Opal Fuel

Submitted: Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 11:44
ThreadID: 102819 Views:3418 Replies:11 FollowUps:9
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Hi All, This is my first post to the forum so I hope I've done it right!! I've tried to be as brief as I can.
Have just returned from a great trip to Alice and Uluru etc with the family and had a ball. We did have some bad luck though having done a fuel pump in Uluru then the alternator went at Erldunda! We have a 1990 Pajero (Petrol) and had major work done (engine overhaul, brakes etc.) before we left. We were towing a GIC camper trailer which went very well.
After arriving in Uluru the car was running very badly (missing, like it was running on 3 cylinders). The mechanic listened to it, asked me if it was unleaded, asked if I'd been using Opal fuel (to which I said yes) then he said say no more!!! The upshot was having to have the fuel pump replaced ($1000 later, no complaints about the price, just glad to have a competent mechanic so far from anywhere)! The mechanic told me that the pump would have gone eventually but the Opal fuel would have finished it off. The mechanic told me that the consensus in Central Australia is that this fuel is not suited to vehicles pre-1995.
The point is, this mechanic and the mechanic that fixed the alternator in Alice were extremely critical of Opal Unleaded and a group of mechanics in Central Australia have been complaining about this fuel since it was introduced. The response they got from the manufacturer and the Australian Government (who commisioned this fuel) was that there is no problem with the fuel and they didn't know what they were talking about (his words, not mine).
I am now in the process of writing emails to whoever will listen (NT tourism, manufacturer etc.) to get an answer on this, mainly, why wasn't I told this fuel could cause a problem!
I am not after compensation, and I have been told that this fuel has almost completely eliminated petrol sniffing, which is great. My main gripe is that I did everything I could to my vehicle before setting off from Victoria, and something completely out of my control has bought me unstuck (I'm not suggesting the alternator was caused by this fuel, but the mechanics have told me the fuel pump was highly likely caused by the fuel). Ultimately, I would like to see a warning placed on bowsers saying what the mechanics are telling me (ie: may not be suited to certain age vehicles). This appears to be a real can of worms in the Centre and I have a list of names of mechanics, petrol station owners etc. who are prepared to give me any further information I need (I am not a mechanic, I wouldn't have persued this if not for these people urging me)!
Apologies if I have rambled on but am wondering if anyone has any thoughts.

Cheers, Scott
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Reply By: Candace S. - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 11:57

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 11:57
What changed on vehicles in 1995? Why is that year a "cut-off" of sorts?

I don't have any insight but I'm sure looking forward to seeing the replies to your question!
AnswerID: 513313

Follow Up By: Scotts Paj - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 12:12

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 12:12
Hi Candace, Not sure about the 1995 cut off. One thing that the mechanic in Alice also told me was to talk to any person driving an unleaded government vehicle in the NT (Opal must be used in unleaded government vehicles in the NT), and they will tell you that after 20000km anything rubber that comes into contact with this fuel needs to be replaced! (Again, I must stress I'm not a mechanic and am only going on what I've been told). As the mechanic in Alice also told me, they have nothing to gain from making people aware of this (in fact, they will lose business)! They are just sick of seeing this happen to people week after week! As I mentioned in my post, a real 'can of worms'.
FollowupID: 792005

Follow Up By: Candace S. - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 13:24

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 13:24
Well, according to BP, Opal is wonderful and won't harm your vehicle! ;)

Opal info from BP

But seriously, if it was THAT harmful to vehicles I'd expect to easily find verification for that. I did find info that it was not good for rather old cars (i.e., with carburetors).

