Tony O'Kane | Aug 7, 2009

MELBOURNE MOTORISTS who purchased petrol from a small number of fuel stations around the city are being urged to keep a close eye on their vehicle's health.

Several vehicles have sustained damage from a suspected batch of contaminated fuel sourced from several independent service stations, and investigations to determine the exact cause of the contamination are ongoing.

Early testing indicates a silicon-based oil is to blame for the contamination. VACC spokesman David Russell says it's unlikely the retailers who sold the fuel were aware of the problem.

"We think at some point in the distribution chain something went wrong," Mr Russell told TMR.

"We certainly don't think the retailers were aware the fuel they received in their tanks was going to potentially cause engine failure for their customers.

"Preliminary results of the fuel testing that we have been doing suggests that its some amount of silicon oil that's the problem."

More comprehensive testing is underway, and the results are expected early next week.

Various reports have put the number of affected vehicles in the thousands, but VACC says only a couple of hundred cars currently appear to be damaged by the contaminated petrol.

fuel-refill

Until the testing is completed and the affected fuel stations decontaminated, motorists are being advised to monitor their cars for rough running, any white powdery residue on exhaust tips and sparkplugs, or a sweet smell from exhaust gasses.

"If your vehicle shows any of these signs, motorists should stop driving immediately as continuing to drive the vehicle may result in extensive engine damage," RACV Chief Engineer Michael Case said.

“The vehicle should be towed to a repair workshop where the fuel system can be drained and a full assessment of the damage made.

Damage caused by the petrol ranges in severity, with some vehicles needing only a new set of sparkplugs and others requiring a replacement engine. It's unknown whether the contamination also applies to premium unleaded petrol.

Car owners who suspect their vehicles are affected by the contaminated fuel are urged to have their mechanic diagnose the problem. Should their mechanic suspect a fuel issue, motorists should inform the petrol retailer they bought their last tank of fuel from.

"Motorists should speak with the relevant service station and fuel company regarding the fuel and repairs. If it can be proven that the fuel has caused the damage, owners should be reimbursed for the cost of repairs," the RACV's Michael Case said.

"If motorists are unhappy with the response, they should contact Consumer Affairs Victoria to pursue the matter."

Consumer Affairs Victoria can be contacted on 1300 55 81 81.

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