Steps to Take if You Suspect Contaminated Fuel

Kevin Feather
| August 30, 2023 | 4 Minute Read
man fueling up with gas at a gas station

We rely heavily on the quality of the fuel we use to keep our cars and trucks running smoothly. But there are times when contamination can find its way into the fuel supply, leading to potential issues with vehicle engines.

What is fuel contamination?

Auto fuel contamination occurs when foreign substances, such as water, dirt, debris or even other types of fuels like diesel, mix with regular gasoline and make their way into the fuel supply. This can happen at various points in the gas supply chain, from the refinery to the gas station.

Contaminated fuel, like diesel fuel contamination, can lead to a host of problems, from decreased engine performance and reduced fuel efficiency to engine knocking, stalling or failing completely.

What are some common causes of fuel contamination?

  • Storage tank issues: Gas stations store fuel in underground tanks, and if these tanks are not properly maintained or have leaks, contaminants can enter the fuel supply.
  • Human error: During fuel transportation and storage, mistakes can happen, leading to accidental fuel contamination from the mixing of different types of fuels or the accidental introduction of contaminants.
  • Water infiltration: Water can find its way into fuel tanks due to condensation, leaks or improper storage. Water contamination can be particularly harmful to your engine.
  • Dirty pumps and nozzles: If the pumps and nozzles at the gas station are not cleaned regularly, debris and dirt can enter your fuel tank while refueling.
man examining pipes at an oil refinery

Identifying the signs of contamination and knowing how to respond is crucial to prevent further damage to your vehicle.

Do you know the signs of contaminated fuel?

  • Poor performance: Your car may experience decreased acceleration, reduced power or even delayed acceleration.
  • Engine knocking: Unusual knocking or pinging sounds from your engine could indicate issues with fuel quality.
  • Stalling or failure to start: Contaminated fuel can cause your engine to stall or have difficulty starting.
  • Reduced fuel efficiency: If you notice that you're getting fewer miles per gallon than usual, it could be a sign of contaminated fuel affecting your engine's efficiency.

What to do if you suspect contaminated fuel

  • Stop driving: If you suspect your car has been filled with contaminated fuel, it's best to stop driving immediately to prevent further damage to your engine.
  • Avoid starting the engine: Starting the engine with contaminated fuel can worsen the issue. If the engine hasn't been started yet, don't attempt to do so.
  • Contact your mechanic: Reach out to a trusted mechanic or your car's dealership for guidance, especially if you require accidental fuel contamination insurance claim assistance. They can provide expert advice on the next steps and how to fix contaminated fuel issues.
  • Document the incident: If you suspect fuel contamination due to a recent gas station visit, keep your receipt and note the date, time and location of the fill-up. This information could be useful in identifying the source of the issue.
  • Have the fuel checked: Your mechanic can test the fuel to confirm it's contaminated. They may also need to drain and clean the fuel tank, fuel lines and injectors, if necessary.

Prevention tips

  • Choose reputable gas stations with a history of good maintenance practices.
  • Regularly inspect your fuel filter and replace it as recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer to prevent contaminated fuel from affecting your engine.
  • Be cautious when refueling during or after heavy rain, as water can enter the fuel tanks more easily during these times.
  • Be aware of news and information from your state and local officials when a large-scale issue of contamination occurs.

While fuel contamination is an unfortunate occurrence, knowing how to recognize its signs and respond promptly can help mitigate potential damage to your car's engine.

By staying informed and practicing preventive measures, you can ensure your vehicle continues to run smoothly and efficiently.

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