Skip to main content

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

By Sara Sidner, CNN
updated 8:38 PM EDT, Wed March 20, 2013
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
updated 5:06 PM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
updated 8:18 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
updated 6:18 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
updated 5:43 AM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
updated 7:51 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
updated 10:50 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
updated 4:06 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
updated 2:45 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
updated 10:57 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT