Diesel cars are being stricken by expensive cold weather fuel ‘waxing’ problem

Britain’s freezing cold weather has caused havoc for motorists across the country but diesel car drivers have been hit with a very unexpected and unwelcome problem, according to an analysis of RAC breakdown data.

RAC patrols yesterday attended almost 500 diesel vehicles of varying makes and ages that had experienced problems with their fuel filters becoming clogged. This represented a significant 5% of the 9,600 breakdowns the RAC dealt with on a day that saw 44% more call-outs than there should have been for the time of year, making it a real cause for concern.

Filters appear to have become blocked due to the formation of a gel-like substance in the diesel which leads to the engine being starved of fuel and either not starting or losing power. The amber engine malfunction indicator light might also show. The cost of a garage replacing a clogged diesel fuel filter could be as high as £200 depending on the vehicle.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “The RAC last saw issues with diesel ‘waxing’, as it is known, predominantly in the east of the UK in the very cold weather of late 2013, and to a lesser extent in periods of really cold weather since then. This should not occur as all diesel produced for UK winter use is formulated with additives to prevent waxing. In addition, modern diesel vehicles are fitted with heating elements on the fuel delivery lines to prevent waxing occurring. We are, however, aware that some vehicles’ fuel lines are more exposed than others which can exacerbate waxing issues.

“The problems seen in late 2013 led to a working group being set up to investigate the cause. The RAC is an active participant along with other breakdown service providers, motor manufacturers and representatives from the fuel industry.

“Frustratingly for motorists, however, there is still no solution to this problem. The most likely explanation appears to be that there are a combination of factors at play involving the diesel itself, its bio content, and the way vehicles move the fuel around their systems.

“Unfortunately there is nothing diesel car drivers can do to prevent the problem from occurring other than getting their vehicles’ fuel filter changed in line manufacturer guidelines and keeping their car in a garage if they can. Even then, this may not stop a problem happening out on the road.

“As a member of the working group set up across the industry to get to the bottom of this issue, the RAC is working hard to amass and analyse its breakdown data to help find a solution.”

8 thoughts on “Diesel cars are being stricken by expensive cold weather fuel ‘waxing’ problem

  • Bob Tattersdale
    4th March 2018 at 2:11 pm

    My 15 year old vw van worked just fine fitted a new battery 8year old one getting a bit tired to many gizmozs on new ones

  • Liam Hill
    5th March 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Diesel doesn’t tend to start to wax until temps drop below around -15C. I mean it should never be an unexpected problem, we get enough warning if temps are going to drop that low and you can pick up anti-waxing additives to add that will prevent it unless temps drop drastically lower than -15C.

    Also letting your car idle for 10mins before driving would warm up the fuel going into the engine enough so it would be fine under driving conditions anyway.

  • Liam Hill
    5th March 2018 at 9:33 pm

    It’s more a problem for haulage firms that have their own fuel pumps as it tends to have less additives in. Is why a lot of lorries have diesel heaters fitted.

  • Robert Martin
    6th March 2018 at 7:14 am

    My 22 year old Toyota hilux had no problems with the snow or ice and no freezing up.

  • Glyn Williams
    6th March 2018 at 4:00 pm

    We used to have the same problem when I was stationed in Germany. We had bottle of neat antifreeze outside guardroom and if it started to freeze then all vehicles had to be started up and kept running.


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