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Old 27th May 2023, 14:09   #1
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VW Polo GT TSI - My experience dealing with contaminated fuel

It's been long since I posted on this forum owing to the pandemic, work and family committments. I also relocated from Bangalore to Hyderabad last year and that has added to errands quite a bit. I have a couple of to-start threads, but my recent experience with contaminated fuel and its aftermath pushed this thread priority to top. I thought I should share this with the forum as soon as possible.

As some of you might be knowing I own a VW Polo 2011 1.2 MPI and a GT 1.2 TSI. I moved the GT to Hyderabad and got it re-registered locally - that is topic for another thread. For both the cars, I always used to frequent a fuel outlet near my parent's place and get the tanks filled to the brim - alternating between normal and performance petrol.

During the relocation, I switched to an apartment a bit closer to office, but still went to the same outlet for fuel refill. However last week, because of less time in hand - I had to go to the airport to drop some relatives - I thought why not give a couple of new outlets a try. The following series of events describe my plight post the thought.

Note: I have intentionally withheld a names/details in this thread. They have no bearing on my experience I otherwise had.

May 21, 2023

At around 7 PM, I drove to the outlet #1 opposite my aparment complex, on the service road. On reaching there, I was told that there was no performance variant stock. So I switched gears, drove a further two kms to an outlet #2 that had it in stock and I filled the tank to full - that's about 80% of tank capacity pumped in and around Rs. 4000.

I drove back the same two kms without any hassle and parked the car in the basement.

May 22, 2023

I was to leave at 6 PM to reach my relative's place, help them with packing and then next day, drop them at the airport. On cranking the car engine, it would not start. On multiple attempts, only once did it try to start, and it did not even reach idle speed. The engine would stall within a few seconds. All this while, I noticed that the lights inside the cabin were very dim. I called up the VW SA - incidentally, the service center is also opposite my apartment complex - this is where all the services were done for both the cars when in Hyderabad. Since my RSA with VW expired and my insurance company was not responding, SA suggested to call VW toll free and arrange for paid jump start.

Looking at the situation, we paused our travel and rescheduled it for next day.

The technician arrived a couple of hours later carrying a jump start machine. Before he arrived, we tried using a running Jazz to charge the battery using cables but it did not work. With the machine in hand, we tried to start the engine but it would not. The techinician would remove the machine once he would hear cranking sound. That would immediately shut down the engine. I remember clearly telling the RSA rep to carry a battery for jump start. I gave the technician an earful and sent him his way.

Immediately, I called my friend and colleague graaja who recommended that I test the battery and check if the voltages match specs as noted in the image below.

https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/attac...y-voltages.gif

I measured the following:

Engine off - 12.6 V
Cranking - < 9 V
Running - could not measure

Convinced that the battery conked (which it did), I called up a local battery store to arrange a replacement the next morning.

I could not sleep well that night and around 10 PM, went down to the basement again to check. The car started and retained engine idle with good throttle response for about 10 min after I switched each electrical equipment ON and OFF including the wiper motors prior to start. I decided that I will take the car to service once I got the battery replaced.
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Old 27th May 2023, 14:13   #2
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Re: VW Polo GT TSI - My experience dealing with contaminated fuel

May 23, 2023

The battery guy comes in at 11 AM, replaced the battery. All voltages look good - but the car would not start. Immediately, I went to the service center and asked for a technician to be sent for a quick check. The technician came in at 3 PM and tried starting the car, but it would not budge. From my experience the previous night, I turned ON and OFF all electrical equipment, and viola it started but with a difference. There was no throttle response - only a full press on the throttle would the rpm rev up to 2000 rpm. Immediately the technician said something was wrong and recommended that it to be driven to the service center. On engaging the gear and moving a few meters, the EPC light came up with and traction control OFF light illuminated. The car could not climb the entry ramp of the parking, but somehow the technician managed to drive over the exit ramp that had a lower gradient. In about 5 min, we were at the service center.