I was interested to learn that 91 octane is considered to be "regular unleaded" in Australia. In the U.S., 87 octane is designated as "regular", 91 octane would be "super unleaded." If you live in higher elevation areas (such as here in Utah), "regular" is only 85 octane! I wonder if the octane values are calculated differently in the two countries?
FollowupID: 792009

Reply By: Member - nick b - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 12:22

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 12:22
Gooday Scott , I think your spot on here & your done a good job to bring this up . It;s my understanding that what they have removed from the opal fuel is was lubricates seal etc in fuel systems . P.S was the mechanic Kirt ?
I have a good friend in Alice springs that runs a wrecking yard who clams fuel systems parts are his bigger sellers inc late model diesel engines .
good luck with your trip
Cheers Nick b

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AnswerID: 513315

Follow Up By: Scotts Paj - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 12:59

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 12:59
Hi Nickb, You're spot on about the opal fuel being a dry fuel. It has a dark appearance, nothing like normal 91 unleaded. The Alice mechanic has had a half litre bottle of it sitting on his shelf (without a lid) for a year and none of it has evaporated. As he said, try doing that with normal unleaded!
Yep, the mechanic was Kurt! Absolute Legend!!! We actually bumped into him in Alice while the Auto Elec was fixing the Alternator! Ended up going to his place to look at some Finke cars that afternoon.
FollowupID: 792008

Reply By: wato35 - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 13:46

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 13:46
Hi Scott
Sorry to hear you had problems with your vehicle, but it sounds like everything was great.
Thanks for sharing your story.

AnswerID: 513318

Reply By: bluefella - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 13:50

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 13:50
I would suggest anyone using his fuel to take an additive with them such as FLASH LUBE, there is a plenty of different brands , have a talk to your mechanic before your trip.
AnswerID: 513319

Follow Up By: Scotts Paj - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 14:02

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 14:02
Hi bluefella, After fixing the fuel pump, the mechanics' advice to me was very clear: Only use premium, don't touch this stuff with a barge pole! (He did think about flushing the tank of the Opal already in there, but thought the new pump would handle this ok). We did use FlashLube on the Opal fuel that was already in the tank (before the new fuel pump was put in), but this didn't help. He also said some of the backpackers have been known to try pouring 15W40 oil straight into the fuel tank! BTW, the Uluru mechanics yard is a graveyard for backpackers cars, is full of them! Cheers, Scott
FollowupID: 792012

Reply By: Member - John and Val - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 15:34

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 15:34
Hi Scott,

Without meaning to enter the Opal debate, it might be helpful to others with older petrol vehicles to tell of an intermittent problem we encountered a number of times before eventually solving it.

Like your vehicle, our old Troopy would loose power and, as you say, would run on less cylinders than it should. The problem was worse when you really needed power - or maybe it just seemed that way. It seemed to work perfectly when looking for the fault, and only failed when asked to work - almost as if raising the bonnet fixed it!

The solution - partially blocked fuel filter. A bad batch of fuel can really spoil your day. For our vehicle, filters cost less than $4 each, and nowadays we carry lots of spares! (And use them surprisingly often.)


J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein

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AnswerID: 513322

Follow Up By: Patrol22 - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 18:29

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 18:29
I wish John .....the OEM filter for my diesel Navara costs $184 - thankfully Mr Repco makes one for around the $60 mark. Damn thing is a throwaway item and comes with all the electrics or the water warning system etc.
FollowupID: 792025

Reply By: Member - Michael P (QLD) - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 16:50

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 16:50
Scott Hi,
I am surprised that OPAL fuel would cause such problems after only such a small amount of fuel used.
I am presuming that You were on holidays and not an extended trip. Where were You getting the OPAL from?
I have used OPAL fairly extensively without any problems, admittedly a much later vehicle (06 Paj).
After all of the expenses and hassels hope You & Family enjoyed the trip.

Regards Mike.
AnswerID: 513328

Reply By: Ross M - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 17:44

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 17:44
G'day Scott
I don't know much about Opal fuel and have never used it but I think the following is a prudent course of action for anyone venturing away from the burbs on a trip.
If the vehicle has done a few KM it is likely/almost certain that the fuel pump has done some work and will not be in brand new or near new condition. Yours is a few years old.
Therefore to have a spare fuel pump carried outback is a really good thing to do and many people have the ability to help you change it if you can't. Minimal holdup and minimal cost, Far less than having it Uluru'ed.

