Running a car

What to do if you fill up your car with the wrong fuel

Oops. Gasoline in a diesel or diesel in a gas; either way it’s not great news. The wrong kind of fuel can cause serious damage to your car's engine.

But all is not lost! Thousands of people do this every year so don't panic, and follow these simple steps.

  1. If you haven't started the engine:

    1. Don't start the engine!
    2. Tell a gas station attendant what's happened
    3. Ask someone to help you push your car out of the way
    4. Call a towing company so they can tow your car to the nearest mechanic who will drain the fuel for you

    If the fuel hasn’t been drawn into the engine or you haven’t put much in, you may get away with no damage at all.

    If you've filled up with a high performance version of the petrol or diesel you usually use (like 91 octane instead of 87 octane) the only damage will be to your wallet and you can drive as normal.
  2. If you have started the engine:

    Don't start it again unless there are no other options, such as you are in an unsafe position and have no one to help you push your car.

    Things may be a bit more difficult if you've driven the car, as the wrong fuel can damage your engine if it's drawn through the system.

    1. Make sure you're parked in a safe place
    2. Make sure your ignition is off
    3. Call your mechanic and the towing company
    4. Call your insurer

    Your tank will be drained of fuel and you'll probably need the filter replaced to protect your engine.  In this case, you will need to be towed to a mechanic shop, which can provide you with the needed services.

  3. Your insurance

    Filling up with the wrong fuel is classed as accidental damage with a comprehensive insurance policy. However, you need to check with your insurer whether they'll cover roadside assistance and fuel removal.

If you're insured with ingenie and you need to talk to someone about damage to your car, call us on 1-84-INGENIE-1 (1-844-643-6431).


Farida started writing for ingenie in 2015. She got her Ontario licence in 2014 and her first car was a manual 2003 VW Jetta GLS 1.8T. Follow her on Twitter.