You’re running late for an appointment, the fuel light is buzzing and you haven’t even had a sip of coffee.

Sound familiar?

To make matters worse, you just put diesel into your petrol car. Oops.

Don’t panic. It happens more often than you think.

Here’s everything you need to know if you find yourself in this not-so-rosy situation. (Bookmark this for later, you’ll never know when you need it).

What Happens to a Car if You Put Diesel into a Petrol Engine?

Imagine feeding your pet goldfish a tin of dog food. It wouldn’t end well and frankly, it’d be a mess.

The same goes for your car.

Fuelling a petrol car with diesel will ultimately stop the engine from working. Not to mention, depending on how far along the damage goes, it could cost you a lot to get your vehicle back on the road.

Diesel and petrol engines are ignited by two different methods.

Diesel has to be compressed to ignite, while petrol is spark generated by the spark plugs.

If you turn the keys with a tank full of the wrong fuel, the diesel will clog up the spark plugs and fuel system.

Meaning? The engine will stop or not even start to begin with.

Symptoms to Look Out For:

  • Smoky exhaust
  • Engine misfire
  • Engine cuts out
  • The engine won’t start

What to Do If…

You Noticed the Fuel Mishap Straight Away:

Just put the pump back and realised it says diesel? Don’t stress. But also, don’t start the engine.

When the engine is ignited, it starts to circulate the diesel around the petrol engine making matters worse.

Notify the fuel station manager on what has happened and push your car to a safe spot. From here you can call for help to drain and flush your fuel tank.

You Started the Engine:

If you put the keys in the ignition and notice the engine misfires, cuts out or doesn’t start at all, turn it off immediately.

Push the car to a safe spot and get help from there.

You’re Driving:

If you’ve already started driving, the damage could be worse. But it can be fixed.

Go to a safe spot immediately and turn off the engine as soon as it’s safe to do so.

If the engine starts to cut out before you’ve found a safe park, turn on your hazard lights and push the car off the road.

Who to Call:

Check to see if your car insurance company covers miss-fuelling.

Some insurance companies may cover towing, draining and cleaning costs associated with miss-fuelling, however even though it’s a common mistake, don’t assume your car insurance covers it.

Another option is to ask the fuel station manager. They might be able to give you a local company who specialises in fuel removal.

Last but not least, call your mechanic.

Tips to Not Do It Again:

Avoiding the situation is clearly the best option.

But hey, you’re only human.

Let’s face it, mistakes happen. Awareness, however, is a powerful tool in dealing with life’s facepalm situations.

Here’s how to avoid it:

  • Find a local fuel station and stick to it. If you go to the same station and use the same hose, chances are you can’t get it wrong.
  • Chat to the checkout chick. When you pay for your fuel, make small chat with the employee. Make sure you ask, “was that petrol?”
  • If you’ve just bought a new car and switched from diesel to petrol or vice versa, leave yourself sticky notes and reminders in the car.
  • Check the price while filling up. If the price per litre is different from the board, you could be using the wrong fuel.
  • Double check! It sounds simple, but don’t just assume you’ve got the right hose.