The organisation hasn’t yet found the root cause of the problem – so it is working with fuel retailers to work out what’s causing it.

It has its suspicions though: the 7% biofuel content that, by law, has to be added to diesel fuel. The issue concerns diesel fuel filters, which are becoming blocked by a gel-like substance in diesel. This starves the engine of fuel, causing it to either run on reduced power or not start at all. The orange engine warning light often also glows.

This is similar to the old problem of diesel fuel ‘waxing’ in winter – but it’s not the same. Waxing has been cured by modern additives… and whereas waxed fuel used to clear when the weather warmed up, this problem doesn’t: the fuel filter has to be completely replaced.

RAC patrols first noticed motorists were suffering from the issue last winter, but it disappeared over the summer. However, last month, when the cold weather returned, there were nearly 600 incidents! RAC technical director David Bizley said: “The industry is working extremely hard to find a solution… neither the fuel producers, nor retailers, nor the motor manufacturers saw this problem coming.

“The current specifications for all fuel sold at the pump have been developed over many years and continue to evolve based on a combination of test programmes and field experience. Specifications have been further tightened since the problem was first reported, but it’s clear that we still don’t fully understand all aspects of the underlying cause.

“The fact these issues are far more prevalent in the east than the west suggests that supplies to these areas have characteristics that are not common to the whole country.”

Have you suffered a diesel-related breakdown this winter? Did the recovery patrol or garage blame a blocked fuel filter? And if so, in what region do you live? Share your experiences with us…

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