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Does my rental car take petrol or diesel?

We are car enthusiasts here at our company, so none of us will sweat being able to tell the difference between a diesel and petrol car.

We do appreciate, however, that not all our customers have this ability.

Accordingly we have compiled some hints and tips that may help you figure out if your rental car takes diesel or petrol so you can avoid any messy mis-fuelling problems with your rental car.

First off, we should mention that the vast majority of rental cars the world over take petrol. We’d estimate that only roughly one in twenty rental cars available take diesel.

Petrol cars, generally speaking, cost less and are easier to maintain than diesels, and though they may not deliver the same miles per gallon that diesels do, this is of little concern to the rental agents since it’s the customers who will be paying for the fuel.

Unless you specifically request to rent a car with a diesel engine, chances are you will end up with a petrol engine.

In most cases you can take this as your general rule of thumb, however in the case of certain types of vehicles, 4x4s for example, it is more likely that you could end up with a diesel.

Many pick-ups and 4x4s actually come only in diesel.

So, just to be absolutely safe, here are some more specific indications that can tip you off:

1. The Engine Noise

If you know what to look for you should be able to tell simply by starting the engine.

Most modern petrol engines will start up rather quietly and will rev fairly quietly as well (excluding certain exotic models like a Mustang which typically has a V6 or even V8 engine).

By comparison with the ordinary petrol engines, a diesel will start up much louder and with more of a chugging sound almost like a tractor. Many commercial vehicles like buses or lorries have diesel engines, so you will probably recognise the sound.

If you can’t hear the engine well from inside the car and still aren’t sure, roll down the windows and give it a rev and the difference in sound should be obvious if it’s a diesel.

2. The Rev Counter

If sound of the engine still isn’t conclusive, the dashboard should be your next stop.

Diesel engines tend to rev much lower than petrol ones, so the tachometer or rev counter found beside the speedometer is the next place to look.

A diesel engine will usually have a tachometer running from 1-6, with the red section beginning around 4 to 5 (these numbers represent RPMs or revolutions per minute by the 1000s).

A petrol car on the other hand will sometimes read up to 8 or 9 on the tachometer with the red zone starting at around 6 or 7.

3. The Badge

We operate under a policy we call “or a similar car”, which means that we can’t always guarantee the precise make or model which you request, however most car manufacturers will identify the model by a series of names, numbers, and letters.

If you see a ‘D’ anywhere in the model number of the car, and you will usually see the model badge with this number on the boot lid, the ‘D’ probably means that it’s a diesel engine.

For example, the diesel model of the BMW 320 is called the 320d, and the petrol model is called the the 320i. Similarly, a Volvo may have D4 on its badge for its diesel version and T5 for its petrol version.

So do take a look at the boot lid for a model number as it may help to answer your question. Every modern diesel engine is turbo charged and many of these models include ‘TDi’ in its number, where the “D” again stands for diesel.

4. The Filler Cap

If having checked all of these things you are still not sure, the filler cap will almost always have a label label to tell you which kind of fuel the car takes.

Labeling on the inside of the fuel cap is common for every car manufacturer, so as a last resort the fuel cap should let you know which type of fuel you need (not to mention the smell!).

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