How do you get sugar out of a gas tank...or can I just leave it in there?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

I put sugar in my husband's gas tank, but the car has not been turned on yet. Is there any way we can get the sugar out or neutralized? -- Susan

TOM: Let me start by reminding you that, someday, Susan, the two of you are going to laugh about this.

RAY: But probably not as hard as we're laughing now!

TOM: Here's the story, Susan. A lot of people believe that putting sugar in a gas tank will ruin an engine. In fact, that's undoubtedly what you thought when you dumped that 5-pound bag in there (I'm sure he deserved it, Susan).

RAY: We know that sugar does not dissolve in gasoline. And there's an old myth that sugar will "caramelize" once it gets into the cylinders and turn your cylinder walls into peanut brittle. But the truth is, it'll never get as far as the engine.

TOM: Right. There are several filters between the tank and the engine that are designed to stop exactly this type of contaminant from reaching the engine. There's a "sock" at the end of the pickup tube in the gas tank, and there's a gas filter further up the fuel line. And the sugar will be stopped there.

RAY: It will, however, almost certainly plug up the fuel filter and stop the car from running. And, depending upon how much sugar you dumped in there, you might have to replace the fuel filter -- and get stranded -- several times before you clear it all out.

TOM: So you really should get the sugar out of there. And the only way to do it is to remove the gas tank, turn it upside down and dump it out.

RAY: You'll have to have it towed to a gas station, since you don't want to run the engine. Any decent mechanic can drop the tank and clean it out for you. It's not a huge job, but it's not something you're going to do yourself. It should cost you between $100 and $200.

TOM: And next time, think about doing something more easily reversible ... like putting itching powder in his shorts.

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