It would seem the alternator malfunction would most likely be the wear on brushes. $10 for them to carry and even if the regulator failed it isn't a high cost. I know a few things like these precautionary measures have to be carried, but it will pay for itself tenfold when required.
The person who checked your vehicle for outback travel should have advised you of these possibilities or even checked the bearings and brushes in the Alt so they too were near new and not near walking stick condition.

I would ask a mechanic who checked a vehicle exactly what was checked and WHY if the answers are a bit shallow it may be necessary to get a couple of opinions from 4WD repair mechanics who actually think of things that will possibly give trouble so precautions can be taken

A few basic spares such as these are called insurance and when you have non the maximum ill effect is felt.

My view is a $200 or $300 would buy many of the things you seem to have required and possibly more sound advice and vehicle checking beforehand is also in order to maximize the fun and minimize the pain.

Ross M

AnswerID: 513331

Follow Up By: Scotts Paj - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 20:06

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 20:06
Hi rossM, completely agree about the fuel pump (re: age of the car being the problem). I cant agree about anyone replacing it however. (efi under 60psi of pressure in the fuel tank, not something i'd risk unless i was desperate)! Alternator is also an age thing so this could've happened anywhere (mechanic said it wasn't worth rebuilding and I was happy with the price for a new one).
As for my mechanic, I don't think anyone could have foreseen these things occurring (where do you stop?). Perhaps I may have been able to carry these items, but with a 5& 6 year old on board, things were pretty tight!
I do appreciate your response, however(as can happen in these forums), the main point I am trying to get across is that this is a problem in the NT whether anyone cares to admit it or not. As I stated in my post, this is not coming from some ignorant southerner (ME)!, but from the mechanics, petrol station managers etc in the centre. I have a list as long as my arm of people who are willing for some one to follow this up and not give them the brush off!
I will be following this through till someone gives me an answer as I think it is bloody wrong! Will certainly post something when I get an answer.
Cheers, Scott
FollowupID: 792034

Reply By: Member - J&R - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 21:07

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 21:07
Whilst on the 'spares' wagon, where do you stop?
Perhaps you should tow a spare car in case the wheels/transmission/engine/chassis/front diff/rear diff/alternator/starter/power steering pump/brake booster/radiator/washer bottle/steering wheel fall off.

You can prepare til your arse is on fire.
At the end of the day all cars stop. And sometimes we can do something about it.

Inconvenience (adventure?) is what the bush is all about.
AnswerID: 513347

Follow Up By: Scotts Paj - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 21:37

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 21:37
G'day J&R, that's dead right! Especially when you're on holidays, you just have To go with whatever happens! I asked my little fella (6) what he liked most on the holiday... Uluru, desert park? No, the greyhound bus from erldunda after the car was towed to Alice! Bloody priceless!
FollowupID: 792043

Reply By: Bazooka - Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 21:15

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 at 21:15
RAA report into Opal vehicle faults

This might answer a few of your questions and give you some ideas for contacts if you still think it worthwhile pursuing. The report suggests that there appears to be no evidence of Opal causing problems in the cases the technicians were able to follow up.
AnswerID: 513348

