Contaminated fuel can cause serious damage to your car’s engine and leave you with a hefty bill for repairs.
‘Laundered’ diesel and petrol ‘stretching’ are the two most common types of contaminated fuel in Ireland. They are both illegal and can be costly for unsuspecting motorists.
Diesel that is used for off-road purposes (such as farming, forestry and construction) is subject to lower tax than diesel for road vehicles, and is cheaper as a result. As the fuel is the same, off-road diesel is marked with a harmless dye to distinguish it from road diesel.
Illegal traders remove this dye and sell it as road fuel. Diesel is ‘laundered’ or washed by removing the dye, either using acid or passing it through filters. This illegal laundering can have a number of side effects, including removing lubricants in the fuel which can affect your car’s fuel pump and engine, acid corrosion of your engine and damage to the exhaust gas after-treatment system.
If you put laundered diesel in your car it may suffer a noticeable loss in power, it may not run as smoothly as before and a ‘check engine’ light may appear on the dashboard.
Petrol ‘stretching’ involves adding up to 10% of a lower-taxed product (such as kerosene which is used for home heating oil) to the fuel before selling it to a service station and then on to motorists.
Stretched petrol can cause serious engine damage.
If you put stretched petrol in your car you may notice a lack of power, the engine misfiring, a knocking sound and a lot of smoke coming from the exhaust, and a ‘check engine’ light appearing on the dashboard.
How to protect yourself
Buy your fuel from a reputable garage. Be wary of a price that seems too good to be true. The Irish Petrol Retailers Association (IPRA) has a Quality Assurance Scheme for its members. Retailers who display the Quality Assurance Scheme logo must verify their fuel suppliers and sign up to random testing of their fuel.
What you should do if you suspect your fuel has been contaminated
There is no regulatory body in place in Ireland for the regulation of fuel. If you suspect that your petrol or diesel may have been contaminated and want to get your fuel tested, you should consider getting it tested independently.
If you find out you have bought contaminated fuel, you should report it to the service station where you think you bought it. This mightn’t necessarily be the last place you bought fuel. If the service station can’t or won’t offer you a remedy, you should contact your insurance company. Some insurance policies do not cover damage caused by contaminated fuel. Your insurer may suggest that you look for compensation from the fuel retailer.
Lots of fully comprehensive policies do cover damage from contaminated fuel, but claiming on this may result in losing your no-claims bonus. Make sure to check the terms of your policy.
Revenue has more information on how to report this activity to them. You may also wish to contact your local Garda station.