20 cars break down after filling up with ‘bad fuel’

Published: June 25, 2015

The prospect of potentially filling up the tank with ‘bad’ fuel at some Outback service station is one that fills grey nomads driving both diesel and petrol vehicles with fear and dread.

Apart from the massive inconvenience of breaking down in potentially isolated areas, the repair bills can run into thousands of dollars. And it seems the risk of filling up with contaminated fuel is not just one that affects remote areas. In Sydney this morning, up to 20 vehicles are believed to have broken down after filling up at a Caltex service station on the M4.

A Caltex spokesman told news.com.au the fuel issue was only impacting the service station on the eastbound side.

“It appears to be isolated to the E10 product at this site only – there are no other products affected,” the spokesman said.

“Our technical team is on its way to investigate what has caused this issue.”

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said vehicles would need to be towed to a mechanic for repair.

“If the fuel is contaminated, the petrol tank will likely need to be removed out of the vehicle, cleaned and any other parts of the car that have come into contact with the fuel will probably need to be replaced,” he told news.com.au. “So it will probably be very expensive.”

He said breakdowns from contaminated fuel were not uncommon, and tended to happen after heavy rain if there were cracks in the service station’s fuel tanks. The first time a driver will notice a problem is when his or her vehicle breaks down.

  • Have you ever taken on dodgy fuel? Are you wary about filling up after heavy rain? Comment below
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Ken MacKay
7 years ago

On our recent trip awaay we found a number of service stations selling E10 fuel with no option for regular unleaded. Our 2004 pajero will not run on E10 so we were left with the option of the more expensive Ultimate unleaded @ 15 cents more expensive. Woolworths caltex in Tumet was one place that comes to mind. I wonder how many folk would “take a chance” on the E10 fuel or maybe not even realise they were putting it in.

7 years ago

Received contaminated fuel once so rang the outlet they denied a problem. The problem at the outlet was confirmed by local Ford dealer. Rang insurance company and they confirmed they would accept the claim. I rang the accountant with the group who has the outlet and explained that I was nominating them as the offender with my insurance company and they could expect a huge bill. After a few questions the accountant rang the Ford dealer and accepted the charges just short of $2000. As I explained it would be a lot cheaper to deal with me so they did.

7 years ago

We got a dose of bad desiel from a 7 eleven survey not so long ago. Had trouble starting and ran a bit rough. Luckily it was just under half a tank full so I went to a more regular servo and filled up with good fuel and threw in a bottle of injector cleaner as well and things improved straight away. About a week later topped up again and put a further cleaner in and have had no hassles since. Went back to the outlet but got no response from him even with the docket. So I use only full from major dealer but I guess that will not always be the total cure.

7 years ago

Re Sale Victoria a couple of years ago. A local low cost servo had several batches of bad diesel .. caught twice before I woke up. The local Nissan dealer indicated that the problem was known and suggested that the major outlets were far more consistent in the quality.

7 years ago

What is the problem fuel,E10?. We are from W.A. & have not heard of it, but being in a Mazda T3500′ Dirsel, with no problem since buying it, would hate to mess it up.
If it’s not too much trouble to send info, would be much obliged.
Thank you,
Robert & Audrey.

Christine Rheuben
6 years ago

Filled up with diesel at a servo on the Stuart Highway south of Tennant Creek
Fuel was contaminated and is going to cost 14,000 to fix
Watch out for those Aliens

6 years ago

Yes I will be extremely wary about filling up after a heavy rain after my recent experience. We had a very unusual downpour here in Perth on 19 April (25.8mm) followed by 5 days of warm humid conditions ideal for microbial growth. I filled up my diesel Hyundai i30 on 26 April and got a batch of heavily contaminated diesel. My repairer found a layer of thick slime on top of my fuel and the fuel filter full of it. Very old service station, with old tanks, likely cracked. Getting it all cleaned out is an on-going saga causing a great deal of inconvenience and upset, and costing a heap of money. I didn’t know a thing about contaminated fuel aka diesel bug, but now I do and I think there should be a whole lot more reporting and public education on the issue.

Gavin K
6 years ago
Reply to  Jules

Our Hyundai Accent CRDi (Diesel) has now been in for full fuel system cleaning twice in the last 3 months. This time AUD1000 later!

Dealer, which we purchased from and have had all of the services with, hasn’t shown us any mercy. They just see it as our problem for buying ‘bad’ fuel and getting water, algae, diesel bug, diesel fuel sludge, Hydrocarbon Utilizing Micro-organisms or whatever you want to call it.

Mind you we only buy from ‘reputable’, standard commercial suppliers like BP and Caltex. Seems modern Hyundai vehicles are particularly susceptible to this. Buyer beware alright!

RACQ has a couple of write ups:
PDF here: http://www.racq.com.au/cars-and-driving/cars/owning-and-maintaining-a-car/facts-about-fuels/diesel-fuel-sludging
and info here:

Further than using Diesel Power additive in the future we are at a loss of what to do, any suggestions welcome for the most expensive little car we’ve ever owned.

6 years ago

That should have been ’21 April’ above, two days after the downpour in Perth!

Additionally, I want let other Perth metro people know that I’ve finally some great assistance from a company called Wrong Fuel Rescue. They’re a 24 hour mobile service and they come to you.

They specifically deal with fuel contamination issues – typically microbiological bacterial or fungal contamination aka ‘diesel bug’ or ‘fuel algae’ which go hand in hand with water contamination of service station storage tanks. They also deal with situations where someone has put the wrong fuel in their car by accident (eg. petrol in a diesel car say). They are set up to drain and flush the whole fuel system by the roadside. They then refill your tank with clean fresh fuel and off you go. If you still have starting or running problems after this, then damage has been done, and get the car towed to your mechanic. The trick is to stop driving the moment you suspect you got a batch of contaminated fuel or realise you put the wrong fuel in to avoid that damage.

I personally think Wrong Fuel Rescue should be attached to the RAC Roadside and other Roadside Services. They have expert knowledge in this issue and have a protocol of documenting, photographing, fuel sampling etc for any possible subsequent fuel quality claim against the supplier. Wish I could say the same for my registered Hyundai service provider grrrr!!!.

3 years ago

I fill my boat with unleaded fuel from the same outlet every time and just recently had to be towed 15 km back to shore. Took the boat into my marine mechanic who found water and dirt in the tank. Over $1100 so far and the fuel company are denying any issues with their tanks. The tanks are old to the point where the company is in the process of putting new ones in. Am waiting a call from a representative of the company (they have already tried to say there is nil issues with the fuel even though you can clearly see grit and water in the sample my mechanic kept). I would like to think that they will accept there is a problem with their fuel however am not holding my breath over it. If you are in Albany WA do not fill up at Liberty Albany Hwy.


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