or a local garage to come and drain and flush your fuel system.

If you drive away before you realise your mistake, you’ll need to pull over to a safe place and switch off the engine. Then follow the same steps as above. It may also be worth calling your insurance company.

How much will a fuel mistake cost?


The cost of repairing the car will depend on the make, model and size of the engine.

If you haven’t started the car, roadside recovery services will generally charge from around £200 to send out one of their fuel recovery specialists.


If you have started the car, it could prove to be expensive. The starting point is to drain the fuel tank of contaminated fuel. After that, more repairs will be needed, and this is where it can get costly.

The RAC has said that a fuel mistake can cost as much as £5000 in a worst-case scenario situation. Fortunately, most mistakes don’t end up costing this much. However, your local garage will be able to advise you of the amount once they know the extent of the damage.

Would you like advice from a friendly local garage?

Foster & Heanes offers car servicing, maintenance and repair for all makes and models of vehicles including classic and vintage cars. We can arrange free collection and delivery if you live near our Fleet or Dogmersfield service centres.  To book please call on 01252 615657 or visit




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