On doing some research, I realized that the ECU put the car in limp mode and intentionally turned OFF the traction control. It is inbuilt feature of car to prevent any further damage to the engine.

The chief technician took a look a the starting dynamics of the car and said something is wrong with fuel system, and that he will be able to comment only next day.

May 24, 2023

At about 1030 AM, the SA calls me and says that they found water in fuel lines and they wanted my approval to start draining the tank - note that the tank was full with 45 L of fuel. I authorized it immediately. At about 4 PM, the SA and the technician working on my car call me in conference and mention that there is lot of water in the tank and asked me when I refuelled recently. I mentioned about the experience on May 21 and they asked me to take it up with the outlet immediately.

One more point I came to note was that outlet #2 was the official fuel provider for all new cars at the service center and only recently did they switch to outlet #1. This point has some significance for later.

Towards the end of the day, I got another update that all of fuel system was opened up, left to dry over night.

May 25, 2023

I got a call from SA at 930 AM asking for authorization to purchase fuel to clean all parts of the fuel system. I paid outlet #1 for some fuel and asked the technician to give an update later. The SA also sent me videos of water in the tank while the techinican was uninstalling it for repair.

At around 4 PM, I get a call saying that the car was repaired, test drive was completed and ready for delivery. I asked the fuel drained to be stored safely. The bill came out to about Rs. 10,000.

All this while, I was in constant touch with graaja and also was reading the forum for advice. graaja recommended that I take the car first and go next day to the outlet #2 with an official complaint.

I took the car at 630 PM, drove it an additional 10 kms for test, convinced it was road-worthy and took it home. The chief technician also advised to take it easy for a couple of weeks, not revving the engine too hard and not to head out long highway drives.

May 26, 2023

I was thinking on how to handle the situation the whole day - whether or not to raise an official complaint with fuel refinery or with consumer court. I heeded to graaja's advice and at around 5 PM, I went out to the outlet #2 armed with fuel bill paid receipt, service advisory and bill/receipt.

I met the manager of the outlet, explained him of the situation, and also showed him the videos. VW now uses a service cam website where they show issues with car while the service is happening. He was shocked to hear there was water and showed me logs of the particular fuel station where only 57 L of fuel was sold that day - this being performance variant - and of that 38 L was for my car. He patiently heard to my grievance, acknowledged that there was a problem and within 30 minutes asked me how much compensation I was looking for. I explained to him of all the expenses I had, and asked him to only compensate for fuel and the damages amounting to Rs. 14,000. To my disbelief, he immediately obliged and asked me to take him to service center to collect the stored fuel. He came with me, collected the fuel, paid the amount and left. He later requested that the video not be shared because the outlet had good reputation in the locality and that his business might be affected. He also recommended me to test the fuel next time I take from a new outlet before taking a full tank.

I later checked the localites and the service center on the credentials of the outlet - it appears that the owner of the outlet is a very well respected person in the area and for him, customers come first.

All well that ends well. However, I do have some learnings from this experience:
  1. Always take a bill/receipt of fuel with vehicle #, quantity of fuel and date. I only had the payment receipt from outlet #2.
  2. If a car does not start on a couple of attempts, do not proceed further. Better to start diagnosis starting from battery and if it looks okay, call up the SA or a trusted technician.
  3. Talk to peers, friends and colleagues about potential issues that can be debugged - but do not proceed on your own. Nudge the SA or technician to look in that direction.
  4. It is always a good thought to bring up issues with some one in a calm manner. Had I not heeded advice from graaja, things might have taken a different turn. This has been a big learning from me since I do not entertain low quality of work and I easily get into arguments.
  5. Maintain good relationships with the service center - I have been going to the same service center for about 11 years - people have changed - but they do recognize me whenever I go and advice me of best possible options.
  6. Give benefit of doubt - I did feel that the manager was genuinely interested in compensating my monetary loss, and that even he had not expected such an issue would crop up. He did promise me that he would look into the root cause of the issue and solve it before it affects others.

