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Sugar tastes good in almost everything except vehicles. It is very hard to place why anyone would want to add sugar to the fuel in their gas tank, except of course if they have been a victim of a prank. Prank or not, sugar definitely does not go down well with vehicles. The extent to which the strange substance could affect a vehicle is largely dependent on the quantity poured into the gas tank and how long it took for the vehicle owner to realize that sugar had made its way into the tank.

Unfortunately, if that vehicle owner is you, who was completely unaware of the sugar present in your gas tank and attempted to start your car several times before giving up on it, then there is the possibility that the sugar might have caused some damage somewhere.

Having an understanding of what is in your gas tank and how it operates can give you a clearer insight as to what is likely to happen with sugar in your gas tank. Here are some key things to note.

gas tank

Background on Gas Tanks in Automobiles

It is common knowledge that fuel stored in the gas tank is primarily used to start a car. The pump in the fuel tank is responsible for transporting fuel to the injection system or carburettor in the vehicle. It is, in this very location that air is mixed with fuel and absorbed by the engine to start the vehicle and keep it running.

This gas tank, usually made of steel, aluminium or high-density polyethylene, is well designed to withstand the coarse nature of either gasoline or diesel (or whatever fuel the vehicle is designed to run on). However, the introduction of foreign elements like water or gasoline in a diesel engine can damage the fuel pump. Further damage to the fuel pump can also be caused by the continuous running of a vehicle on low gas, as well as using fake or contaminated fuels. Despite the fact that gas tanks are designed to be very durable, due to consistent use or other factors,  it could wear out and have leaks.

What Happens When Sugar Mixes With Gasoline in a Gas Tank?

If you find out that sugar somehow found its way into your gas tank and you are worried about the consequences that arise when both substances mix, fear not, but act quickly. As it turns out, sugar doesn’t dissolve in fuel and can certainly clog the car.

Sugar (also known as sucrose) is a dry and heavy substance compared to gasoline which is a liquid fuel (made up purely of hydrogen and carbon). As established, sugar does not dissolve in gasoline; rather than dissolve, the sugar will just settle at the bottom of the gas tank because it is heavier than gasoline which could just damage the fuel filter by clogging it.

At this point, the only questions that should be bugging you is “what is the quantity of sugar that was poured in the vehicle?”. This is what would determine the extent of the damage that it could cause.

Although the most common damage is the clogging of the fuel filter, it is not as serious as it might seem or sound right now. But if you have attempted to start the vehicle several times and it did not work, you should be a little worried.

What Happens When the Fuel Filter of the Vehicle is Clogged With Sugar?

The Fuel filters (found mostly in combustion engines) attached to the fuel line is responsible for screening rust particles or other impurities and dirt from the fuel. This is to ensure that only clean fuel gets into the engine. The filter is a key component in vehicles that help keep the fuel pump and engine running smoothly. In fact, it is usually advised to change the fuel filter as often as possible to keep the engine of the vehicle healthy for much longer periods.

If the fuel gets clogged, it becomes impossible to perform its primary responsibility, which is to serve clean fuel to the engine. Once it is unable to do this, it would restrict the flow of fuel in the fuel system flow which would make it very difficult for anyone to start the vehicle or even put it in motion. In other words, a clogged fuel filter means no fuel is supplied to the engine when you start the vehicle. And if you persist with this, it could knock it out because fuel is not supplied to the engine. And you might have to do a major overhaul.

It is not very difficult to spot that sugar has been poured into your gas tank, especially since the mouth of the gas tank is small. Pouring that kind of substance into the gas tank would be very difficult except if done with a fuel. If you are able to spot the sugar, lucky you!

man checking gas tank

What Should Your Do After You Notice Sugar Around the Filler Cap (Gas Cap) of Your Vehicle?

If you are able to detect early that someone played a quick one with your vehicle, after tracing sugar around the filler cap (gas cap), you can try and clean the gas tank. However,  truthfully, the only option you may be left with is to pay a visit to a professional mechanic or your local garage to take out the gas tank. This is because it would be difficult for you tell the quantity of sugar that was poured into it.

If a heavy quantity was found, it is possible that the fuel filter will be clogged, making it difficult for the sugar to reach to the engine, however, it also means that the fuel would not be able to pass through the filter to reach the engine. So to be safe, and to avoid causing any further damage to the vehicle, it is best to have it towed to a mechanic’s shop for a thorough clean that involves flushing out the sugar and replacing the fuel filter if need be, rather than force starting the vehicle.

Sources:

  1. How to Drop a Gas Tank – wikiHow
  2. How to Clean a Gas Tank – wikiHow

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