Fishy diesel (kerosene) claim

I need some help.

My wife took a vacation with the children recently. She rented a '08 Caravan out of Phoenix, drove to Page, back to Phoenix, picked up her Mom from the airport, fueled up on Sunday, drove to Flagstaff, drove in town all day Monday, then couldn’t start the engine on Tuesday morning. The rental company towed the van to their mechanic / dealer and was told that the engine’s 4 out of 6 cylinders are damaged due to “kerosene” in the engine. Now, the rental company is claiming that we may be liable for the replacement of the engine. Can one drive 300 miles after filling up with “kerosene”, or diesel? Can one drive 300 miles over two days after filling up with tainted gasoline, have no indication of any problems, and then suddenly have trouble starting? Does gas tainted with “kerosene” cause irreparable damage to the tune of engine replacement? Can’t the fuel system be flushed?

FYI, there was properly full amount of motor oil in the reserve, and there was no smoke, pop or almost-ignition when the engine was turned over on Tuesday morning. It cranked pretty normally with all the compression and exhaust cycle sounds, but no ignition.

Any suggestion, information would be greatly appreciated.


How exactly are they suggesting you filled it with Kerosene? Did you stop at a station with a Kerosene pump?

I can’t remember if this is the case when misfueling a diesel with gas or vice versa, but it’s possible if you accidentally put in a gallon or two of a lighter fuel, it can linger at the top of the tank until you get low on fuel. It could be the last person who had it accidentally put a little bit of diesel in it (seeing as how difficult it is to do this, maybe it was a European tourist who couldn’t imagine that such a vehicle wouldn’t be a diesel), and it might have run fine until you let the tank get down. There can also be a similar effect with gas that has a little bit of water in it.

I can’t comment on the effects of Kerosene, but putting diesel in a gasoline vehicle can wreak havoc with the fuel system, but will not damage the engine internals, like their mechanics are claiming.

Thanks for the info, Jack.
This is a case of introducing diesel into a gas motor, but, oddly, the rental company quoted the mechanic as saying “kerosene”, which is a grade of petroleum almost identical to diesel. Since both diesel and kerosene are denser fuel, I’d imagine that they would have been introduced first to the fuel system, making the trouble-free first 300 miles even more puzzling. Also, having driven the first three quarter tank of this tainted fuel in both highway and city traffic over two days period with no ill effects, I can only guess that the ratio of contamination was relatively low. Which makes me think that whatever “havoc” small amount of diesel can wreak in fuel system was also relatively minor. Any other readers’ input would be welcomed. Thanks, folks.

I think that the rental company is attempting to take your wife down the garden path, so to speak. Kerosene is #1 diesel; regular diesel is designated as #2. For one thing, diesel fuel does not damage diesel engine cylinders. For another, #1 diesel or kerosene is available at only a few stations and the pump from what I have seen is in a spot by itself, away from the other pumps to prevent such a mixup. That makes it extremely improbable that your wife filled the Caravan with #1 diesel or kerosene.

I used to run my dad’s lawnmower on a mix of half gas and half kerosene. That motor was finally scrapped at over 20 years of age. Kerosene is a very thin oil but should be a better cylinder lubricant than gasoline.

With two good cylinders per the rental company, the van’s engine should have shown some life. Sounds like an attempt at scamming. Get another mechanic to look at the engine, unfortunately at your cost. Maybe the rental people will change their mind about their diagnosis for fear of being exposed; worth a try.

It is very improbable that your wife put diesel or kerosene in the tank. The fueling nozzle is too big to fit into cars designated for unleaded fuel. Unleaded fuel uses a smaller nozzle, and was used to prevent people from using leaded fuel in a car designated for unleaded during the fuel switch-over.

It is more likely the fuel was contaminated if the rental company is being honest. Tell them the gas station you used, and let them sort it out. If they keep pushing it, talk to your insurance people.

They are lying or incompetent. If there was a significant amount of diesel or kerosene in the gas, your wife would have experienced serious driveability problems almost immediately if the engine ran at all, and the “Check Engine” light would have come on.

I’ll ask the obvious question, what does the gas ticket say, when she filled up? On a rental car, that is the only way to introduce fuel into the car.

I did watch a lady accidentally put a gallon of diesel in a gasoline vehicle, at a Flying J station, about a year ago. She caught herself, asked for help and advice, and then filled up with the right grade fuel. So, it is possible to put diesel in the tank. However, to me, the answer is in the gas tickets. No diesel or kerosene purchased, no personal foul.

I’d contact your insurance company and ask them what to do. I suspect that you should get a second opinion. Do you have the receipt from the gas station? It may have the grade of gasoline listed on it. Also, you could go to the gas station with your wife and confirm which pump the gas came from. Either way, you can determine whether there is a error in fueling, an error in filling the gas station resevoir, or an error in analysis of the fuel. If this is a major rental company ther may be an ombudsman who sorts through issues like this. Call the customer service number and ask for help.

My sister accidently filled her diesel Ford pick-up with gasoline. She believed all pump nozzels with a green housing(plastic cover) were diesel. Truck stopped running rather quickly,gasoline was removed.She was on her way but $700.00 lighter

If you happened to mix some diesel fuel with the residual gasoline in the tank, the engine might still have started and run. However, the octane rating of the mix would be very low and there probably would be detonation that the engine computer would not be able to prevent. If the damage can be linked to detonation and the service shop verifies that diesel (kerosene) is in the tank, you may have to find some referee to decide if you, the service station, or the fuel supplier are the guilty party. Maybe a small claims court would be appropriate.

I remember a airplane accident case where a large piston twin engine airplane was fueled with Jet-A (which is similar to Diesel). The airplane was able to take off and get to pattern altitude before both engines quit. Post crash inspection of the engines showed massive detonation damage with burnt and broken pistons, galling of the skirts to the cylinder walls, broken rings, torched spark plugs, and burnt valves. Of course that was after a full throttle run with a turbocharged, intercooled, fuel injected engine for 3 to 5 minutes which would not be the case for the Caravan.