Expensive fuelling errors avoided

Drivers of diesel vehicles will soon be able to buy a simple device that prevents them from misfuelling with petrol.

Manufacturing group Caparo, which will launch the Rightfuel product in September, says that around 400 motorists a day put petrol into diesel vehicles - a mistake that can cost from a few hundred pounds to drain and replace the fuel and filters, to many thousands for engine and fuel system repairs.

The reverse error is rare, because diesel pump nozzles are too wide to fit the smaller filler neck of a vehicle designed for petrol.

Retired naval commander and amateur inventor Martin White developed the solution after misfuelling his BMW. “The first prototype was built partly while on a camping holiday with my wife, a small tool kit and lots of pieces of curved metal,” he says. “Eventually I fabricated one that worked and showed it to specialists at the Caparo Innovation Centre at Wolverhampton University, who helped me refine and validate the design. After talking to several potential investors, it was presented to Caparo’s CEO Angad Paul who immediately saw the potential and agreed to back it through to production.”

The Caparo Rightfuel is said to be the only retro-fit device that completely blocks the delivery of the wrong fuel type. Moulded in tough engineering plastics, it is light-weight and totally corrosion proof. Because it fits on top of the filler neck, it does not rattle in the fuel pipe and is suitable for straight and curved filler necks.

Modern diesel engines use common rail or electronic unit injector systems operating at very high fuel pressures, with many of the high precision components lubricated only by the fuel. While diesel fuel lubricates, petrol washes away the lubrication, so the damaging effects can be fast and catastrophic. Even a litre of petrol added to the tank of a modern diesel car can cause irreversible damage to the injection pump, which can cost several hundred pounds. More serious damage can cause cheaper cars to be written off, often without insurance as misfuelling is not covered by some policies.

Rightfuel, which replaces the vehicle’s filler cap, uses the difference in nozzle diameters to protect diesel vehicles. If the correct diesel nozzle has been presented, a patented mechanism disengages its prevention flap, allowing fuel to be pumped into the tank. If the petrol nozzle has been selected, the prevention flap mechanism remains locked.

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