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What to do when you've put in the wrong fuel

Mistakes happen. The best thing to do is to not panic. Whether you’ve realised your mistake after only tipping a few litres into the tank or not until you’ve brimmed the thing it won’t matter. Either way, the tank will need to be drained by a professional.

Whatever you do, don’t start your vehicle. Not even to move it to a parking spot at the petrol station. You need to go inside the station and tell the attendant what you’ve done and see if you can get some help to push your vehicle into a parking spot. By not starting your vehicle the fix will be a little simpler and cheaper. Make a call to a roadside service provider and they should be able to provide assistance or direct you to someone who can.

If you start your vehicle, even just to move it a few hundred metres or only a couple of kilometres it will begin circulating through the fuel system. This is bad. If you haven’t realised what you’ve done until your vehicle has come to a grinding halt, then you’ll need a tow truck. From here, the costs will begin to mount. You’ll likely be up for a new fuel tank, new fuel lines, fuel filters and fuel pump(s) and injectors – although this really does depend on the vehicle and the circumstances. If your vehicle is still under new car warranty, damage caused by misfuelling won’t be covered but you’ll still need to let them know what’s happened, and they might request the vehicle be towed to them for the work to be carried out.

How long it will take to drain the tank and how much it will cost and even where it can be done will depend on a number of factors, so I won’t even begin to try and guesstimate a cost. Don’t even think about trying to do it yourself, either.

Once the tank has been drained a new fuel filter will be fitted (you’ll potentially need another new one after the first few tankfuls of fuel). If it was a case of diesel into a petrol tank it’s likely that once the tank has been drained, you’ll only need a flush through before restarting the vehicle. You can expect to hear a bit of a cough and see plenty of smoke as any diesel residue is burnt off, but this is normal. There are additives you can get that will help to get rid of diesel residue. If you put petrol into your diesel then the process is the same, the tank will be drained and flushed, and you’ll be able to start the vehicle.

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