The blunder at the garage in Sandhurst, Surrey, almost immediately brought the cars to a stuttering halt yesterday. Some vehicles broke down before even leaving the filling station.
The stalled vehicles were filled up with diesel fuel contaminated with water, according to Tesco, and the retailer has since launched an investigation.
Those affected have reported calling fuel specialists and the RAC before having to wait several hours for their vehicles to be examined and their tanks drained.
Steven Berry, one of the drivers impacted, told Surrey Live: “I filled up, drove about 50 metres and the car died on me, the engine died out. It became very apparent very quickly that it was a mis-fuelling issue.
“Mainly because I broke down beside somebody else sat there stranded, and they said they’d done exactly the same thing. I looked around and there were cars everywhere, I counted 15.”
The 54-year-old driver, from Camberley, Surrey, said “it was clear” the diesel was contaminated. He added: “We have photographic evidence and some people have samples which are going to get analysed.”
Tesco staff were in the process of locking the pumps, according to Steven, but there were a lot of them and the issue was urgent.
Steven added: “I literally just screamed at everybody to shut it down and put cones across the entrance way.”
Steven’s wife gave a young family, also stranded, a lift back home and he described a feeling of “frustration” at the garage.
“We all make mistakes but it’s how they are dealt with. The customer service just was not there. I’m not worried about compensation, I want them to review their process so if it happens again it will be less stressful for the customer,” he said.
Currently, Steven is out of pocket by just under £300 due to the contaminated fuel and the cost of getting his vehicle’s tank drained.
He will be spending more money this week on a car hire, as his Kia is still not running correctly, as well as paying out for a full service.
Steven was not able to get a fuel refund on the day as he paid at the pump, and didn’t choose the receipt option. As it was a Sunday, proof of payment would not appear on his bank statement until Monday.
The ordeal lasted most of the day – he filled up at around 12.30pm and was not home until 7pm.
Steve Lawson, another unlucky customer, said: “My car got about 100 metres, stopping in the service road, and I counted at least 15 cars that didn’t travel more than 50 metres from leaving the pump. Some people made it onto the main A30.
“Just getting a taxi back to Tesco to collect my car was another £22 in taxi fare.”
Steve received a refund at the site from Tesco, but said he had to fork out £264 to drain the fuel tank and pay for a refuel of non-contaminated fuel. This figure excludes the car service needed in the coming days.
Tesco has confirmed it will be covering the costs of any repairs to cars directly related to this incident.
A spokesperson said: “There was a brief window of time on Sunday when a small number customers of the petrol station at our Sandhurst Extra refuelled their cars from a fuel tank that had previously been closed due to water contamination.
“We are really sorry for the inconvenience caused and we are looking into how this happened.
“We are contacting customers who have made us aware that they were impacted and we’ll cover the cost of any repairs needed to their vehicles as a direct result of this.”
Unleaded fuel at the site has not been affected. Customers who bought diesel from the affected pump for around 30 minutes from 12.15pm on Sunday should contact the store’s customer services team if they have not already done so.