19 November 2010

Mis-fuelling Scam Exposed!

On Tuesday, a the end of a tedious day, feeling unwell, frustrated and tired, I filled up the tank of my car with £53 pounds-worth of unleaded petrol.  The only problem is, my car has a diesel engine.  Not realising my mistake, I drove my car at speed the twelve miles from the fuel station to home.  The loss of power only became apparent as I descended the long hill into the village and then over the short one to where we live.  I parked up and went indoors, worried about what was wrong with the car and if it would work several hours later when I had to go to the airport to collect my Beloved who had been away to visit her parents.

I need not have worried because it's failing to work was a certainty, confirmed by the billowing smoke and fumes that resulted from my later attempts to start the engine.  Fortunately, we have a second car.  Unfortunately for my Beloved, it is a two-seater with little room for luggage.  We managed.

Still unaware of my mistake, and concerned that the head gasket had blown, when we got back home I took a torch out to the car and searched for evidence of oil running down the cylinder block but found none.  Then I checked the fuel receipt and realised the full horror of what I had done...

Interestingly enough, my Beloved had bought a renowned car magazine on her journey and had read that very night an article about the mis-fuelling of cars.  Apparently this problem is so common that recovery services have vehicles especially set up for siphoning, flushing and re-fuelling, and charge about £250 for the job.  Under no account, the article informed us, should you attempt to start a mis-fuelled car.  To do so damages the entire fuel delivery system and requires its replacement at the possible cost of thousands of pounds... 

Sleep did not come easily that night.

On Wednesday, I went to my usual garage as, by coincidence, the MX5 was due its annual service.  I explained the disaster to the proprietor and expected to hear that ominous sucking-of-teeth sound.  'That's OK,' he said, 'It's not as big a problem as everyone makes out.  I've done it myself.'  His confession, and his ensuing description of the much greater abuse heaped on his wrongly-fuelled engine for a whole weekend made me feel much better.  He just cleaned out the tank and flushed the system through and his car ran without problems for many years after.  He did tell me of another client who mis-fuelled his leased car and had no option but to pay the leasing company £4000 for a new fuel system.  I felt even better still when my friendly mechanic explained that the most that would need replacing was a fuel filter.  I arranged for Green Flag to recover my car to the garage for remedial work.

Apparently, the story goes that steel parts in the diesel's fuel pump break down after being soaked in petrol and then the resulting particles pass through the the rest of the system, wrecking it as they go.  However, it is normal for exactly the same pump to be used in both diesel and petrol engines, so damage from petrol is hardly likely, and the fuel line has a filter after the pump that would remove any fragments before they have chance to reach the injection system anyway.  Furthermore, diesel used to have petrol added to it to stop waxing in the cold extremes of the winter months: as much as 60%!

A colleague at work told me of a friend's garage where they see two or three mis-fuellings a week and charge a mere £90 for sorting out the problem.  The recovered fuel goes in a big tank where it separates into two fractions, petrol over diesel.  It then gets used in the garage's vehicles appropriately.  Win-win, you might say.

On Thursday, I got my car back in working order.  It goes like a rocket, having been cleaned out with a good soaking in petrol.  The cost?  Only £90.50, including £20 for diesel fuel (plus the £53 I lost on the petrol, of course). 

It seems to me that there is a massive con going on, with unscrupulous people making a fortune out of the mistakes and ignorance of others.  Obviously there is nothing wrong with using your knowledge to personal advantage - we all do that to make an honest living.  Using your knowledge to the deliberate disadvantage and abuse of others is entirely reprehensible.  If it is not actually criminal, it should be; it is certainly despicable.  Thank goodness I have a long-standing relationship with a reliable garage!

So, if you do what I did, don't panic, don't lose sleep, and don't believe the mechanic who tells you you need to re-mortgage your home: find a new mechanic.  If this has already happened to you, and you got ripped off, find a new mechanic.

06 November 2010

Obituary: Maximus Rex, ?/?/2003 - 4/11/2010

Max, our beautiful dog and wonderful friend, finally reached the end of his days on Thursday.  We have known him for almost six of his eight few years of life and have loved him dearly.

When he came to us from the rescue home, we were soon impressed by his intelligence, his very individual personality and his lively nature.  In his short time with us, he had some serious health problems, having needed major surgery to correct cruciate ligament failure in both knees.  True to form, he bounced back from both procedures and got on with being the vital, vigorous, fun-loving dog that he was. 

In October last year he started limping again and having the plate removed from his knee appeared to resolve the problem for only a short time.  In January this year he was diagnosed with cancer in his left tibia; we were told he had about six weeks of life left.  Even with this problem, he lived life at full speed as long as he could and proved everyone wrong by living until 4 November.

We remember his playfulness, his love of swimming, running and digging, his extensive understanding of English, his fixation on food and the exceptionally ripe smells that often resulted from eating it, his rolling in the back seat of the car, his ears flapping in the wind, his determination to bring home the longest or fattest sticks he could carry, his amazing memory for where he had left his tennis ball, warm cuddles and the smell of his smooth, shiny fur, his unfettered joy on the beach, his serious attention to guard-dog duty, his frustration with crows taunting him from just out of reach, his greeting at the door, his large presence in our home, his snoring by the fire, his affectionate nuzzling, and much, much more...

Apart from when nearing the end of his life, he was happy and up for anything that sounded like fun.  However, the disease finally got the better of him and it was clear to us that he was struggling and that we could do no more to restore and maintain his quality of life.  It was time to let him go before his suffering became too much.  His end was quiet and peaceful on his own bed in his own home.

He enriched our lives more than we had believed possible; we are the poorer for his passing, and our hearts are broken.  We did everything we could to ensure he had a good and happy life.  We are sad that it could not have been a long one, and miss him greatly.  We are proud to have known him and shared our lives with him.