April 22

2020 Dodge Ram 3500, Wrong Fuel

Dodge Trucks


Mark: Hi, it's Mark from TLR. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. 24 time winners, best auto repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How are you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today's victim is a newer vehicle, 2020 Dodge Ram 3500. What happened with this truck?

Bernie: Yeah. So the the owner of this vehicle, actually it's a company vehicle. Someone in the company had put the wrong fuel in the vehicle. It's a gasoline powered truck, 6.4 litre Hemi. They put diesel fuel into the gas tank. Not sure how they did that, but they did. And the vehicle was towed in, because it wouldn't run.

Mark: Okay, that does not sound good. So what happened because of this? 

Bernie: Well, it basically it wouldn't run and that's yeah it isn't a good thing to do. Putting wrong fuel in the vehicle is definitely not a good thing to do. So yeah, essentially the issue was it wouldn't run. 

Mark: How do you repair that?

Bernie: Well, first thing to do is to drain the fuel tank out or to remove the contaminated fuel. So there's a couple of ways we can do it. On this vehicle, it was a bit of a pain. What are typical practice is that we activate the fuel pump in the gas tank and pump the fuel out. Assuming it's a vehicle with an in-tank pump or a fuel injected vehicle, which is everything that's been built for the last 20 plus years. 

Basically pump the fuel out. This proved to be a bit of a pain on this vehicle, because it has a fuel pump module that wouldn't allow us to just pump fuel straight out. So we have to hook up a a remote pump, pump the fuel out, took a while, but we got all the fuel out. Then we basically get a couple of Jerry cans, 10 gallons of fuel and pour that into the vehicle. So that dilutes down anything that might be left over in the fuel tank. It's not a big deal to have a tiny little bit of a diesel left. So we do that, then flush out the fuel lines. And then we attempted to start the vehicle. 

Mark: So, how did it go? 

Bernie: Well, it barely coughed and ran. So I figured, okay. What's the next step? You know, we'd pumped in the fresh fuel. Pull the spark plugs out, found that they were severely contaminated, coated with diesel fuel, which makes sense. Diesel's an oil. It's not meant to be combusted in a gasoline engine. So we basically replaced the spark plugs, which was actually quite an ordeal on this vehicle, because this is one of those V8 engines that has two spark plugs per cylinder. So it ended up being a pretty pricey, time consuming job to change all 16 spark plugs. So we did do that. 

And I'm gonna show some pictures here and you can keep asking me questions if you want. Okay, there's a spark plug. I'll show the truck in a minute.

2020 Dodge Ram 3500, Wrong Fuel

So there's our sparkplug. And if you look closely, I mean, it looks very black. You would not see this on something that isn't contaminated and to touch the spark plug, there was a definite oily film all over it. So that basically just would not allow the spark to jump from, if you look at my mouse pointer, this gap to that gap, that's basically where the spark jumps between that area, the ground and the centre electrode. So replacing the plugs, the engine started up fine. 

This is an interesting thing we noted on this truck. This is obviously not a factory sticker, but this company had put this sticker here. And spite of that sticker someone still put diesel fuel in. So I believe for these folks, this has happened before. This is the first time we serviced this company's vehicles, but I'm assuming they must have a mixed fleet of diesel and gasoline and had this issue occur before.

2020 Dodge Ram 3500, Wrong Fuel

So I don't know what could have prompted someone not to put the diesel in, I guess, a sticker right over top of the fuel cap, but that's not really practical.

2020 Dodge Ram 3500, Wrong Fuel

There's the truck. A big rubber hammer. Big rubber hammer. And this is what happened after we started the vehicle. So we, yeah, so this is the inside of our shop. 

2020 Dodge Ram 3500, Wrong Fuel

So we had to push the truck in backwards because it was a heavy truck when it was dropped off by the tow truck. So we pushed the truck in backwards and this is, when we got it running, I thought I'd take a picture because it was kind of comical.

Mark: And that, and that's with, you've got the exhaust actually running outside because you don't run the exhaust inside.

Bernie: No, this is just quickly starting it up just to see how it works. So we'll run a car for a few seconds with the exhaust in the shop. Our shop's pretty ventilated and we can pop doors open. But you know, in the summertime, of course these doors are all wide open, but at this particular moment with the startup, we you gotta fill the shop up. It's not the worst. I started a diesel once that had such a huge soot problem that it filled the whole shop of black particles. Not this shop. My previous little shop. It was just absolutely hideous. In like one second, it was kind of crazy. 

Did we see the truck? No. Well, let's get back to it. And the truck. There we are. Yeah, we did see it actually. Yeah, we did. Yeah. Just breeze past it. Well, I mean, after that other picture, this is not that interesting. But it is a nice looking truck, in my opinion. So our picture show for the day. 

2020 Dodge Ram 3500, Wrong Fuel

Mark: So what else could have been damaged by putting diesel fuel in the gas tank? 

Bernie: Well, there's a few things. Of course, the fuel injection system on this vehicle is fairly simple. I mean, it's the pump. And then the fuel injectors. If it was a GDI, like a direct injection system, you would have like a high pressure pump and then some more sophisticated injectors. So fortunately this is a port injection system, kind of the older style. So the injectors could have been damaged. They weren't at the end of the day.

Could something happen down the road? Possibly. I think they'll probably end up being okay. I mean, the other thing that concerns me, the innards of the engine should be fine. I mean, diesel has extra lubrication, which can never really hurt. But maybe the catalytic converters may have got a little too much fuel in them, but I don't think the truck ran for long enough to really cause much damage. And I think driving it will burn it out, but that that's certainly something else that could have happened. 

