Skip to main content

Presidential limo breaks down ahead of Obama's arrival in Israel

By Sara Sidner, CNN
March 21, 2013 -- Updated 0038 GMT (0838 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Barack Obama's official limousine in Israel failed to start
  • The driver refueled it using gasoline instead of diesel fuel
  • The limo had to be towed and a second limo brought in for Obama

Jerusalem (CNN) -- The official limousine awaiting President Barack Obama's arrival in Israel malfunctioned after its driver refueled it using gasoline rather than diesel fuel, an official said Wednesday.

The limo failed to start, and required towing in Jerusalem at 10 a.m. local time. Obama, who landed in Tel Aviv around noon, was not in the country at the time the limo was towed. A second presidential limo was brought to transport Obama.

READ: Obama to Israel: U.S. proud to stand as strongest ally

"We experienced mechanical trouble with one of the cars," Edwin Donovan, a spokesman for the Secret Service, told a pool reporter traveling with Obama. "We don't know the cause."

Obama's open mic slip in Israel
Israel's "power broker" comes OutFront
Obama's trip to Israel: Day 1
Israeli sentiment toward Obama

Donovan couldn't confirm reports the limo was refueled using gasoline rather than diesel.

"That's why we bring different multiple vehicles," Donovan said.

The tow truck company owner who picked up the limo said the U.S. consulate called him to tow the vehicle in Jerusalem because it wouldn't start.

Multiple official vehicles are typically flown ahead of time to destinations where Obama is visiting. On his trip to the Mideast, Obama will stop in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in Israel, Ramallah in the West Bank, and will visit with Jordan's King Abdullah in that nation.

READ: Obama heads to Israel with few expectations, many questions

The presidential limousine, known as the "Beast," is a specially built Cadillac that's estimated to weigh 8 tons. There are multiple, identical copies that are used to transport Obama around Washington and on his trips out of town.

The Secret Service is tight-lipped about the specifics of the vehicle, but the car reportedly features inches of armor and bulletproof glass, doors and windows that seal shut in the event of a gas attack, and special shocks to absorb blasts.

It's said to be built on a medium-grade truck chassis, the Chevrolet Kodiak, which runs on diesel fuel.

Diesel engines differ from gas engines in the way the internal combustions are created to drive the pistons. Diesel engines utilize compressed air to generate heat that causes the fuel to ignite. Gas engines ignite fuel using spark plugs.

Using gas instead of diesel could cause major damage to the pistons, wrist pins and connecting rods, which would be destroyed if the fuel is ignited at the wrong time.

Gasoline is also less viscous than diesel, which acts as a lubricant for the fuel pump and fuel delivery systems. Those parts could also be destroyed if gasoline is pumped into a diesel engine.

READ: Israeli minister: It's clear that chemical weapons were used in Syria

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0823 GMT (1623 HKT)
He should be toddling around a playground. Instead, his tiny hands grip an AK-47.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1652 GMT (0052 HKT)
CNN's Will Ripley travels to North Korea, visiting an international wrestling festival and a slide-filled water park.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
In a raid on a luxury apartment complex, agents caught up with a French-Algerian man they accuse of bringing back terror to Europe.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT)
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about trying to get a hostage home alive.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1835 GMT (0235 HKT)
South Africa Music Legends stamps
Artist Hendrik Gericke puts a spotlight on iconic performers from South Africa in these incredible monochrome illustrations.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT