So the next day, I went to the nearby Citroen garage (the one recommended by my usual mechanic) and they duly plugged my car into their diagnostic computer. At this point the service manager came over and asked where I usually refilled my car and was it often at supermarket filling stations? I said yes, mostly. He then told me that he and his colleagues had been spotting a pattern where it seemed that the 'cheaper' fuels often led to 'waxing' in the fuel system (some kind of condensing of some ingredients of the diesel). This waxing can clog fuel filters. And this is what had happened to my car and it was going to cost about £160 to fix (including adding an additive the existing tank to stop that fuel doing any more harm).
He also added that he had had about 30 other people in with similar problems in recent days/weeks.
I was stunned.
I thought this is potentially a huge consumer story. In other words, 'cheap' fuel isn't that cheap if you have to shell out £160 to fix a problem that wasn't there before. So I emailed BBC Radio 4 You and Yours. They got back to me and said they would investigate and would I be willing to be interviewed.
And so here is the piece that was broadcast yesterday on You and Yours. It starts 11"30' in. The story grows and it seems is already the subject of investigation by agencies & associations involved in the fuel supply chain in the country. I cannot really know whether it was the tank of fuel from the Harvest filling station in Winslow that caused the damage or whether it was a consequence of accumulative visits to the Tesco filling station in Buckingham. Or indeed due to some other unknown factor. All I do know is that I now choose very carefully where I fill up my car. Pump price is not everything...
So has this happened to you? Has your diesel car 'waned' as a result of 'waxing'?
UPDATE 081213|1702: Email to Harvest Energy
On Wednesday 20 November I filled my tank with diesel from your filling station in Winslow, Bucks. I drove home to Buckingham. The following day, as I was accelerating to overtake a lorry on the Tingewick bypass, my EPS and 'Fuel Pollution System' warnings came on and my car lost power and went into 'limp' mode.
I made an appointment at a nearby citroen garage in Banbury for the following day. (The amber light and accompanying problem had accompanied my journeys onwards the previous day). They plugged my car into their computer and then asked me a curious question: where do I normally refuel my car and was it usually at supermarket outlets? I replied that there was a pattern in favour of tesco filling stations, but it just depended. They then informed me that my fuel filter was clogged and needed replacing due to 'waxing'. They also said that there was winter and summer diesel and perhaps my car had suffered due to the wrong mix. They strongly advised putting in a winter diesel additive to the remaining fuel in the tank to mitigate any problems with that batch. Of course I followed their advice.I await their reply.
The repair cost me £164.46. I am no expert of course in fuel technology and I have no idea whether it could have been your batch of fuel that did the damage, or an accumulation of other fuels over many months or indeed something else (this problem had never happened with my 3 year old Citroen C3 ever before). But I would like to know what specification of fuel was in your diesel tanks on that day and indeed whether you are aware of anyone else experiencing similar problems to me.
Details of the purchase are as follows:...
Many thanks, Very best wishes etc
UPDATE 081213|1716: BBC News story 5/12/13
Diesel fuel filter problems targeted in probe