Putting the Wrong Fuel Into a Rental — Reader Mistake Story

Jan 9, 2019

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Heather, who had a mix-up at the pump while traveling abroad:

My brothers and I spent a week in Ireland to see the sights and our favorite band in Belfast and Dublin. We rented a car at the Dublin airport and set out to explore the beautiful isle. While we thought the hardest part of the trip would be winging it one night with no hotel reservations, we discovered the real challenge was filling our gas tank.

After stopping outside Galway for gas, we drove north. I thought my brother was messing with us by fluttering the gas pedal, but he pulled over quickly on the side of the road, turned off the car and told everyone to get out. He had us check the receipt to see which kind of fuel we put in the car. It turned out we filled our diesel tank with unleaded fuel! Gas stations in Ireland use black handles for diesel and green for unleaded — the opposite of how it’s done in the US. Without thinking, we had grabbed the green handle and filled up the car.

Luckily for us, we live in an age of mobile phones and internet. We found a service called Fuel Rescue that spends their days helping people like us. We spent a lovely hour or two next to a quiet pasture, then an hour speaking to a wonderful local who pumped out the unleaded fuel, changed our filter and refilled us with some diesel. He recommended a great place for lunch in the next town, and shared some funny stories with us, including one about helping another tourist twice in the same day!

The moral of the story: pay attention to the colored handles and fuel while traveling!

I can see how the pump handle would have tripped up Heather and her brother, and it’s good to be aware of the inverted color scheme. However, handle and nozzle colors are inconsistent even in the US, which is why AAA cautions drivers to rely on the pump label rather than on the color or shape of the nozzle when selecting fuel. Like many mistakes, this one should be easy to avoid by paying closer attention.

I credit Heather with at least knowing which type of fuel she needed, since a much more common mistake (for Americans) is to assume a rental car overseas takes unleaded gas. Only a small percentage of vehicles in the US operate on diesel fuel, and they’re especially scarce among rentals, but diesel-powered vehicles represent more than 50% of the total fleet in some European countries. That’s why in addition to reading up on local driving laws, customs and permit requirements, verifying which type of fuel to use is an absolute must.

One more thing to keep in mind: while many US credit cards offer roadside assistance benefits, they generally don’t apply outside North America. If you need service abroad and you’re not covered by your personal insurance or another third party like AAA, then plan on paying for it yourself.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Heather a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image via Shutterstock.

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