Misfuelling a car is a common mishap that occurs around 20,000 times a year in Germany, according to ADAC. Carelessness, lack of knowledge, or confusing fuel labels can lead to a vehicle being filled with the wrong fuel. Diesel vehicles are particularly affected because petrol nozzles can also fit into their fuel tanks. But what should you do if this happens, and how are the potential damages covered by insurance?

Dangers of Misfuelling
The most severe damage occurs when petrol enters a diesel engine. Even in vehicles not approved for Super E10, the wrong fuel can lead to costly damages. On the other hand, it is less problematic if a vehicle approved for E10 is instead filled with E5 or if Super Plus is used instead of regular petrol.

Immediate Actions After Misfuelling
If you realize you have misfuelled, stop the fuelling process immediately and avoid starting the ignition or engine. Once the wrong fuel enters the lines or engine, consequential damages costing several thousand euros can occur. Instead, you should call roadside assistance, who can drain and clean the tank. The cost for this is usually between 150 and 200 euros. Some petrol stations also offer this service.

Insurance Coverage for Misfuelling
The question of insurance coverage for misfuelling is not straightforward. The car liability insurance is excluded because it only covers damages to other accident participants. Comprehensive insurance usually does not apply either, as such damages are considered operational damages caused by improper use of the vehicle. However, a bright spot is the car breakdown cover, which often covers the costs for draining and cleaning the tank.

Exceptions and Special Cases
It gets curious when a fire damage occurs due to misfuelling, as in a case heard before the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf in 2008. Here, the insurance had to pay out because it was a fire damage covered by the partial comprehensive insurance.

Misfuelling Someone Else’s Car
If you mistakenly fuel someone else’s car, it doesn’t look better. Private liability insurance does not cover such damages as they arise from the use of the vehicle. However, some top-tier policies offer limited coverage, usually up to 2,000 euros, which is often insufficient for larger damages.

Misfuelling a Rental Car
Even for rental cars, misfuelling is usually not covered by insurance. Neither private liability nor the comprehensive insurance of the rental car covers such damages. Therefore, it is advisable to check the correct fuel type when renting, which is usually noted on the vehicle’s fuel cap.

Misfuelling can be expensive and annoying. It is best to avoid such situations by being attentive and double-checking when in doubt. If it does happen, clear immediate actions and, ideally, comprehensive breakdown cover can help prevent more significant damages.