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A word of Caution regarding Diesel Pumps

| Updated Jan 17, 2024

By Mary Jane Curry

NOTE: This post was published in 2016.

Jeff and I started our first cross-country trek in our 2013 Roadtrek RS Adventurous just 2 weeks ago. We are sharing this article with fellow Roadtrekers with the hopes of helping others avoid a similar experience.

After a long day on the road traveling from Minnesota to Wisconsin, we pulled into a gas station just across the state line and within a mile of our campground for the evening. The station was busy, however we pulled up to the pumps within a minute or so. Jeff jumped out of the rig and grabbed the ‘green' colored pump that we are very familiar with in California and Oregon and the same in the states we stopped in on our travels east.

We had 1/4 tank of diesel and filled the remainder of the tank and then filled our propane. Jeff noticed that about a 1/4 cup of fuel came back after removing the nozzle, which was unusual but nothing else of concern at the time. Our next stop was a mile down the road at the campground.


The camp host provided local information and as we restarted the rig, it was slow to turn over, taking 3 tries. We settled in our site and set up camp. Jeff decided to unscrew the fuel tank cap and a pint of fuel came spurting out. We cleaned up the spillage and decided to head back to check the fuel pump a mile away and then check for a laundromat.

As we accelerated slightly just before entering the gas station, the engine hesitated slightly for a second or 2 and then went back to normal. We pulled up next to the exact same pump we had used to fuel just 30 minutes ago and to our shock and dismay, the fuel pump with the green handle was for gasoline not diesel. Our eyes scanned the gas station and sure enough a different bay of fuel tanks with yellow handles and a decent size sign clearly stated diesel.

We turned the engine off immediately and called for a flat bed pick up and tow to the Mercedes dealer 20 miles away.

It was after 6pm on a Saturday night, all the hotel rooms for 6 nearby cities were filled to capacity, so we spent the next 2 nights in the service lot. The Service Dept. assisted us and provided us with a 2nd tow to the Mercedes dealer 20 minutes east of their location, as this Service Dept. worked on Sprinters and had familiarity with this type of problem. A little silver lining transpired as we learned the 2nd tow was a free courtesy and that Mercedes provides Mercedes roadside assist to all their clients that spend $150 per year in the Service Dept.

Our rig was looked at that afternoon and a scope to determine the extent of damage revealed good news! No damage. The lines were flushed and we were re-fueled with diesel the next morning and given a final check and clearance that we were good to go! The Service Manager stated, ‘you're not the first this has happened to and you won't be the last.'

We received helpful information from members of our Facebook Group regarding various insurance coverages, similar encounters and resolutions etc… all helpful and appreciated. Our bill came to a little over $1,000 plus tows and a hotel one night on Monday but we were well aware that we could we looking at up to $10,000 and a significant time delay in our travels, so we were happy to have the problem resolved with minimal set back.

We are grateful for this group and the many tips we have picked up over the past 2 plus years as we gradually prepared for our first cross-country trip just a few weeks ago. Tips included e-bags, all-weather sleeping bags and foam toppers, organizational tips, and even a recent tip regarding yellow handle diesel pumps! Somehow we didn't think of that pearl of wisdom in time. The pumps we pulled up to did not have yellow handles and Jeff went with the familiar ‘green'!

A couple of cautions to fellow travellers:

1. Try not to travel beyond Mike's guidelines of 330 miles a day or to settle in by 3:30pm.

2. Look twice and fuel once when you are at the pumps in unfamiliar territory!

Mike Wendland

Published on 2016-10-16

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

5 Responses to “A word of Caution regarding Diesel Pumps”

October 28, 2016at12:16 pm, Carol said:

Thank goodness my husband was paying attention when we stopped at a pump like this!!!

October 17, 2016at10:00 am, Bradleau said:

that happened to us with a F 350 . Went to the truck side of the station, used the green pump as per usual. It turned out to be gasoline. Lucky we did not damage much. But the bill was over $1000 ….not counting the upset folks behind us when we were limping down the road. Got many an eagle salute. This was a gas station we used frequently. Shell I think.

October 17, 2016at8:15 am, Daniel Johnston said:

Same exact problem, bet it was a BP pump. We got about 15 miles and went into Limp Home mode, then died. Good Wam picked up the tow, $700 and about $600 for flush. Later two temp sensors were burned out and another $1800. MB service fellow said “not uncommon”. But with Common Rail injector system, there is no mechanical pump like old days so that part is gone, which was the expensive part. And engine fault codes do a good job of keeping us out of too much trouble. Now my wire checks that I have the right pump. :).

October 16, 2016at8:43 am, Walt Huemmer said:

Yikes this sounds like a nightmare but could’ve been so much worse. Glad it worked out in the end. Makes one wonder why they don’t require the hose for standard gas that can’t inserted into a deisel tank?

October 18, 2016at3:45 pm, LimboMan said:

I had thought that the gasoline nozzles would not fit into the diesel tank openings? Maybe it was the other way around… where diesel nozzles have larger diameters than the gasoline ones?

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