Sunday 24 March 2019

Kerosene 'fuel' ruins more than 500 car engines

First you lose power, and then the motor starts knocking - you are a victim of new fuel scam 'petrol stretching'

First you lose power, and then the motor starts knocking - you are a victim of new fuel scam 'petrol stretching'
First you lose power, and then the motor starts knocking - you are a victim of new fuel scam 'petrol stretching'
Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

More than 500 cars have had their engines blown in the last few weeks in the latest fuel scam known as "petrol stretching," the Sunday Independent has learned.

Petrol stretching, where cheaper kerosene is added to petrol, has so far cost Irish drivers, insurers and the trade at least €2m and has reached epidemic levels in Border counties, the West and parts of the Midlands

AutoTrade.ie uncovered the latest fuel threat when they began receiving reports of new and nearly new cars, "blowing" their engines.

They include holidaymakers in "142 reg" hire cars who filled up in the Midlands and then found their engine blown by the time they reached the Ring of Kerry.

Padraic Deane, managing editor of Autotrade.ie said: "Two weeks ago we estimated that there were over 100 cases of engines destroyed or disabled throughout the country but a survey conducted on Friday found there are now more than 500 cases of petrol engines destroyed or disabled due to petrol stretching."

Rogue retailers, many taking out leases on a short basis add 6pc to 10pc volume of kerosene to petrol. Kerosene home heating oil costs 80c per litre. Petrol costs €1.55 per litre.

On a standard delivery of legitimate petrol there is €700 in illegal profit to be made if it is thinned with 10pc kerosene. In most cases one or two "fills" of petrol contaminated with kerosene is enough to disable an engine.

The kerosene causes "coking," a build up of carbon deposits that causes irreparable damage. The engine loses power, misfires and the engine warning light illuminates.

Some insurance companies now exclude engine damage caused by contaminated fuel in their policies. Most motorists are not aware of this fact.

Now there are major disputes emerging over who has liability - the driver, the dealer or the insurer.

All major marques with mainly smaller petrol engines including Toyota, Volkswagen, Opel, Nissan, Skoda, Hyundai, Kia, and others have been hit.

Mr Deane said: "The Revenue Commissioners, Customs and Excise and gardai have all been investigating petrol stretching and it has been established there is a significant fuel contamination issue.

"There is little visible activity taking place to stop activity that's costing hundreds of motorists thousands of euro each in damage to their cars. If the price of petrol looks too good to be true then, in this case, it probably is," he said.

Dublin, Ireland's largest petrol car ownership market, has largely escaped the scourge of petrol stretching because most outlets are run directly by the big companies.

But in the West, Border counties and Midlands, a small minority of "fly by night" operators who are new to the trade are leasing independent forecourts and attempting to make a quick buck before leaving the area.

While the tide seems to have turned significantly in the war on diesel laundering, due to greater levels of investigation and significantly increased enforcement, fuel rackets still cost the authorities on both sides of the Border hundreds of millions of euro each year.

Sunday Independent

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