Thank you for reading this lengthy post. Any thoughts/comments would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 28th May 2023, 08:37   #3
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Re: VW Polo GT TSI - My experience dealing with contaminated fuel

So happy that it finally ended well for you, a lot of agony and pain. I also have a Polo and would have been had there been any damage to the vehicle.

Thanks for the troubleshooting steps that you provided.
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Old 28th May 2023, 09:54   #4
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Re: VW Polo GT TSI - My experience dealing with contaminated fuel

Amazed to see the fuel pump manager action.
This is quiet rare in this dog eat dog world.

And also surprised to see a good VW service experience.

Cheers.
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Old 28th May 2023, 11:45   #5
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Re: VW Polo GT TSI - My experience dealing with contaminated fuel

Some takeaways from your incident :

1.) Faced similar water in fuel errors for my Polo and Harrier. The key reason is when fuel bunk level drops down at station water is pumped into cars. So I have identified the time when fuel trucks arrive at fuel stations to refill and get my cars filled only after that.

2.) Don’t fiddle with car once a problem arises. Best is park it and call service station. You were very lucky here since only fuel line cleaning solved your problem and VW ECU saved you by going into limp
Mode. Otherwise damage would have been catastrophic and your thread on team bhp would have been very different ��

3.) Always show trust in the SA and build relationships. I have seen people misbehaving with SA and then SA pay them back in their style. I have exceptional relationship with VW and Tata SA and they ensure that my cars stay reliable and I do not spend even an extra penny on anything and I always get some goodies and discounts from them. Because of such wonderful folks at VW and Tata, I am a repeat customer of VW and Hopefully Tata. Your VW SA was very generous to charge only 10,000 for this otherwise this was an opportunity to play a part replacement game.

4.) Try to refill near to halfway mark to avoid end time disruption to travel plans as any impurities get diluted in the half good fuel.
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Old 28th May 2023, 12:21   #6
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Re: VW Polo GT TSI - My experience dealing with contaminated fuel

Quote:
Originally Posted by srinivasnvns View Post
U]

At around 7 PM, I drove to the outlet #1 opposite my aparment complex, on the service road. On reaching there, I was told that there was no performance variant stock. So I switched gears, drove a further two kms to an outlet #2 that had it in stock and I filled the tank to full - that's about 80% of tank capacity pumped in and around Rs. 4000.
Theres a phenomenon with fuel called as "Stale Fuel", which means the fuel is sitting in the tank for longer periods. In this condition the fuel which is not rotatated continously, will get oxidized and destablizes the fuel, creating some unwanted products which will eventually create problems, with fuel filters, fuel pumps, low mileage or engine missing. Regular gasoline have a shelf life of 3-6 months while diesel can go longer, upto a Year or so.

Looks like the "performance varaint stock" is not a common commodity with the other users and have been probably lying inside the tank for longer periods to create such issues in the first place.

Hence its always advisable to use fuel from the pumps where continous inflow and outflow happens.

Thanks
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Old 28th May 2023, 17:37   #7
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Re: VW Polo GT TSI - My experience dealing with contaminated fuel

Woah !! Glad to know that in the end things turned out in your favour and Kudos to good support from VW.

Really difficult to find such people who would accept the fault at their end and compensate for the same.

Regarding the Petrol bunk Manager mentioning to check fuel quality? How can we quickly check the fuel quality to avoid such nightmares?

P.s. I too have a Polo, A manual TSI.

Thanks for sharing the experience.
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Old 28th May 2023, 18:46   #8
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Re: VW Polo GT TSI - My experience dealing with contaminated fuel

Good to know that you had a sigh of relief after all the follow-ups with VW service center and Fuel retail outlet. Perhaps it would have taken a toll on your mental agony and at the same time taking care of routine activities.

It was very nice gesture from the fuel outlet manager. Notable point is that you had thought about gathering evidences from the service center.

