Motorists filling their cars with petrol or diesel is a mundane task that we all do but have you ever used the wrong fuel at a petrol station?

Whether you’ve ‘misfuelled’ or it’s a fear of yours, knowing what to do if it does happen to you is useful information.

To help you understand what is best to do if you ever find yourself or someone else in this situation, Connor Campbell, an expert at Independent Advisor Car Insurance, has shared his advice.

Putting the wrong fuel in your car is less than ideal but this petrol station mistake is more common than you think.

The RAC explains that there are 150,000 incidents of “misfuelling” in the UK every year.

Research by Independent Advisor Car Insurance revealed that there are an estimated 80,520 searches on average in the UK for variations of “what to do if you put the wrong fuel in your car?” per year.

In April 2024, they utilised Google Adwords and searched for variations of “what to do if you put the wrong fuel in your car?” per city as well as per country and overall in the UK.

The average monthly searches were then multiplied by 12 to uncover the average yearly searches.

What to do if you put the wrong fuel in your car

Connor Campbell advises motorists to avoid starting the ignition of their vehicle if they have put the wrong fuel into it.

Keeping the engine off will limit the damage done to the vehicle and it’s what to do next that is crucial.

Connor said: “Leave the ignition switched off, don’t put your key in the ignition or turn it to the initial ‘accessory’ position to turn the radio on or wind-up your windows. Next, tell a member of staff at the service station. Put the car in neutral and push it to a safe place as directed by service station staff.

“You can then apply the handbrake without starting your engine. Call for help - this might be your insurer if misfuelling is included in your policy, your breakdown provider, or a specialist company that can come out and drain your tank.”

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What to do if you’ve already started the car

If you have filled your car with the wrong fuel and turned on the ignition, it’s important to avoid panicking.

Taking the right action if this happens can limit the damage done to your vehicle.

Connor adds: Turn off the engine immediately if it’s safe to do so – if not, find a safe spot and stop. If you can, put the vehicle in neutral and push it to a safe place and then call for help, either from your insurer, a breakdown company or a wrong fuel specialist.”

How to tell if you’ve put the wrong fuel in your car

If you’ve misfuelled your car, you may notice some immediate and common signs – here’s what you should look out for.

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If you have put petrol in a diesel car, look out for:

  • The engine not starting or stopping abruptly
  • Loud knocking/banging when you accelerate
  • Excess smoke coming from the exhaust
  • Loss of power when accelerating
  • The engine warning light illuminating

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If you have put diesel in a petrol car, look out for:

  • The engine not starting
  • Smoke coming from the exhaust
  • The engine misfiring

What costs can misfuelling a car lead to?

On average, the cost of having fuel drained from your car could range from £120 to £1,000 in best case scenarios.

However, depending on how long you have driven with the wrong fuel, where your fuel tank is located or how much you put in, it can add up to be a lot more as the car will need to be repaired.