Mis-fueling a vehicle is a costly mistake that can cause thousands of dollars in engine damage. In most cases, misfueling a vehicle is a challenge that requires a lot of effort. Most instances of mis-fueling a vehicle require a combination of not reading the pump, ignoring different colored pump handles (which are transposed in the United Kingdom), and forcing fuel nozzles of different sizes into the fuel filler neck. The AutoSlash team does have a favorite story of mis-fueling a rental car, where the protagonist is someone we colloquially describe as "glad she's not our travel agent". However, the police in West Palm Beach, Florida had a mass mis-fueling incident that clearly was not the drivers' fault, taking a fair number of vehicles out of the fleet. And by a fair number of vehicles, we mean 49 in West Palm Beach alone.
The engine might turn but it's not going to start!
The initial investigation found that the commonality in vehicles that stopped running was the vehicles were all Ford Police Interceptor models with Ford's 3.7 Ti-VCT V6 FFV engines (fantastic choice there, West Palm Beach Police). However, a series of police vehicles with suddenly sudden engine failure was clearly not great publicity for the Ford Motor Company! Ford was obviously willing to help decipher why these vehicles were suddenly having engine failures and the answer was no great mystery. All of the affected vehicles had biodiesel in their fuel tanks for vehicles that were built for unleaded/ethanol only. While the vehicles may be rated as "Flex Fuel" (the FFV in the engine description), that's a mix of ethanol and/or gasoline, not diesel and/or gasoline!
How did (at least) 49 vehicles get biodiesel contamination in their fuel? The police department's best estimate now is that there was a contaminated fuel delivery to their depot. Similarly, Miami-Dade County had to pull 67 vehicles out of service with ostensibly the same issue. Obviously, this is going to be a really expensive issue for the entity responsible for the contaminated fuel!
So how is this a rental car story?
Replacing engines costs a lot of time, mechanic energy, and waiting for shipments of new 3.7 Ti-VCT V6 FFV engines. West Palm Beach started by replacing the engines in their marked police cruisers, which took care of 17 of their 49. What about the 32 other officers in unmarked vehicles? How did this become a rental car story? We get our answer from WPTV news:
West Palm Beach Police Public Information Officer David Lefont said it is not impacting public safety since the agency is supplementing with rental cars.
“We have captains driving around in minivans,” Lefont said.
Just like when your car is in the shop, West Palm Beach police visited the local Enterprise and/or Hertz! Of course, a rental car from the local rental car company isn't equipped with AWD, high demand tires, wheels, brakes, deflector plates, massively amped up (literally and figuratively) alternator, etc. commonly found on police vehicles. Yet in West Palm Beach, that Dodge Grand Caravan in the left lane might be me passing another driver (Keep Right Except to Pass), a parent late to pick up a child, or a police captain responding to a call. And if necessary, those police captains will probably expedite responses to calls in their base trim minivans!
We can only imagine the deviations from a standard rental car contract necessary to allow a rental to be used for police purposes! After all, the police get to do many things in the line of duty that civilians don't get to do without risking placement on the permanent Do Not Rent list. However, we can reasonably assume those poor minivans will be "driven like a (proverbial) rental" until the officers' Fords are repaired, so there are about to be some minivans on the market that were former rental vehicles also conscripted into police service!