Earlier this week, several customers who filled their cars up with unleaded fuel at a BP garage on the East Lancashire Road in Liverpool claimed that their fuel tanks had been contaminated with water. All three drivers affected saw their cars break down less than a mile away from the forecourt.
Not only did this impact the drivers financially, as they could not go to work, it also hit them in the wallet with the cost of breakdown recovery and repair. One driver took their nearly new car to Vauxhall and was shocked to discover that fixing the car due to contaminated fuel was not covered by its new car warranty.
Not covered under warranty or car insurance
The £300 bill from Vauxhall to drain the fuel tank and replace the fuel lines was not covered by the driver’s car insurance either. Insurers regard this as being the fault of the driver, along the same lines as putting diesel into an unleaded vehicle. The Liverpool Echo reported that the garage has provided refunds, but this claim has not been confirmed by the affected drivers.
The garage itself has apologised for causing the issues but has not specifically explained why water was mixed in with the unleaded fuel reservoir . All other forms of fuel sold at the station were unaffected.
While this could be regarded as an isolated incident, a similar issue occurred at two fuel stations using the brand name Clean Energy on Merseyside in March earlier this year. Several drivers were affected and in one instance a BMW driver was unable to claim insurance for a repair bill totalling £1,400 (for draining the fuel tank and replacing the entire fuel system in the engine).
Contaminated fuel: trend or isolated incident?
One of the mechanics who repaired an affected car took a picture to illustrate what was in the fuel tank (see image) and posted it on Facebook. He was then inundated with comments from other drivers also affected by water-diluted petrol. This made us think at PetrolPrices – are we seeing a new trend here or is this isolated to Merseyside?
Liverpool City Council confirmed that Citizens Advice was dealing with six complaints in relation to contaminated fuel in that month alone, so there does appear to be something happening here. It is unclear whether mixing water with petrol is legal and whether there is any form of legal redress to get compensation back from any garages that do this, especially if it is not covered by warranty or insurance.
Can you protect against contaminated fuel?
Worryingly, there is no way to tell if the pump you are using is contaminated by water. The only way to guard against it is by checking out Facebook or local media sources to ensure that you are aware of stations that have been cited as having contaminated fuel locally and steering well clear of them.
If you are affected by contaminated fuel in your car, it seems that the only way to get financially compensated is to raise it with the local Citizens Advice Bureau and seek compensation from the garage you think has provided the contaminated fuel. They are not obligated to provide a refund but given the impact this could have on their sales, one would expect they would see reason and pay to keep their reputation intact.
Have you been affected by fuel being diluted with water? Is this a new form of scam or just an honest mistake by the garages in question? Are you happy that this is not covered under vehicle warranty or that you cannot claim on your insurance for it? Let us know in the comments below.