Fuel theft is still a major problem for the UK fuel industry, costing millions each year. As fuel prices increase and motoring becomes more and more expensive, many motorists are looking for ways to cut costs. One of the major costs is, of course, fuel. Our wrong fuel engineers see an awful lot of cases whereby the motorist has been offered cheap fuel and the source has seemed to be legitimate. The problem is that the stolen fuel either hasn’t been stored properly, or it has been contaminated in some way and has then ended up causing running problems for motorists who are tricked into using it.
Cheap Fuel From Commercial Driver Only Outlets
We’ve heard this one a number of times. Motorists hear about “cheap fuel outlets” that are only to be used by those driving for a living and then an acquaintance will tell them about how they can use it too. Those motorists with high fuel bills might not ask questions about where the fuel came from, they then pay a little less than they would on a legitimate fuel station forecourt but end up putting contaminated fuel (the WRONG fuel) into their expensive cars. As we have mentioned countless times in our blog posts, long term use of the wrong fuel in a car will reduce performance and damage the engine over time.
Why Is Cheap/Stolen Fuel The Wrong Fuel?
Well, apart from the obvious damage to the economy, those selling cheap or stolen fuel don’t tend to be too choosy about how the fuel is collected or stored. Fuel station forecourts have expensive underground tanks that are regularly maintained and are kept according to stringent fuel industry and Environmental Agency legislation. Therefore, the fuel we obtain when we visit a big brand forecourt is guaranteed to be clean, pure and of a high standard. In the extremely rare circumstance of anything going wrong with this fuel (we have heard of cases where the wrong fuel has been loaded into a tank on a forecourt) the motorist has recourse.
Fuel obtained from a cheap source is almost always stored incorrectly or has been collected haphazardly with no thought given to possible contamination. There are many ways in which the fuel is obtained, here are just a few possibilities:
1) “Bilking” – This is the term given to the act of filling up a vehicle with fuel on the forecourt and then driving away without paying for it. The thieves often use “cloned” vehicles to do this. They obtain a false number plate for a vehicle of the same make and colour and then use this vehicle to steal the fuel. This is because many fuel station forecourts have number plate scanners and CCTV systems to help with security.
2. Fuel Tank Drilling – This is an incredibly dangerous and foolhardy way of obtaining fuel, but it’s common nonetheless. The thief will drill through the bottom of the vehicle fuel tank and then drain the fuel into a container. Many modern vehicles have secure fuel caps nowadays which makes getting to the fuel through the fuel tank aperture extremely difficult. Thieves don’t care that they are causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage to your vehicle by drilling through the fuel tank, they’re only interested in getting the 30 quid that a tank of fuel might fetch them. If you should ever return to your vehicle and find that your fuel indicator is mysteriously reading empty or a lot less than when you left the vehicle, check underneath the rear of the vehicle on the fuel aperture side. If you can see a fuel puddle or smell fuel strongly then ask an expert to take a look for you. You may have been a fuel tank drilling victim.
3. Fuel Delivery Vehicle Theft – As you might imagine, a fuel delivery vehicle holds thousands of gallons of fuel which equates to many thousands of pounds worth. They are targets for thieves willing to take a big risk in stealing them, as their contents are so valuable. Vehicles are sometimes stolen from the refinery and we have even heard of delivery vehicles being hijacked by masked gangs when travelling in remote areas.
Cheap/Stolen Fuel Problems
Fuel thieves rarely give any thought to contamination of fuel when committing the act of theft. They don’t care that the wrong fuel may be accidentally mixed into a container. Some of the wrong fuel cases our engineers have attended have involved contaminated fuel where the motorist has obtained the cheap fuel which has been a mix of petrol and diesel probably caused by the thief not paying attention to which fuel type they are stealing (or not caring) and then adding it to a container of different fuel. Often the motorist’s vehicle will have been running for some time using the contaminated fuel because it might be 10 or 20% of the wrong fuel type allowing the vehicle engine to function, but after a short while the contaminated fuel takes its tole on the engine and fuel system and that’s when the problems begin.
You can avoid contaminated fuel problems by only obtaining fuel from legitimate forecourt sellers. We all know it’s expensive, but in the long run you’ll be doing your vehicle engine and fuel system a favour. Obtaining fuel from dodgy sources may well eventually cause catastrophic problems for a vehicle which just don’t justify the small saving made on fuel costs.