I mean, the other thing that we did do is we did a motor back fuel injection cleaning after we got the truck running just to clean the fuel injectors and just, you know, and that cleans carbon deposits off the valves and in the combustion chamber. So that helps to remove anything like that that may have occurred. So I think it was a nice little extra bit of help, short of taking everything apart. But time will tell what, you know, whether there's any damage or not down the road. But I think it's probably going to be okay.

Mark: Is there any clues with the owner to know if further damage has occurred later on? 

Bernie: Well, I would say that, you know, I think the thing to monitor is if the check engine light comes on, of course, things will need to be tested. Things like if the catalytic converters were to be damaged, for instance, they would probably cause a check engine light to come on for catalyst efficiency code or a worst case scenario might be, the cats may plug up.

And then that would cause like an engine performance issue. But the other area too is if the injectors go bad, there’s probably be either trouble codes or an engine misfire that develops for that. So I think the spark plugs will be no problem. Of course they're brand new and everything's all cleaned out now.

But those are a couple of things that could happen, but I say there coulds, I mean, it would be a shame, you wouldn't want to change a bunch of stuff just because it might happen. You can address that down the road, save your money, for things that may never. 

Mark: Do you know how far the vehicle actually ran? Did it start after the diesel was put in and run for a bit? 

Bernie: That I don't know. I never actually talked to the person who brought the vehicle in and I don't really know. But here's how I suspect it would have gone down, you know, for the first few seconds while there's still gasoline being pumped in, it probably would have been fine until a diesel got in and it probably wouldn't have taken very long until it just went bad. 

Mark: Wouldn't the diesel have sunk to the bottom of the tank too, so it'd be one of the first things that the pump would start pumping.

Bernie: I don't really know, but it kind of makes sense. It probably would. It's a heavier fuel, so yeah, I think that makes sense. So it probably would have sunk to the bottom and that would have been the first thing that got sucked out. Yeah, that's for sure. So, yeah, but I think just for the first few seconds, there would have been at least some gasoline in there. Yeah. But it's amazing how sensitive fuel is to the way an engine runs. 

Quite a few years ago, we had this diesel truck come into our shop and someone had put gasoline like a lot of it in the gas tank. And we pulled it out and we thought, Hey, you know, this stuff looks clean. It actually smells like gasoline and Nigel, my mechanic and I decide, Hey, free gas. What a great thing. Don't ever put contaminated gas in your vehicle. We both learned a valuable lesson.

He put some in his boat. He barely got up away from the dock and his boat sputtered out. And he met, he managed to get back. I put it in my Subaru Outback was like a fuel injected you know, six cylinder engine start up, drove it, all of a sudden the engine was making these horrible knocking noises. And I thought, oh my God, you know, I don't know if this engine's going to blow up. Like it was horrific. So, I mean, it went to the gas station, filled it up full of fuel and it managed to work its way out pretty quickly, but it just taught me a valuable lesson. Contaminated fuel really causes an issue. Pure fuel is really important. 

Mark: So this is the wrong fuel, gas into a diesel. How often do you see this issue?

Bernie: Well this was the first time we've ever seen it? Because the diesel pump hand nozzle is actually larger than a gasoline. So it's almost impossible to put it in. So I did not quiz anyone as to how it happened. It may have happened that someone poured it in from a jerry can. And in which case yeah, because that end spout is the same, or it could be that someone was so used to a diesel, they just held the thing in and somehow filled it. I don't know. I'm thinking the jerry can thing might be the way. 

We often see people put gasoline in diesel cars and we've done a number of things. I don't know if you've ever done a podcast about it. We could do the one in the future. Next time someone brings one in because it'll happen. It happens with somewhat reasonable frequency. 

Mark: Even though it's a different colour on the pump, it says diesel it's all by itself. The diesel pump generally. Gas is separate. People still mix it up. 

Bernie: Yeah. Well, you know I've a diesel truck. I've had it for a year and a half before that everything I owned was gasoline, but I still, every time I go fill it up, I'm always like, I always grabbed the nozzle and actually smell it because I'm going, I don't want to screw up because it's so easy to do. But one day I was a little, I don't know flustered, stressed out, rushed. And I almost grabbed the gasoline nozzle and you know, like I had it in my hand. I go, wait a minute. You know? So it's, it's an easy thing to do. And of course it's easy to put gas into a diesel because, because the nozzle is smaller.

So it happens. Fortunately all the diesels we've ever had, people, they've been at the gas station and go, oh crap. I did the wrong thing. And they tow it in right away, which is the best thing you can do. Or people have driven at a tiny little bit and it runs crappy for a second. And then it's like, we bring it in and to make a long story short. I mean, no one's ever damaged anything beyond having the fuel system cleaned out, but you know, that's subject for another podcast. 

Mark: And I guess those are your closing thoughts. 

Bernie: My closing thoughts. Yes, they are just, well, like you said, make sure you really check it. Like you said, the nozzles are different, but it's easy to make a mistake. So, and if you're pouring from a jerry can, be really certain of the kind of fuel you're pouring in. Smell it. Look at the quality of it. 

Mark: If you've put the wrong fuel in your vehicle, get it towed to Pawlik Automotive. We can help. You can reach them at their website, pawlikautomotive.com to book in, or in this case, it might be more of an emergency. So you want to call them (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. They're busy, but they'll try and fit you in, get it repaired.

This is serious. Things go boom when they have the wrong fuel in them, and it's really expensive and you don't want that. Pawlikautomotive.com. Check it out. We have hundreds and hundreds, close to a thousand videos of all makes and models and types of repairs. The YouTube channel is Pawlik Auto Repair, same thing there. We've been doing this for over 10 years now. And I thank you for watching and listening. Thanks Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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