Faulty fuel crisis: Your questions answered

Last updated at 16:16 01 March 2007

Thousands of motorists have reported problems with their vehicles after buying apparently faulty fuel.

The problem seems to be affecting exhaust sensors in some vehicles, but retailers insist they can find nothing wrong with the petrol.

Here are some common questions - and answers - associated with the crisis.

Motor groups bombarded in 'rogue fuel' crisis

How many people have been affected?

It is impossible to give a definitive figure. One supermarket reported receiving just 80 complaints, but the BBC has received more than 4,000 emails and texts from drivers reporting problems with their cars. The AA said the number of people asking for advice more than doubled at times today.

What is causing the problem?

Trading standards teams, retailers, fuel suppliers and fuel storage companies are all investigating the cause. Nick Vandervell, of the UK Petroleum Industry Association, said the cause of the crisis could lie with how the unleaded petrol was blended or stored, or with some unknown contaminant. Tests have eliminated diesel and too much ethanol as the cause.

Why are vehicles breaking down?

The root of the problem appears to lie with an oxygen sensor, known in the trade as a lambda sensor, in the vehicle's exhaust. The sensor controls fuel injection and, once damaged, engine management systems switch to an emergency mode which restricts power and prevents further damage.

How do I know if my vehicle is affected?

Possible symptoms include a complete failure to start, juddering, misfiring or a loss of power. Engine management dashboard lights may also indicate a fault.

What should I do if my vehicle is affected?

The AA said owners should stop driving and contact their dealer or local garage as soon as possible. If they suspect the cause is contaminated fuel, a sample should be collected from the fuel tank.

How much does it cost to put right?

The AA estimates that it should cost up to £200 to carry out a diagnostic check and replace the sensor. Some motorists have reported bills of more than £1,000.

Can I claim compensation?

People should contact their local trading standards office, or Consumer Direct, for advice. Anyone making a claim will probably need a proof of purchase, in the form of a receipt.

The AA said the retailer that sold the petrol should be the first stop for drivers seeking reimbursement or compensation. Legal companies are already inviting victims to get in touch and one said it was considering a group legal action.

Some drivers may be able to claim on their comprehensive insurance policy for accidental damage.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now