Misfuelling – are you covered?

Suddenly you realise. You glance from the pump in your hand to your car and then back again. The car’s a diesel. The pump in your hand is green. That sinking feeling. You’ve misfueled… So what should you do next?


Firstly, what is misfuelling and how common is it?

Quite simply, misfuelling is when you put the wrong type of fuel into a vehicle. In the vast majority of cases, misfuelling involves putting petrol into a diesel car. There’s good reason for this, the nozzle on a diesel pump is much larger and therefore it’s more difficult to misfuel a petrol fueled car by mistake.

Although we never think it will happen to us, it’s really easily done. In fact, around 150,000 motorists manage to do it every year. While in many cases the results are mostly measured in embarrassment and inconvenience, in some the results can be significant for your engine and most cases your wallet too.

Person filling up car with petrol

What’s the likely damage to your car?

Typically misfuelling incidents involve putting petrol into a diesel engine, let’s look at what happens - why is it such a problem?

  • The fuel pump. Diesel fuel lubricates the fuel pump as it passes through it. Running petrol through a diesel pump is a little like running an engine without oil. There’s a lot of friction and potentially metal fragments are ground off which may then travel into the fuel system.
  • The fuel lines. If you drive off in your petrol filled diesel car, the petrol will have travelled from the fuel tank along fuel lines towards the engine. These will need flushing or worst case, replacing.
  • The filter. The fuel filters job is to prevent contamination in your engine. If petrol has found its way to the filter that will need replacing too.
  • Fuel injectors. If metal fragments have been produced by the damaged fuel tank and they enter the fuel injectors, this is when it can get very expensive. The injectors have tiny holes which if blocked, would essentially ruin the system. Now you’re looking at thousands of pounds.

Not all misfuelling is the same. Filling your car and realising before you start the engine will probably mean a drain and refill. Annoying, and wasted money on fuel, but no engine damage.

If you fill your car and drive off until it conks out, it’s more of a lottery. You might be lucky and still simply need the wrong fuel flushed out. Worst case though, you may have done more significant damage.

Front of car

Can you claim on your insurance?

If you’ve added the wrong fuel, need it removed and your engine flushed, you might hope that your insurance might cover you. In fact, less than 4% of Third Party Fire and Theft policies cover the cost of draining and cleaning the tank as standard or optional extra. And only 16% of Comprehensive policies included misfuelling as standard or optional.

And what if you’ve damaged the engine?

On a typical policy misfuelling cover takes care of draining and cleaning of your tank where you put the wrong fuel in.

To be sure what you’re covered for, you really do need to check your policy documentation. Some policies don’t provide any cover relating to misfuelling, some the cost of repairs, some the cost of draining and cleaning, and some both.

What else could you do?

When it comes to helping you out of a pickle at the time of misfuelling, there are a number of things you can do. If you have breakdown cover, it might cover the cost of towing, draining, and cleaning. Alternatively you can call a breakdown company to help out, however they may require you to become a member or charge you an additional fee for call out.

You also might be able to include misfuelling cover to your current car insurance policy at an additional cost, give your insurance provider a call to find out.

Broken down car

Get a quote

Use our car insurance comparison service  to find the right deal for you. Check the policy features to see which policies cover for wrong fuel.