Salt Water in a Gas Tank: What REALLY Happens?! (Explained)

Saltwater won’t dissolve in gasoline, but it will dissolve in any water in your car’s tank. Then it will slowly damage the bottom of the tank, causing your gas tank to leak. 

So what happens if you put salt water in a gas tank? If you put salt water in a gas tank, it will suck the salt crystal into the fuel pump to the fuel filter that will clog the engine. 

If your engine gets clogged, it won’t run. Hence, there are instances where even if you have a clogged pump or filter, you can still use your car but don’t expect that it will have the same high performance as before.

Salt Water in a Gas Tank

What Happens If You Put Salt Water In A Gas Tank?

First, it will start to affect your brake lines, brake pads, and rotors. Second, if the saltwater already reaches your car’s electrical system, it will start eating the wires and slowly turn it to rust.

Short Term Effects

The short-term effect of saltwater in a gas tank is that it will first have an adverse reaction in the fuel and spread accordingly to other parts.

It will damage the entire engine of your car if you run the engine without noticing the saltwater inside your gas tank.

Long Term Effects

If the rust from saltwater contamination already reaches the higher part of your car engine, its next victim will be your car’s battery.

If your car’s battery gets damaged, it can short and take out all the electrical activity of your car if the saltwater already damages the battery. 

No matter what type of effects you will encounter in having saltwater in your gas tank, you should never start the engine because the salt crystal will worsen your car engines. 

Can Salt Water In A Gas Tank Damage An Engine?

Yes, saltwater in a gas tank can damage an engine. It is because saltwater contains iodine that makes any metal rust once exposed. 

Not just that, also the salt crystal can cause severe problems to your car’s fuel pump and filter. Without these two parts, your car will get damaged since this is where fuel passes before reaching the engine to power up your car. 

Moreover, not just salt water can damage your engine, but any substance that isn’t combustible can cause lots of money to repair.

If you don’t want that to happen, always take good care of your body and health. 

How Much Salt Water In A Gas Tank Will Ruin It?

If someone put one gallon of saltwater in your gas tank, it’s enough to ruin your car’s engine performance. Putting saltwater in a gas tank doesn’t need a simple clearing, but it needs a total change of the parts of affected areas. 

Iodine from saltwater reacts faster than any other combustible substance because it is a hazardous chemical. 

You might need to avoid having saltwater near your car because you might accidentally put it in your gas tank. 

Always stay vigilant and care for your car’s engine because you care about your car’s engine and your safety and the people you want to ride with you. 

salt water in gas tank

Can You Tell If Someone Put Salt Water In Your Gas Tank?

Yes, you can’t tell if someone puts saltwater in your gas tank. But, even if your gas tank is full or not, it’s easy to know that there is a problem with your gas if you read the below. 

Here are the top 3 signs that you can tell that someone put saltwater in your gas tank:

1. You Have A Sputtering Engine

Having a sputtering engine, you will experience soft explosive sounds every time you power up your car’s engine. 

It means that your engine exceeded its standard capacity to start your vehicle.

2. Fail To Start Your Engine

If saltwater takes over your engine, you will fail to start your car. No matter what effort you will do to power up your car, it won’t still work,

Your filter or pump may already give up because of the saltwater contamination; if that happens, your car needs serious fixing. 

3. Rusty Fuel Pump

Of course, if the saltwater already enters your fuel pump, it will slowly react inside until your fuel pump is unusable.

Hence if you’re not sure how or why your vehicle gets contaminated with saltwater, you can check out a few things other than your gas tank. 

You can look for your car engine’s fuel lubricant if there’s any cross-contamination from collision damage. 

Second, see if there’s any undercarriage scrape on your tank’s fuel lines, then if you smell something improper to your fuel. But, again, it would help if you acted right away.

Hence, always remember that every part of an engine has sensitive functions; one single damage inside your car’s engine will damage its whole performance. 

How To Get Salt Water Out Of A Gas Tank?

To get the saltwater out of your gas tank, you need to check first your gas tank, then smell if there’s an unusual smell from the inside. 

Next, if you already confirmed that your gas tank contains saltwater by smelling inside, you need to replace your fuel pump. 

If the problem already reaches the fuel pump, you may need to change both parts of your car. However, changing these parts is quite costly. 

If you love pranking someone by putting salt water in their gas tank, make sure that you’re ready with the consequences. 

Saltwater in a gas tank isn’t funny, and it is because saltwater will give your victim a headache at the same time stress. 


In summary, if you already confirm that your gas tank contains saltwater, turn off your engine right away. 

It is because saltwater mixed with gasoline is quite sensitive to burnout or compulsion, turning your dream getaway vacation the other way around. 

As a responsible owner or a victim, never forget to check your gas tank every time you use your car. To avoid you from dangerous circumstances that will put you and your family at risk.

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Image credits – Canva

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My name is Hank, and I've been in the automotive industry for 27 years. I've been working in my own auto repair shop for the last 13 years, and now I want to help you here, on my blog. Let me know if you have any questions. Read more