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Kerri McLean

First, I filled up my car with the wrong fuel, then I made another foolish mistake... and almost drove myself to distraction

Kerry McLean


Pumping petrol

Pumping petrol

Pumping petrol

There have been times over the years when certain questions have flummoxed me. For instance, every time I'm scrubbing the glass walls of the shower, I can't help but wonder how somewhere that gets us all so clean ends up so horribly grubby.

I also marvel at how it is that teenagers seem impervious to cold temperatures, insisting on not wearing a jacket even when I feel the need to have a top layer that bears more resemblance to a duvet than a coat.

And until this past week, one question that had me scratching my head was how on earth do people end up putting the wrong type of fuel in their car?

Especially in newer cars where the manufacturer pops a handy sticker in capital letters with the name of your fuel on the inside of the fuel cap. Unfortunately, after the last few days, I'm all too intimately acquainted with how such a mistake can happen.

I had finished a long day of work and had the usual joy of making my way home through the rush hour traffic. It was a particularly rainy night, so I was concentrating harder that usual. Once back in my hometown, I collected my children from my mum's house, and realised that my fuel was running low.

I had an early start the next morning so, thinking I'd save myself a bit of time the following day, I pulled into a garage and, while refereeing between two of my children who appeared one step away from all-out war on the back seat, I poured £20 worth of fuel into the car, paid at the pump and went on my way.

Five minutes later, as my car began making shuddering and chugging, I suddenly had an image flash into my head of me holding a green handle at the pump instead of a black one. That's when the panic set in and what I did next, as I was later to discover, was exactly what you should never do in these circumstances!

From somewhere deep in the catacombs of my mind, I recalled advice I'd once been given that, should you accidentally put petrol into a diesel engine, you should find the nearest garage and fill the car to the throat with the correct fuel.

So, that's what I did, putting £40 of diesel into my car, then driving home, calling for a mechanic to come and promptly bursting into tears after making the mistake of checking the internet to see how big a problem it might be.

Very big as it turned out with some sites talking about a £2,000 bill to repair the damage.

By the time the lovely mechanic arrived, I confess I was a bit of a wreck. He calmed me down, told me he would get it sorted and sent me off to get a cup of tea. It was only after he drained out all the fuel, cleaned the tubes (or whatever you call the inner working of the engine!) and had it sorted, at half past one in the morning, that he told me that, right until the moment he got my car up and running again, he wasn't sure if it was destined for the scrapheap.

It cost me £180 to get my car back to normal and, adding in the £20 of petrol, followed by the £40 of diesel that both had to be drained out, it made for a very expensive evening, but at least I faced a bill in the hundreds instead of the thousands. It was an expensive lesson but one I'm all too happy to pass on for free.

Should you ever find yourself in a similar situation, and according to my lovely mechanic he has around five to 10 call-outs a day, don't start the car and, if you do, stop it as soon as you realise what you've done. Don't fill it up with the correct fuel but instead call an expert to get your car back on the road and you may just avoid a very hefty bill for a moment's absent-mindedness.

Personally, I'm contemplating writing the word 'Diesel' in capital letters down the side of my motor to avoid a similar situation. It may not be pretty but at least it's not pricey!

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