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How Does Sugar in Your Gas Tank Ruin the Vehicle’s Engine?

Where we’re from, there’s little debate about adding sugar to things (particularly like tea). The more sugar you add, the better.

However, when it comes to what happens when you put sugar in a gas tank, there’s quite a debate.

For decades a rumor has been circulating about how evil it is to dump sugar into someone’s gas tank. But is it really that bad? What actually happens?

Let’s take a closer look.

How Does Sugar Get in a Gas Tank?

Sugar doesn’t just find its way into a fuel system on accident. If you begin to experience issues with your vehicle and discover sugar in the gas tank, someone put it there.

From our experience, this is a pretty solid indication that you’ve made an enemy at some point.

Will Sugar Ruin an Engine? 

Despite what you may have heard, sugar in your gas tank likely won’t ruin an engine. While sugar dissolves in water, it doesn’t dissolve in gasoline. Modern vehicles typically have fuel filters capable of filtering out sugar.

You’ll have a very slim chance that any sugar will find its way into your engine.

Sugar may gunk up your fuel pump and cause it not to run efficiently, and ultimately stop working. This would prohibit your vehicle from starting but is not likely to ruin an engine.

How Can You Tell When Someone Puts Sugar in Your Gas Tank?

Unless you discover your gas cap open and an empty bag of sugar next to your vehicle, you likely won’t know if someone put sugar in your gas tank. 

At first, your vehicle will operate as usual. After a while, it will likely experience performance issues. This will include sputtering, lack of acceleration, and possibly your car not starting.

The decrease in fuel efficiency and overall performance issues may send you to your favorite local mechanic shop. They can diagnose the situation and come up with a plan to get you and your vehicle back on the road.

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What Actually Happens When There’s Sugar in Your Gas Tank?

If you’ve heard rumors about the horrors of putting gas in someone’s tank, they likely involve a fiery explosion. These stories gained momentum, and generation after generation accepted them as truth. 

However, a healthy dose of skepticism has led car enthusiasts to discover that the situation isn’t as explosive as they thought.

Those unlucky enough to have sugar in their gas tank likely wound up with clogged filters. This will decrease performance and result in a trip to the mechanic but won’t likely cause an explosion or engine failure.

Is it ideal? No. Will it ruin your vehicle? Most likely not.

How Do I Get Sugar Out of My Tank?

Because your fuel filters will do their job and filter out the sugar in the gas tank, you’ll probably need to replace them. If you’re not familiar with cars, let a professional take care of this. You don’t want to cause more damage by attempting this yourself if you don’t know what to do.

If the sugar got past the filter and got to your fuel pump, you’ll need to replace this too. This is another job for a mechanic and not something that just anybody should try. You want to minimize damage to your car, and doing it yourself can make it worse.

The fuel tank will also need a good cleaning. You need to clean out any sugar remnants. A failure to do so will result in a later trip to the mechanic to fix it. A mechanic will use the necessary chemicals on your tank to ensure it’s sugar-free before you hit the road again.

Pro Tip: Don’t put bad gas into your gas tank! Find out How Quickly Does Gas Go Bad?

What Can Destroy an Engine? 

It’s easy to see why so many drivers accepted the sugar myth as fact. Would you be willing to let someone dump some sugar in your gas tank to test it out? Absolutely not!

So it wasn’t until 1994 that John Thorton at the University of California, Berkeley proved it a myth.

While sugar won’t destroy your engine, a lack of maintenance will. Instead of wasting your time worrying about urban legends, stay up to date on your vehicle’s routine maintenance. 

Failure to do so can destroy your engine and leave you stranded on the side of the road. If you take care of the everyday things, you can cruise down the highway for years to come.

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