As Wrong Fuel Emergencies become more and more common, car insurance companies are finding themselves under pressure to make it clear to their customers whether or not they are covered for potentially expensive repair work. As we have pointed out no end of times on this website, the chances of a wrong fuel incident causing any serious damage to your engine or vehicle fuel system are very low. Even if the engine has been started with the wrong fuel in the tank, a fuel drain and system flush with fresh fuel will solve the problem in 99% of cases. However, on certain vehicles, particularly modern vehicles with their extremely sophisticated and sensitive electronic engine management systems there is a potential for repair work to be necessary, and it can be expensive. Premium vehicles such as BMWs, Mercedes or Jaguars are notoriously much more expensive to repair than regular family saloons or hatchbacks and also tend to have more extensive and sophisticated electronic components. Problems related to a wrong fuel incident are more usually experienced where a diesel engine has been running with an amount of unleaded petrol in it for a relatively long period of time, usually a few days or over a few weeks depending upon the normal mileage the car would cover. Motorists have read somewhere or taken bad advice from someone, that it’s OK to drive a vehicle if you have put in a little of the wrong fuel type into your tank and then top up with the correct fuel type. This terrible advice is what results in damage occurring to the engine and can lead to damage to or failure of, the fuel pump, fuel filter, fuel injectors and even valves and valve seats. Even on a regular vehicle, this can mean serious repair bills.
Motorists in this position often find that their insurance companies either specify in the small print that they do not cover wrong fuel related damage to the vehicle or they do not mention it at all and leave the customer in a difficult position about what they should say to their insurer and how to deal with the problem. Our advice would be to check with the insurer before taking the policy out whether you would be covered in the event of a wrong fuel incident. Unfortunately, it tends not to be something that motorists give much thought to when looking for an insurance policy as no-one wants to believe that they would fall victim to a wrong fuel disaster. Our hectic modern lives and ultra-refined diesel engined vehicles mean that whilst everyone likes to think they are paying full attention 100% of the time, the fact is that we just aren’t and wrong fuel situations do occur regularly.
Many car insurance companies are fully aware of this situation but it’s very difficult for an insurance inspector to ascertain whether a vehicle has suffered damage due to a motorist following some bad advice or whether a genuine mistake has been made and remedial action has been taken immediately to minimise the damage risk. If an insurance company did cover wrong fuel incidents then they would more than likely request an engineering report before considering whether the motorist has made a mistake and acted immediately to rectify it, or whether they have effectively caused the damage by running the vehicle long term with the wrong fuel contaminating the fuel system. If the report comes back with the latter as a conclusion then the motorist may be facing an even bigger bill for the report work as well as the necessary repairs.
Please do take the time to be aware of exactly how, and even if, your insurer covers wrong fuel incidents, especially if you are changing from a petrol vehicle to a diesel vehicle.