Do You Own A Diesel – This Could Help You Some Day

Rudolph Diesel invented the engine that is named after him in 1893.

Why is this important?

Good question, the answer is simple if you ask me.  Diesel fuel didn’t exist when he invented the engine.

So, what did he run the first Diesel engine on?

Another good question…  The first diesel engines were powered by various types of oil, including heavy crude oil and peanut oil.

Why will a Diesel run on those types of fuel?

Diesels create combustion using high compression (the pressure in the cylinders when the piston squishes the air) which heats the air in the cylinder to very high temperatures.  The diesel fuel is injected into the hot air, which causes it to explode creating power.

Why are Diesel engine hard to start in the cold?

Think about the previous information given.  Diesels use compression to heat up the air in the cylinder to a temperature that is high enough to cause the fuel to explode.  The colder the air and the components of the engine, the harder it is for it to heat up the air to the appropriate temperature.  Glow plugs are used to help heat up the air in the cylinder, only during the start up cycle (and possibly the first few minutes of running if the engine is extremely cold).  Block heaters can help if you are in colder climates due to keeping the cylinders warmer than the outside air temps.

What does all of this mean to you as a Diesel Vehicle Owner?

This information can be used to get you out of a tight spot if you can’t find any diesel fuel close by.  Modern diesel vehicle owners manuals may not include this information, but it still applies.  The main reason this information is left out is due to an effort to maintain emission standards.  This is provided as a “use at your own risk” set of recommendations.  If you do not feel comfortable with this information, feel free to ignore what I am about to say.  If you would like proof, feel free to see me in person.  Every vehicle I own is a diesel, heck, even my generator is diesel.  I will be more than happy to show you first hand on my own vehicles before you try it on yours.

Now for the meat of the NEED TO KNOW…

Are you low on fuel and not sure if you can make it to the next Diesel Mart?

STOP RIGHT HERE, DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200…  Shut your engine down and use some of my forthcoming advice.  If you run out of fuel, you can be in a mess.  Diesel engines are all different when it comes to priming them after running out of fuel.  Some of them can take hours even when done by a trained professional.  Don’t risk running out, especially if you have some of the following options.

You can use the following as fuel in a DIESEL ENGINE ONLY (will not work with gasoline engines)…

  1. Kerosene – this is a more expensive option, but some country gas stations will have kerosene and not diesel.  If you have to use kerosene, use only the minimum required to get you safely to the next station with diesel.  Kerosene does not have the lubrication properties of diesel fuel, so prolonged use can cause excess wear to the engine.  Be sure to dilute it with diesel as soon as possible (you could run one tank through without any issues).  You can also mix some of the following with the kerosene to help with the lubrication…
  2. Cooking Oil – Yes, I am gonna get all hippy on you…  I will be the first to admit that I love the smell of cooking oil burning in my bus.  It needs to be filtered if it is used, but clean oil purchased by the gallon at a grocery store is okay to dump in the tank with diesel.  Be careful not to get oil that is solid at room temperature, and do not do this if the outside air temp is much below 60 degrees.
  3. Motor Oil – A diesel will burn just about any weight of motor oil, the thinner the better.  If you are mixing it with diesel fuel, heavier weight oil like 15W-40 may be used.  Keep in mind, the thicker the oil, the warmer the air temps need to be just like with cooking oil.
  4. Transmission Fluid – Dextron III or Mercon is the best.  I add ATF to my tank as a fuel system cleaner, it is much cheaper than the “Diesel Fuel System Cleaners” you can buy, and works just as good if not better.
  5. Jet Fuel – Some of you may laugh, but you may find yourself closer to an airport than a gas station.  The composition of jet fuel is closer to that of diesel fuel and kerosene than it is to gasoline.
If you own a diesel you should know how to prime the system in case you do run out of fuel.  Owners manuals can be a good resource, but they don’t always provide the most efficient way to get you up and running again.  The main thing I will caution you on is to avoid cranking the vehicle for more than 1 minute after adding fuel.  If it doesn’t start within 1 minute of cranking, you are going to have to follow priming procedures.  DIESELS THAT HAVE LOST THEIR PRIME WILL NEVER START BY CRANKING ALONE.  The air in the system must be bled out in order for the fuel to reach the cylinders again.
Feel free to contact me if you would like individual help with learning how to prime your own engine.  I am a mobile mechanic, I can come to you if within a reasonable distance and will be more than happy to help in any way I can.  I enjoy teaching anyone that wants to learn how to do everything from changing your own oil to replacing your head gaskets and everything in between.
I hope this has been useful information, if anyone notices any errors in my information please let me know so I can correct it.







2 responses to “Do You Own A Diesel – This Could Help You Some Day”

  1. Jason Allred Avatar

    This is very interesting info! It’s definitely good to know that in a pinch I could use some of these other methods so I don’t run out of fuel. I’d be very interested in a post about priming the engine if you ever do that.

  2. Mike and Sarah Mackay Avatar

    Hey, love reading your blog! Great information here! Thanks for sharing!

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