We’ve all heard the old prank. We’ve been conditioned to believe that putting sugar in our neighbor’s gas tank would ruin his car. Well, in a Mythbusters type of way, we wanted to put this myth to the test.
First, let’s set the scene. Let’s imagine you are in fact a prankster and you have a complete disregard for other people’s vehicles. Before we proceed, shame on you. You should know better than to try to ruin someone else’s car. I’m sure your mother would be disappointed.
Now, let’s assume, though, that you sneakily take a pound of sugar and a funnel and pour it into your neighbor’s fuel tank. With a grin, you behind a trash can nearby, take out your binoculars and wait for the show.
Then, your neighbor comes out, gets into the vehicle and, much to your chagrin, drives away without a problem.
A day later, you check back in. Nothing.
A week later? Still nothing seems out of the ordinary.
At some point, whether you notice it or not, your neighbor eventually takes the car in to have the fuel filter changed. Undissolved sugar caused a minor issue, but it gets replaced without a concern.
How did your masterplan fall flat on its face?
For starters, sugar is a very fine granular material that does not dissolve in petrol. Therefore, it ultimately collected under the belly at the floor of the fuel tank. This creates a partial block, but nothing that would be enough to render a complete breakdown or some sort of explosion.
To see all of this in action, we’ve embedded a video below.
It’s important to note that there are a few scenarios that can result in the sugar causing more of a crisis.
Older cars will have a small quantity of water in the tank due to condensation. Sugar can dissolve there and get through the filters to the injectors or carburetor. That said, the quantities can be small due to the various working systems in the car. Ruining the engine of an older car can happen, but it might take a while.
A speedier method would be to fill up a gas can with a gallon or two of soda. A pound of dissolved sugar will rapidly be making contact with the injectors and potentially the valves. Nobody would want this to happen to their car since this could potentially clog up all of the moving parts.
To conclude, let’s end by saying no, sugar in the tank won’t ruin the car, but it could easily ruin the engine.