Motorists warned about harmful products in fuel tanks

DECEMBER 2018

Vehicle owners are being warned about the dangers of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) being mistakenly added to their fuel.

The warning comes from IAG New Zealand, the company behind leading motor vehicle insurance brands including AMI, NZI and State, and the Motor Trade Association (MTA).

“We’re concerned about the increasing number of insurance claims we are seeing from customers who have incorrectly poured these fluids into the fuel tank,” says Dean MacGregor, General Manager, Claims Services at IAG.

“These additive products are for the exhaust systems of trucks, buses and some high-end European makes,” he says. “In all cases there is a completely separate tank to hold the product. They are never intended to go into the fuel tank.

“When a vehicle owner inadvertently puts a product like Ad Blue or Go Clear in their fuel tank, they risk catastrophic damage to the entire fuel system and the motor. Repairs can take three to five weeks or more depending on the make and model of vehicle.

“At IAG, we are consistently receiving claims related to this, but the issue has significantly increased recently as these additive products become more available in some fuel station forecourts and unstaffed truck stops.

“The cost to put the vehicle back on road can be tens of thousands of dollars. The products, including Ad Blue and Go Clear, are sold at the pump and their purpose is to reduce vehicle exhaust pollution.,” Mr MacGregor says.

“To date the most expensive repair was on a near new Toyota Landcruiser which cost approximately $40,000. In addition to the cost to repair, the customer was also without their vehicle for a significant period of time.

“It is important to note that not all insurance policies will provide cover for damage caused by DEF and others have a sub-limit which may not cover the full cost of repairs.”

The MTA, which includes approximately 850 service station stations members, says any part of the fuel system and engine contaminated by additives cannot be cleaned out.

“All parts have to be replaced and in the case of a vehicle still under a manufacturer’s warranty, not having the vehicle repaired to an approved process could void the warranty,” warns Ian Baggott, Sector Manager - Energy & Environment at the MTA.

People putting the wrong fuel in the tank has always been an issue in New Zealand. Industry figures would suggest there are about 30,000 misfuellings each year.

Behind each of these is a lot of unnecessary inconvenience for customers and an increasing cost to insurance.

“At diesel pumps, there is a flap arrangement as a safe guard and a warning that the product is diesel. Most vehicles also have a label beside the fuel tank indicating what type of fuel should be used - petrol or diesel.

“However, this doesn’t prevent customers accidentally putting petrol into a diesel vehicle, which causes major damage and substantial repair costs.

“Should petrol be put in a diesel vehicle or vice versa, the most important thing to remember is to not to start the vehicle. The fuel needs to be drained and replaced. Some service stations are equipped to handle such situations but if not, they should be able to put you in touch with a service provider who can assist,” Mr Baggott says.​
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