What Happens When You Put Sugar in a Gas Tank?

Pouring sugar into a gas tank has sometimes been shown in movies and TV shows, but does it actually damage engines in real life?

This article explains the effects of introducing sugar into fuel systems. Learn whether it can truly disable vehicles by “caramelizing” the engine, how it impacts combustion, and what to do if you’ve become a victim of this not-so-sweet prank.

sugar in gas tank

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What Does Sugar in a Gas Tank Do?

The truth is that pouring sugar into a vehicle’s gas tank will not cause it to become disabled.

People think that mixing sugar with gasoline will somehow create a semi-solid solution which will clog up the fuel lines and cause the engine to stall. This is not actually the case because the sugar will not dissolve when it is poured into gasoline.

Instead, the sugar will sink into the gas tank until it reaches the bottom because sugar weighs more than gasoline. The worst thing this will do is limit the amount of gasoline that you can fill your gas tank with.

Indirect Car Problems From Sugar

fuel filter replacement interval

Just because sugar does not affect the fuel in your gas tank, you should not assume that it won’t cause other problems. It’s very well possible that your fuel filter could get clogged if some of the sugar happens to flow through it.

Once the fuel filter gets clogged, it will limit the flow of fuel into the engine which will ultimately cause the car to stop working properly. There is no guarantee this will happen, but it is possible if you happen to drive over a bump in the road.

Some of the sugar on the bottom of the tank might get knocked into the filter if this happens. The more bumps you drive over, the more sugar will get sucked into the fuel filter.

This will eventually add up to a lot of sugar particles on the fuel filter, resulting in the flow of fuel into the engine being restricted. Fortunately, your fuel line should not be affected by the sugar.

See Also: Fuel Sending Unit Replacement Cost

How to Remove Sugar From a Gas Tank

A little bit of sugar in your gas tank will likely be no big deal. All that would be required is for you to replace your fuel filter sooner than you normally would until all the sugar is gone.

However, if someone had poured an entire bag (or more) of sugar into your gas tank, then you will need to take your vehicle to a professional mechanic. They are likely the only ones that can remove the sugar from your gas tank.

This procedure will involve removing the gas tank from your vehicle and then cleaning out all the sugar in there. It will typically cost anywhere from $200 to $300 to get this service done. While this might not be a whole lot of money, it can still be a costly service to someone who has been victimized by such behavior.

Water is Worse Than Sugar

water in gas tank symptoms

If somebody truly wanted to stall someone else’s car engine, they could do so by pouring water into their gas tank. Water could actually get into the fuel line and then flow into the engine.

This would obviously disrupt the normal internal combustion process because it needs fuel and air to be mixed together, not water and air.

If caught early enough, the engine would not be destroyed from this, though. The car owner can take their vehicle to a mechanic who would simply drain their fuel tank to get rid of any remaining water. Then simply fill the tank with fresh gas and you should be good to go.

Mark Stevens

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