Thousands of people accidentally misfuel their vehicles every year. There are different types of fuel available in the market. Some fuels are eco-friendly, more powerful and more efficient than others. Wrong fuel can damage your engine or can create problems while starting your car. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about misfueling your car.
Let’s start with the octane rating. Octane rating is a number that represents the grade of fuel. A higher octane rating means the fuel can withstand more compression before detonating. The cars’ suitable fuel octane rating is specified in the owner’s manual. Using the fuel with an incompatible octane rating can damage the engine.
Petrol engines rely on air-fuel compression and ignition from a spark plug. On the other hand, diesel engines compress the air, inject appropriate fuel into the air and ignite it with the heat generated through compression. Thus, the high compressibility of the fuel mainly affects petrol engines. If the pockets of unburnt leftover fuel in the petrol engine are heated or compressed too much during the combustion process, fuel can self-ignite before the spark plug ignites them. This can result in engine knocking. Engine knocking occurs when the engine experiences more pressure than it can sustain due to increased detonation and shockwaves. Thus, it is important to remember your car’s appropriate fuel octane rating.
The three tiers of octane rating are regular, mid-grade and premium. These three tiers are used in normal, middle-end and high-end cars respectively. Higher tiers of fuel octane ratings cost more and also emit less carbon. Some high-end cars can support all tiers of fuel octane rating, while most other cars generally require a specific fuel octane rating. Different regions have different variations of octane rating systems, but in essence, they are the same. For example, the 97 octane rating in EU countries is equivalent to the 91 octane rating in the US.
What happens when you put diesel into your petrol-based car? The car will slowly consume the remaining petrol in your fuel tank and will eventually stop. Petrol engines can not use diesel for combustion activity, hence the engine will sustain no damage. However, you will have to call the towing company and flush or drain your engine at a service station.
Diesel engines are capable of working with petrol. However, they can cause some serious problems. Upon combustion, petrol will detonate too early, creating a similar effect to engine knocking. They can rapidly damage your engine and you will likely have to replace your engine entirely.
Symptoms of the wrong fuel in your car
Petrol engines can not forcibly run on diesel. They might not start at all. If your vehicle was running smoothly but suddenly stopped, it is likely that your car ran out of petrol, or the fuel you added earlier was diesel.
In diesel-based cars, you can recognize the misfueling of the car by hearing the knocking sound. It is basically your engine’s mechanical parts struggling to work with the wrong fuel. An abnormal amount of smoke coming from your car’s exhaust can also be another indication. Some modern cars come with technology that can reduce the damage of the knocking effect on your car’s engine.
What you should do
Now, it’s time to know the necessary steps to minimize the damage. Assuming you notice it before driving the car, the first thing you should do is to avoid starting your car. You do not want your engine working with the wrong fuel, especially if you have a diesel-based car. Regardless of when you notice, the next step is to get your car to a service center with a towing service. Tell them what happened and they will check your engine. Depending on the situation, you might get away with just draining and flushing the engine or you will be charged a hefty fee for replacing the entire engine. It might also be a good idea to contact your car insurance company ahead of time so they might cover the expenses for you.
The best preventive measure to avoid misfueling is to be attentive when fueling your car. However, many people wouldn’t be guilty of it every year if it was effective. If you’re new to cars or other vehicles, the first thing to know is your car’s compatible fuel octane rating. Don’t hastily say the wrong octane rating or use the wrong fuel out of embarrassment of not knowing and instead check your owner’s manual. It might also help you to use an anti-misfueling gadget. It is basically a plastic cap that goes onto your fuel tank engraved with compatible fuel types like “Diesel” or “Octane 91”.