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Cold weather breakdowns could be down to diesel contamination, says AA

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  • AA said it had received call-outs from a number of motorists complaining that their cars suddenly felt 'sluggish' soon after a fill-up
  • They are investigating a possible contamination of diesel fuel

By Ray Massey

PUBLISHED: 15:14 EST, 7 December 2012 | UPDATED: 15:18 EST, 7 December 2012

Motorists are breaking down in cold weather because of a possible contamination problem with some diesel fuel, says the AA.

They are investigating to see how widespread the problem is – most critically whether a rogue batch of contaminated fuel is to blame or whether the problems are limited to one or more specific filling stations.

The AA said it had received call-outs from a number of stricken motorists complaining that their cars suddenly felt ‘sluggish’ soon after a fill-up.

AA said it had received call-outs from a number of stricken motorists complaining that their cars suddenly felt 'sluggish' soon after a fill-up

Fuel contamination: AA said it had received call-outs from a number of stricken motorists complaining that their cars suddenly felt 'sluggish' soon after a fill-up

The problem is centred around the north east of England, it said.

One woman driver from Ripon in North Yorkshire who contacted the Mail said her problems began not long after she had filled up at a Morrison’s supermarket in the town.

She said: ‘I left home at ten past eight on probably the coldest morning yet this year.

‘My car felt a bit sluggish for about 2 miles particularly going uphill. It then lost power completely.

Fortunately I was able to steer into the side of the road so I was relatively safe.

‘But the AA said that due to the high volume of calls that morning, it was unable to get to me for two hours. I was freezing by that time. 

‘I must say that the AA man was fantastic – both friendly and extremely efficient.’

She said the AA patrol told her there had been a spate of similar incidents, that they all caused the vehicles to lose power and slow down and that the fuel was the suspected source of the problem.

Motorists are breaking down in cold weather because of a possible contamination problem with some diesel fuel, says the AA

Too cold for cars: Motorists are breaking down in cold weather because of a possible contamination problem with some diesel fuel, says the AA

An AA spokesman said: ‘It is true that we have been getting reports of this problem of cars driving sluggishly after a fill-up. We don’t know exactly what’s causing it. 

‘Sometimes the garage fuel tanks get contaminated. In more serious cases it can be a contaminated batch. 

‘It does happen from time to time. This time it seems to be emanating from the north east. We are investigating. Our technical have been getting calls about it and it is being investigated.’

He said: ‘It’s not always killing cars completely. It seems to make them sluggish. We’re keeping tabs on it.’

The solution is to clean out the fuel tanks of cars affected by contamination and clean the filters.

The AA spokesman added: ‘Our advice to drivers is to keep your receipt so you can be reimbursed or compensated for any work that is needed to repair the car.’

Morrisons said it was unaware of any complaints from its customers in the north east or Ripon in relation to fuel but would investigate further.

In 2007 a batch of rogue contaminated fuel caused widespread problems and drivers were angry when their cars developed faults after filling up at Tesco, Morrisons and Asda forecourts across the south east of England and East Anglia

Filling up faults: In 2007 a batch of rogue contaminated fuel caused widespread problems and drivers were angry when their cars developed faults after filling up at Tesco, Morrisons and Asda forecourts across the south east of England and East Anglia

In February 2007 a batch of rogue contaminated fuel caused widespread problems across the south east of England and East Anglia.

Drivers reacted with fury when their cars developed faults after filling up at Tesco, Morrisons and Asda forecourts across the region. 

The supermarkets were faced with compensation claims running into millions of pounds. 

Many drivers said their cars started 'kangaroo jumping' or ground to a halt shortly after taking on the petrol. 

Most of the affected motors suffered damaged sensors, which are used to regulate emissions, with repair bills ranging from £200 to £1,000.

The fuel was found to have been contaminated by high levels of silicon and the rogue batch was traced to a storage depot in the Thurrock area of Essex. 

At the time, the Daily Mail revealed exclusively how petrol wholesaler Harvest Energy - which supplied Asda - was at the centre of the investigation into tainted fuel. It shared its refining and storage tanks at the Vopak refinery on the Thames Estuary in Essex with rival wholesaler Greenergy, which supplied Tesco and Morrisons.

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