Gas Station Fuel Dispenser

What Happens If You Put The Wrong Fuel In Your Vehicle?


Misfuelling isn’t actually as rare as you might think. Filling up a diesel vehicle with petrol is surprisingly easy, and mistaking the petrol for diesel can be just as common too. But what matters most, is the next steps you take if that unfortunate mix up does happen.

How do I know if I have used the wrong fuel in my vehicle?

If you’ve started driving your vehicle after putting in the wrong fuel, you will probably start to notice something isn’t right very quickly.

Things like a smoking exhaust, the engine misfiring or feeling the acceleration jerk are all common warning signs of misfuelling. Either that, or the vehicle simply won’t start at all.

What should I do if I realise I’ve used the wrong fuel at the pump?

If you spot the mistake whilst filling up at the pump, stop immediately and alert the fuel station staff.

The attendants at the filling stations should be informed about the mistake as soon as possible, and will advise you not to start the engine or turn on any of the dashboard lights. 

They’ll also be able to create a safe, designated space where the vehicle can be pushed to safely, ensuring no more damage is caused, and leaving enough room for a rescue or recovery vehicle to arrive at the scene too.

How do I move my vehicle out of the way?

You should always aim to get your mis-fuelled vehicle to a safe place as soon as possible, and depending on where you are at the time you realise, it’s best to put the vehicle in neutral and ask someone to help you push the car to a safe spot so that you don’t cause an obstruction for any oncoming traffic.

If you’re at a fuel station, the staff will be able to help you move the vehicle safely when you alert them of the misfuel. If you’ve travelled a bit further and are stranded on the road, you may need to request the help of passers by or fellow drivers to help you move it safely until help can arrive.

What happens if I put petrol in my diesel vehicle?

It’s a common accident to mistake petrol for diesel at the pump, simply because petrol nozzles can easily fit into most modern diesel filter necks.

But, putting petrol into a diesel fuel tank actually causes more damage than diesel in a petrol tank because whilst diesel acts as a lubricant and helps the fuel pump to do its job, petrol does the opposite and actually it increases friction between parts in the diesel engine.

This friction is not good for a diesel engine at all, and the more petrol that’s pumped through the diesel engine, the more damage it will do to the vehicle. In terms of repairs, this could mean new fuel pumps, injectors, pipes, filters, a fuel tank or even a whole new engine all together. In terms of cost, it could be significant, and mean your vehicle needs to stay off the road for a long time until it’s fixed.  

What happens if I put diesel in a petrol car?

This is less common mistake as diesel pump nozzles are bigger than most petrol nozzles, so they  do not fit as easily. However, in the event that this does happen, it won’t actually cause as much damage as petrol in a diesel.  

What will happen though, is that because petrol ignites by a spark from the spark plugs, the vehicle just will not start at all, as diesel in a petrol engine clogs up the spark plugs and fuel system all together. Whilst this can be a real inconvenience, it typically means that there should not be any permanent damage once the fuel has drained out afterwards.

How to prevent putting the wrong fuel in your vehicle

Mistakes can always happen, but there are a few key steps drivers can follow to avoid misfuelling, such as:

  • Not just relying on the colour of the hose or nozzle before filling up. Always double check the pump labels and nozzle size.
  • Be sure to read the trigger label and the fuel grade indicator properly and carefully.
  • Try putting reminders in the vehicle such as a sticker inside the fuel cap or different coloured markers.
  • Don’t allow yourself to get distracted and always give the pump your full attention.
  • If your vehicle is a diesel, invest in a stopper to go into the filler neck so the narrower petrol nozzle won’t fit.
  • And finally, try not to rush. If you’re in a hurry or stressed, it’s more likely that you may make a mistake with the fuel type.

How do I fix my vehicle if I have filled up with the wrong fuel?

As one of the leading vehicle rescue and recovery operators in the country, we completely understand that there’s never a convenient time to misfuel. That’s why we make it our priority to reach you as quickly as possible to get your vehicle fixed, and by offering a 24/7/365 service, from breakdown recovery to specialist assistance, we promise we’ll be there right when you need us.

In fact, Egertons are the preferred breakdown recovery specialist of choice for so many drivers today, but it’s not just about speed for us; it’s also about getting the job done right, always.

Our sophisticated triage process allows us to deploy the exact right vehicles to a scene first time. Combine this process with our 300-strong fleet, vast range of equipment available on hand and the technology it is equipped with, you can rest assured you’re in the best of hands.

Reach out today.