Whitney Burch
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What to Do if You Accidentally Put Diesel Fuel in Your Car

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No matter how many times you’ve visited the gas station, chances are you’ve noticed that special nozzle and button usually placed at the end of the gas selector display marked “diesel.”

Sometimes it’s right next to the other gas selections like regular, mid-grade, and premium. Other gas stations have a separate gas pump just for diesel, so the only gas selection display you should see should look like this gasoline-only pump.

gas pump

Photo: osseous

Other times, the diesel button is located off to the side all by itself, like this one.

gas pump

Quite a helpful design to minimize the chance that a person accidentally puts diesel fuel in their car’s gasoline-only engine.
Photo: carlie b

But what if you accidentally put diesel fuel in your car? Say for instance, you are running on a total of six hours of sleep for the week and your mind is mush. Or you forgot to grab some much-needed coffee on your way to work to help disperse the clouds of brain fog. Or it’s late at night and you just happen to run out of gas before you head home and stop by an unfamiliar gas station and the gas pump buttons just look wonky.


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Here’s what to do if you put diesel in your vehicle

  1. If you fill up your tank with diesel and realize it right away, then don’t start your vehicle. Call for a tow and have a local mechanic flush out the fuel tank to prevent any permanent harm to your vehicle.
  2. If you put diesel fuel in your vehicle, turn on the engine, and maybe even drive it for a few miles before realizing your mistake, pull over as soon as you can and turn off the engine. Contact a mechanic for a tow and request a fuel tank flush.

How much you should expect to pay

Because personal vehicles have engines specifically designed for running on gasoline rather than diesel, filling up your engine with diesel can potentially ruin your car’s engine and result in costly repairs. Owners should be prepared to pay anywhere from $400 to $1,500, according to Tim Anderson, owner of Automotive Authority in Troy, Michigan, who is quite familiar with performing these kinds of repairs.

Exactly what type of havoc does diesel wreak on the average vehicle engine? Diesel fuel usually damages the piston or cylinder head. It can also create deposit build-up around valve closings. Both conditions result in a loss of compression. In the worst case scenario, you might have to replace your car’s entire engine which will set you back anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000.

 

But there is hope…

Long story short: do everything you can to avoid putting diesel in your vehicle. But, if you do, with the help of a skilled mechanic, there’s a chance you could save your engine.


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News Sources: Jalopnik, Car Care

Whitney Burch is a current resident of Dayton, though her spirit can be found beach-bumming on Puerto Rico (the land of her half-Puerto Rican heritage). When not adventuring through the exciting world of car news, she can be found hiking with her fiance and their 1-year-old Labrador, motorcycling, reorganizing and/or decorating some corner of the world (most likely in yellow), researching random things, scribbling on her blog, and escaping into a great movie, poem, or short story. See more articles by Whitney.