1 who foots the bill for contaminated fuel?

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Diesel Fuel Injection Specialists

Who foots the bill for contaminated fuel?



Contaminated Fuel

Where do you stand with contaminated fuel? Where and why does it happen?
Are insurance companies accountable, the service station or the motorist?

When it comes to contaminated fuel, unfortunately many service stations and insurance companies can avoid admitting to the problem.

The majority of service stations can evade liability if the customer hasn’t kept a receipt, and even then, holding the station accountable is a time consuming and money hungry ordeal for customers.

And some insurance companies aren’t much help either: a number of companies don’t cover contamination.

Allianz, NRMA & GIO will cover the costs but it’s best for motorists to check their individual insurance policy.

Contaminated fuel continues to be an issue affecting thousands of motorists each year, leaving them out of pocket for repairs and without a car for everyday tasks.

Symptoms often present quickly, with the engine running rough, lacking power, stalling; being harder to start than usual; misfiring, pinging or backfiring. The 'engine check' light may also illuminate.

A choice investigation completed late in 2016 found customers have had to foot the bill for an average damage cost of $4986.  

The majority of contamination in fuels happens on site, after the fuel has been delivered to the service station.

If the storage tanks are not maintained and inspected regularly, water will build up until it reaches the pickup and a slug of water is dispensed into vehicles.

When a tanker drops fuel into a location, it also stirs up the fuel while the water is in suspension so there will be some pickup of water by the bowser.

After a delivery, the tank needs time to settle before fuel can safely be sold to customers.

While it’s impossible to tell at the bowser whether fuel is contaminated, there are ways motorists can protect themselves if it does happen to them:

  • Always ask for a receipt when filling up fuel. An invoice proves a business transaction occurred at a specific time, date and place. It's also the first step in establishing a paper trail.
  • Take note of the bowser number – check it's on the receipt.
  • Other cars may have broken down nearby as a result of the same contaminated batch of fuel. Find them and exchange details. Proving it happened to more than one customer helps eliminate other factors as the cause of the damage to your car.
  • Tow your car to a reputable mechanic. Both the petrol station and the insurance company will ask for a mechanic's report certifying the damage to the car was caused by contaminated fuel. Request for a sample to be kept and a photo of it.
  • Notify the service station and its head office in writing. Not only does this help to ensure no one else suffers from a contaminated batch, but it also establishes a paper trail detailing the events.
  • Fill up at trusted petrol stations with a high turnover of customers. The cases of dirty petrol we observed happened in areas further away from the city. Smaller petrol stations in these cases were more reluctant to cover the cost of repairs.
  • Check your insurance policy to make sure you're covered for contaminated fuel. Insurance product disclosure statements (PDS) tend to refer to dirty fuel as 'contaminants'. 

Results of the CHOICE investigation:

  • more than half of cases involve supermarket servos
  • big brands and company owned servos were less likely to have fuel contamination than smaller petrol stations due to the lower frequency of topping up the storage tanks
  • more than 670 claims were made to Australian insurance companies in2015/2016
  • Average repair bills were $4986
  • fuel contamination is more frequent further away from large cities

Related: More Customers opt to install Fuel Filter Kits to protect against fuel contamination
Read some case studies here

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