August 2014 – Wrong Fuel in a Superbike
One hot sunny morning in August, wrong fuel engineer Nigel is called out to a job in Worcester. A gentleman named Felix has managed to put the wrong fuel into his motorbike. This is a very rare occurrence indeed and Nigel arrives at the scene to find Felix standing next to his Ducati Panigale superbike accompanied by about 20 of his biker mates who all cheer loudly as he arrives. Felix is not going to live this one down by the look of things. He has managed to put a full tank of diesel into his motorbike which has stalled about 2 miles down the road from the fuel station forecourt. The bike is in a safe place to work on at the side of the road, so Nigel gets to work on draining the wrong fuel from the bike’s petrol tank. Felix tells Nigel that he realised what had happened when the bike started to make loud noises like a backfire. Nigel reassures him that the bike should be fine as it’s only been driven a short way down the road.
With the fuel drain complete, the bike fuel system is then flushed through with fresh fuel and 10 litres of super unleaded are added. Felix turns the key and the bike fires up and revs perfectly. He thanks Nigel profusely and Felix’s biker buddies all cheer once more as Nigel drives away.
Felix did the right thing in calling Nigel as soon as he could, he has experienced other situations where the bikers have tried to perform the fuel evacuation themselves and have succeeded in removing some but not all of the wrong fuel type. They have then filled up the tank with unleaded and run the bikes with a mix of the two fuels. Motorbike engines are finely tuned, especially superbike engines like the Ducati and running them with contaminated fuel can cause serious problems down the line, leading to expensive repair jobs. A complete fuel drain and system flush is the only safe and sensible answer.
September 2014 – The Ferrari F355
One fine Saturday morning in September, Nigel receives a call from a very stressed out gentleman named Mohammed. Mohammed tells Nigel that he has rented a Ferrari F355 for the weekend to take his girlfriend away to a posh country hotel. He tells Nigel that he has taken the car to a fuel station and filled up the tank with unleaded petrol. On driving away from the petrol station Mohammed has noticed that the car seems to be running a little roughly and he then remembers that the hire car company representative told him that he should only put high octane super unleaded in this vehicle. It dawns on him that he has put in standard lower octane fuel by mistake.
Nigel tells Mohammed not to try to start or run the car again until he gets there and as Mohammed is only 20 miles away, he should be able to get there fairly quickly. The traffic is kind and Nigel only takes 35 minutes to get to Mohammed. The Ferrari is parked on his driveway and so is very easy to get to and work on. Mohammed has put 80 litres of unleaded fuel into the car which cost him just under £100. Nigel checks the hire paperwork with Mohammed and, sure enough, it specifies that only high octane super unleaded/ premium unleaded should be used. Rather than risk repercussions from the hire company and a potential huge repair bill, Mohammed asks Nigel to drain the wrong fuel from the Ferrari and flush the system through to clean it thoroughly.
Nigel sets about the task; firstly he puts a body work protector blanket over the Ferrari around the fuel tank aperture. The last thing he wants to do is scratch this car, a scratch repair alone could cost hundreds of pounds on a supercar. He’s very particular about his work and always takes great care with all vehicles, despite this he’s still a little nervous about working on such an expensive motor which currently go for anything from £70,000 to £100,000 even at 7 or 8 years old which this one is.
Once the safety side of things is taken care of, Nigel drains all of the 80 litres of fuel out of the tank. Even though this isn’t a mix of different fuels it is still treated as contaminated fuel and goes into the storage tank with the unleaded/diesel mix for refinement. After the fuel drain, he flushes the system with the correct grade of fuel to remove any residual low grade fuel. The tank is then filled back up with high octane premium unleaded fuel. Nigel gives the keys to Mohammed to do the honours. Mohammed starts the Ferrari and it’s sounding fine. Nigel hops in for a quick test drive and the pair return, satisfied that the Ferrari is back to its best.
September 2014 – The Morris Minor
Nigel goes from supercars to old classics in the space of a week. He receives a call 4 days after the Ferrari experience from John who owns a 1958 Morris Minor 1000 2-door saloon in showroom condition. John explains that his son has accidentally put 3 gallons of diesel fuel into his beloved Morris Minor and has then started the vehicle. The diesel was stored in a 5 gallon container in John’s garage along with a different coloured 5 gallon container filled with treated fuel for the old Morris. Some sort of mix up has occurred and the wrong fuel has been put into the classic by mistake and needs to be removed.
Nigel arrives at John’s house within 20 minutes of the call as he’s not far away. The Morris is on the driveway with easy access to the low down fuel tank aperture on the left hand side of the vehicle. John meets Nigel as he’s arriving and is obviously rather upset with his son as the car represents hundreds of hours of restoration time and is due at a show as one of the star cars in 3 days, on the weekend. He immediately starts to quiz Nigel on the potential damage done to the vehicle fuel system and engine and gets quite anxious. Nigel is used to dealing with stressed customers and gets out the all-important tea flask to try and settle John’s nerves.
At almost 60 years old the Morris is incredibly basic in comparison to modern motors but that also means that it’s a hardy old engine and shouldn’t have suffered too badly as a result of having the wrong fuel put into it. Its lack of a sophisticated electronic control unit means that there won’t be any issues there as long as the fuel system is correctly and carefully flushed through with the leaded fuel that it’s designed to run on. Nigel gets to work removing the diesel from the tank which is a fairly straightforward job on the old Morris with its low slung fuel tank and low down tank aperture. Once the wrong fuel is removed he then uses some of John’s treated fuel to carefully flush any remnants of diesel fuel out of the system. He then fills up the Morris with leaded petrol and starts her up. The engine runs but doesn’t sound too good, it’s running a bit lumpy and may need some adjustment to get it running correctly. After 30 minutes of working with John, who knows the engine inside out, the pair get the engine running sweetly once more and they take it for a test run. The car performs as normal and once more Nigel is thanked profusely by a very relieved customer.
A Few Other Unusual Requests
Aside from supercars, superbikes and classic motors, Nigel has seen his fair share of unusual jobs and has worked on ride-on lawnmowers, tractors, buses, HGVs and even a boat. That level of expertise only comes from years of experience in the industry.
If you’re ever unlucky enough to be in a wrong fuel situation, check that your engineer has the training and expertise to deal with the situation correctly. If they hold an SPA passport and are registered with the Environment Agency to remove and transport contaminated fuel then this should give you confidence in their work. There is always the “cowboy” element at work in any service industry and if you don’t feel comfortable with an individual’s attitude or level of knowledge then turn them away and speak to an expert.