by Richard Rowe
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Life is full of people who wish the harm of others, and they certainly have their way of seeing it. Pouring household chemicals into other people’s gas tanks in the name of revenge likely dates back to the first horse-drawn carriage driver Karl Benz cut into traffic, and the results are about the same now as ever.
Store-bought bleach is made up of two things: a fairly small amount of chlorine and a much larger amount of water. Chlorine is a corrosive oxidant not far removed from oxygen itself on the periodic table, and it causes a kind of forced chemical “burn” on everything that reacts with oxygen. In immediate contact with fuel, it “pre-burns” or oxidizes the fuel before it reaches your engine, rendering it inert to some degree. However, if bleach is going to bring an engine to a complete stop, it may be due more to the huge water content than anything else. In this sense, it would have the same effect as pouring the same amount of water into the tank. But it would take a lot of bleach for an engine to stop working completely.
Bleach may not have many disastrous effects in the short term, but it is absolutely devastating in the long term. Being a corrosive oxidant mixed with water, bleach can cause any type of metal component to oxidize and break down thousands of times faster than normal. Try putting a metal nail in a cup of bleach at some point and see how many days it takes to completely disintegrate. The same is happening now inside the fuel tank, fuel lines, pump injectors, and possibly the intake manifold and cylinder head. If you suspect someone has bleached your tank, don’t start the car. And if you’ve run the engine with bleach in the tank, flush the entire fuel system immediately. The best thing to do at this point is to apply a corrosion inhibitor additive to your first full tank and hope it has caught it before it permanently damages your car.