Reply By: Member - Joe n Mel n kids (FNQ - Wednesday, Jun 19, 2013 at 23:30

Wednesday, Jun 19, 2013 at 23:30
Opal fuel eh ......... it is without a doubt comparable to the age old argument of split rims or tubeless, tyre pressures, Toyota vs Patrol and so on................
I wont say I am vastly experienced in Opal but I have lived and worked with it for many years now and was involved a little with BP when it was first introduced ....
My history with it:
In Maningrida and various other remote community's there was a big problem with sniffing, they got around it by using AVGAS, but, this eventually destroyed motors and exhausts, high in acid and other mean stuff, BP was asked to develop a non-sniffable fuel suitable for ALL petrol motors inc boats, in short the first stuff WAS nasty but un-sniffable, it damaged boat motors and made cars run crap, over time (10 years now from memory) they have developed it further and better, they actually refine the fuel far further and better than normal un-leaded and it has additives to counteract any power loss .............. I have since worked on communitys for 7 years that use it and have yet to see any direct connection with damage proved from Opal fuel.
So to put it fairly simply it does NOT damage engines, if ALL vehicle manufacturers, yes ALL, still are willing to offer FULL new car warranty including engines and fuel systems, on ALL there range then it MUST be safe, BP and the Govt researched it extensively and fully liaised with all MAJOR vehicle manufacturers to ensure it was suitable for new engines then it must be safe, BP is not stupid nor are the Major car makers, they simply would NOT cover the fuel if there was any slightest hint of developing problems in motors ...... they also have recently released yet a better blend (mid last year) and are constantly looking at ways to improve it.
Now a few facts I do admit, on older cars it seems they run slightly rougher, it does NOT suit really old petrols but really nor does standard un-leaded, it is actually a tad oilier than normal un-leaded and it WILL evaporate if you leave it out, how else does it work in a car :-) the bulk of complaint's come from small engine owners, that includes motor bikes as they don't go as well, stationary engines will foul up plugs quicker due to the "oily" make-up of it, I have never seen plastics or rubber rotted due to Opal, in old cars it most probably was already rotten, these people also tend to blame every problem in there car on it as they are peed off with there quad not running as well as it could.........
And .... it has completely changed some of the kids out there, it is a Massive problem and needs to be addressed further, one day we may well have a highly refined non sniffable fuel only, you wont be able to buy un-leaded, exactly the same as leaded fuel got phased out ......
Hope I have covered it, BP do have a good web site, check it out .... Opal fuel web site

If you can save one child's life by using it then it is worth it ......

AnswerID: 513426

Follow Up By: Member - Joe n Mel n kids (FNQ - Wednesday, Jun 19, 2013 at 23:35

Wednesday, Jun 19, 2013 at 23:35
and to answer the comment about Govt cars having problems after 20,000klms, any NT Govt car that lasts out bush for 20,000klms is rare, they thrash them, they use Opal in remote areas and the cars get a hard time in those areas, most remote Govt stuff is diesel .....
FollowupID: 792130

Follow Up By: Scotts Paj - Thursday, Jun 20, 2013 at 17:54

Thursday, Jun 20, 2013 at 17:54
Hi guys, thanks for the response.
I completely agree that the sniffing is a problem and, as I said in my post, it's great that it is going along way to eliminating the problem. This is a very emotive and serious issue and I completely agree that it needs to be dealt with.
HOWEVER, as mentioned in my post, I was told that the problem occurs in pre 1995 vehicles, so a new car warranty is not a issue here.
I must RE-ITERATE a couple of facts here: this information is not coming from me, it is coming from the people working with this everyday! You have also admitted that there may be a problem in older vehicles using it, so all I am asking is to be told that this may be the case! This is all I ask!
Re: the comment about government cars, this was directed at unleaded vehicles in Alice springs, not remote.
I really hate to sound like broken record, but I would ask that you ring any mechanic in central Australia and see what they say.
Cheers, Scott
FollowupID: 792175

Reply By: Sandman - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 20:50

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 20:50
Sorry folks I'm going to be blunt. I moved to Alice 4.5 years ago and I can only say luckily I own a diesel. After 6 months of being here my lawn mower died, it was a 2 year old in immac condition when I got it here. The Honda whipper snipper died also, all clogged up.

I will never ever use Opal in a car here. My kids (17 + 19) are feeling the pain of $1.80 per liter for Premium however its better than trashing an engine.

Government will tell you that Opal is fine, then again they drive government cars and dont pay the bills.

I know folks from Alice that will go to Uluru and back carrying Jerry cans as they refuse to fill up on the way, I kid you not....

I know this message wont help but I feel your pain... I really do..

AnswerID: 513752

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