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Diesel contamination sparking debate


The Ministry of Consumer Affairs says it is keen to investigate reports of modern diesel vehicles whose engines have been damaged or destroyed by fuel contamination

The Dog and Lemon Guide says there's a growing but unacknowledged problem with modern diesel engines, which are susceptible to fuel contamination - and it's urgent the Government investigates.

It says, in some cases, filters are not up to the task of blocking water, dirt and other contaminants.

However, car manufacturers say their filters are fine and the problem is in the way fuel is stored and handled.

Hyundai New Zealand, diesel passenger vehicle market leader for the past five years, has reacted strongly to the story in which motorists were warned off purchasing diesel vehicles due to the risk of fuel contamination and supposedly ‘rushed to market’ technology.

“The issue with diesel bug is one that is purely related to the fuel supply, not vehicle technology. The fuel companies openly admit to the issue,” stated Tom Ruddenklau, Hyundai New Zealand’s National Sales Manager.

“We work closely with the fuel companies where diesel bug or dirty diesel is an issue, which over the past five years, has amounted to a total of five cases we are aware of out of 5607 Hyundai diesels sold. In every instance we have found the fuel companies to be very helpful and co-operative in getting the issues sorted, we are unsure of other brands experiences or attitudes.”

And it is surely not rushed technology. The latest R-Series diesel engine found in the Santa Fe, is a result of $290 million in R&D investment. Hyundai says this engine was developed over two years by 140 engineers working exclusively on this project and 500 prototype engines.

“Even though the fuel contamination issue is a fuel company issue, where it is proven that a Hyundai vehicle is at fault, Hyundai New Zealand will stand-by all Hyundai vehicles within their warranty period,” says Ruddenklau.

“As the fuel storage tanks at service stations get empty, the risk of condensation building up in the tank gets higher. Water is heavier than the fuel, so the risk of water getting into the vehicles tank when the storage tank gets low is greater. We advise for motorists to be consistent with their fuel purchasing if they can. That means purchasing their fuel from larger service outlets where the turnover of fuel is greatly higher, so the likely hood of the fuel being contaminated is much lower.”

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs says it has received only two complaints about the issue in the past year, and is keen to hear from owners so it can investigate.

Meanwhile, the MTA has issued steps diesel vehicle owners can take to minimise the risk of diesel contamination problems.

  • If your diesel vehicle is not used frequently, keep the tank topped up to reduce condensation occurring.
  • Avoid filling from low volume containers such as farm tanks, and be extra vigilant of contamination when doing so.
  • Get your vehicle serviced regularly.
  • Pay particular attention to fuel filters and change them regularly.
  • Get your vehicle checked immediately if the engine starts to cut out, particularly if you have only just filled your tank.
  • Consider sticking to one service station so you are more able to prove the source of your fuel if it is found to be contaminated.
  • Keep fuel receipts as proof of purchase if any problems occur.
  • Familiarise yourself with the warning signs for contaminated fuel in your vehicle

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