This incident connects me to a similar issue in my GT TSI. It is a 2021 model. I did not face all these side effects like engine stalling, starting issues, loss of power, etc. One fine morning when I was started the car, I just noticed the "CHECK ENGINE" symbol. I reported this to the VW service center and after diagnosis they said it was because of contaminated fuel. Somehow I missed to gather evidences. They drained the entire fuel, cleaned the entire fuel system and the check engine was nullified. So far I don't have issues after that.

Now that I am facing starting issues in my BRIO AUTOMATIC. As I write this, its in the service station. The write up which you (@srinivasnvns)had started will help is knowing the root cause. Prima facie they suspect the fuel pump issue.
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Old 29th May 2023, 00:46   #9
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Re: VW Polo GT TSI - My experience dealing with contaminated fuel

Quote:
Originally Posted by srinivasnvns View Post
It's been long since I posted on this forum owing to the pandemic, work and family committments. I also relocated from Bangalore to Hyderabad last year and that has added to errands quite a bit. I have a couple of to-start threads, but my recent experience with contaminated fuel and its aftermath pushed this thread priority to top. I thought I should share this with the forum as soon as possible.


Note: I have intentionally withheld a names/details in this thread. They have no bearing on my experience I otherwise had.
While I respect the privacy that you have kept, do you mind sharing the name and location of petrol pump for general public awareness and not getting into this issue again.
I recently shifted to Hyderabad and own a Rapid TSI 1.0 which is very sensitive to fuel quality. In fact I have already identified few pumps here with bad quality as the 1.0 liter runs very rough on bad fuel.
Thanks in advance and good luck that your engine was just saved.
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Old 29th May 2023, 08:24   #10
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Re: VW Polo GT TSI - My experience dealing with contaminated fuel

Filter paper test people!! When we fill up at a new bunk its best we all take that extra 2 mins are request a filter paper test!!

I so think that the pumps name and location should be mentioned. Though they were very courteous to you, something was not done right in the first place, done with a high possibility to cheat people. Even though you got compensation, I think you ought to mention the name and location, and also let the owner know that this happened in his bunk. We must not protect cheats or people who have made grave mistakes!

Last edited by thirdmainroad : 29th May 2023 at 08:28.
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Old 29th May 2023, 09:26   #11
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Re: VW Polo GT TSI - My experience dealing with contaminated fuel

It is very good to know that your car is fine now

However, I can make an educated guess as to what might have happened. Performance fuels do not get sold as much as regular ones. So it is quite likely that the fuel was sitting inside the underground tank at the fuel station. And since petrol is hygroscopic, it absorbed a lot of water from the ambient air which then got pumped into your car. This is exactly why it is always recommended to buy regular fuel from busy fuel stations where the fuel would not get as much time to absorb moisture.

Additionally, it is usually a common practice amongst various fuel stations, fuel tankers, etc. to pilfer fuel and then add various lower-value fluids like kerosene, ethanol, etc. to make up for the lost volume. This is especially rampant in situations where the fuel would expand in volume during travel like say for example in a tanker truck driven from the plains to the high-altitude areas. Unless the quantity of kerosene is a lot, its adulteration in petrol would not create much of an issue apart from violating pollution norms. However, a highly hygroscopic substance like ethanol is a major problem when it comes to its adulteration in petrol. Sadly, it is legal to an extent and shady opportunists are looking to push the limits even further

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 29th May 2023 at 14:45. Reason: Edited. Thanks!
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Old 29th May 2023, 09:28   #12
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Re: VW Polo GT TSI - My experience dealing with contaminated fuel

Sir may I know which outlet you went to.Id also like to know which showroom you bought your car from?
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Old 29th June 2023, 19:24   #13
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Re: VW Polo GT TSI - My experience dealing with contaminated fuel

Premium fuel is not so fast moving in general and tend to be in the sump for a long duration, making it prone to contamination due to condensation or external factors like rain water etc. It is always advisable to go with the fast moving fuel dispenser, specially at unknown pumps.

Thanks to OP for sharing experience and now I'll be even more careful.

Last edited by Aviator_guy : 29th June 2023 at 19:25.
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