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

Everyone knows that anything that isn’t fuel would be harmful to a gas tank. However, as a car enthusiast, you may wonder how other things would affect the engine if you put them in the gas tank. For instance, you may wonder if sand would destroy your engine. So, you may ask:

If you put sand in a gas tank, what really happens? A tank that gets a lot of sand can damage the engine. Every gas tank has a tube that prevents anything solid from entering. However, if the said filter gets a lot of sand, it may fail and allow more sand to enter. These particles can lead to clogging, eventually destroying the engine.

Due to being solid, sand can be one of the worst things you can have inside your gas tank. However, some other liquid things can even be worse than this one. So, whether your gas tank already has sand, or you’re just plain curious about what will happen, this article is for you.

Here, you can have a walk-through on how your engine would react to sand and what will happen to it, both in the short term and in the long run. This way, you can better understand the risks involved and how you should deal with them if ever it happens.

Without any further ado, let’s get into it!

Sand in a Gas Tank

What happens if you put sand into a gas tank?

If you put some sand into the gas tank, it would have the same effect as other solids such as sugar.

One thing to note is that the gas chamber has a filter that can prevent solid things from entering the tank. However, there’s a limit to how much it can stop, and it won’t do a great job if you pour in a lot of sand.

Now, as the sand enters the gas tank, it would clog up the filter, eventually resulting in issues such as disabling the car, stalling the engine, and even misfires when you start it up.

If you fill the tank with sand to the brim, it can destroy the engine. But, if there’s one thing to note, sand is way easier to remove than other liquids. 

For instance, sticky liquid can stick to the gas tank and can cause clogging in the long run. If there’s only sand in your gas tank, you can have it removed with a thorough cleaning. However, always remember that the process would still be a hassle and that the sand would remain a potential threat to your engine’s overall health.

Short term effects

If you or someone put the sand into a gas tank, you’ll immediately feel its effects as the sand would get clogged in the engine once it starts running.

The sand in a gas tank can clog the fuel filter in a car. If such a thing happens, the sand can cause the engine to malfunction, stall, and eventually die and get disabled.

Long term effects

Sand can have a long-term effect on an engine, especially when you left some particles sitting inside and left unchecked.

Although a little bit of sand won’t likely cause grave issues, it can still lead the fuel to be contaminated, leading to poor engine performance. 

For this reason, if you think your gas tank has some sand in it, have it checked by a service professional soon.

This way, you can maintain your engine’s overall health and further issues just because a few grains of sand remain inside the gas tank.

Can sand ruin an engine?

Yes, sand can ruin an engine, both in a short period and in the long run. But, in general, anything that isn’t fuel or engine oil can harm an engine. 

For this reason, oil and fuel tanks have a filter to ensure that only fuel and oil come inside the running engine.

If other liquid substances can harm the engine, the solid ones can even cause worse problems.

The sand can cause clogging in the engine if someone puts it in a gas tank. Once the engine starts running, the combustion chambers would then get affected by the sand. 

The sand can also cause clogging in the fuel filters, and it can even reach the other parts of the engine, eventually leading to engine failure.

For this reason, you must take it as a rule of thumb to ensure that the fuel and oil pit is secure and that no other solid and liquid would enter aside from fuel and engine oil.

How much sand in a gas tank will ruin it?

A little bit of sand won’t likely hurt the engine if it enters the gas tank. If there are only a few particles, the fuel and oil filter can prevent them from entering the tank itself. 

However, if someone did such a thing on purpose and filled the tank with sand to the brim, it can cause clogging in the engine and destroy it eventually.

Some hearsays state that the easiest method to disable an automobile is to dump sand or sugar into it. 

Pouring sugar or sand into a gas tank, on the other hand, is no different than pouring any other thing into a gas tank that shouldn’t be there. These chemicals are bad for cars, but it doesn’t imply they always cause them to break down.

According to some, sugar and sand transform fuel into a semi-solid that blocks the motor. However, in reality, these things do not dissolve in gasoline and act like sand does in a gas chamber.

sand in gas tank

Can you tell if someone put sand in your gas tank?

You can tell when someone put sand in your gas tank. If it has sand in it, your engine may have galloping, engine failure, and stalling problems.

The thing about sand is that it’s solid, and it can clump together if mix with liquid. As a consequence, unlike diesel or gasoline, it may be relatively thick and sticky. As a result, if you have sand in your fuel tank, your vehicle may run poorly.

If you suspect somebody has put sand in your fuel tank, you must immediately turn off the vehicle and empty the tank. You’ll also need to get it repaired by an expert.

So, what should you do if you discover sand in your gas tank? How would you get rid of it?

How to get the sand out of a gas tank?

The best way to get the sand out of a gas tank is by draining all the fuel and thoroughly cleaning the gas chamber. 

In most cases, it would suffice to have the fuel filter cleaned. For example, you can do so if you only got a few particles of sand in the gas tank. In general, the regular cleaning of the fuel filter would fix the problem over time. 

However, if someone purposely puts sand in it, then you should seek the help of an expert to get rid of the sand in your gas tank. The experts would likely remove the tank and wash it with hydrochloric acid.

This way, you can ensure that the engine would remain in good condition, and you won’t have any further issues caused by the sand.


So, if you put sand in a gas tank, what happens? The engine of a tank that gets a lot of sand would likely be prone to damage. It is because every gas tank includes a tube that prevents solids from getting into the tank. However, if the filter is overburdened with sand, it may fail, allowing additional sand to enter. These particles might block the engine, causing it to break down.

Sand is one of the worst things you can put in your gas tank since it is solid. Other liquid substances, on the other hand, can be considerably worse.

In general, you must take it as a rule of thumb that anything other than fuel and oil can damage the engine. Thus, it would be best to prioritize having it checked as soon as you know that something gets inside the gas tank.

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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