GARDAI and Customs officials have launched a crackdown on 'petrol stretching' amid fears organised gangs have extended their distribution network nationwide from border areas.
The Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) said it had received reports from motorists whose cars suffered engine damage after 'stretched' patrol was unwittingly used in areas ranging from Dublin to Westmeath and from Cork to Mayo.
Traditionally, such fuel problems have been restricted to border areas where petrol 'stretching' and diesel 'washing' has been an issue for almost two decades.
The SIMI has now received a total of 800 complaints relating to engine damage caused to vehicles by the unwitting use of such petrol around the country.
'Stretched petrol' is fuel that has been diluted by between 5pc and 15pc through the addition of kerosene or kerosene waste products.
These are cheaper than petrol but will still burn in a normal engine.
However, such by-products are extremely dangerous for high-tech modern engines and can wreck injection systems as well as elements of an engine such as pistons.
SIMI director, Tom Cullen, warned of the consequences for motorists who unwittingly use such diluted fuel products.
"In many cases the cost of the resultant engine repairs can be very substantial," he said.
The common indicators for petrol stretching that motorists should watch out for include a lack of power and misfiring of the engine. They may also experience a knocking noise and low compression with excessive crank case pressure.
Gardai and Customs officers are now extending their crackdown.