Diesel engines have one advantage over other engines: it converts fuel to power in a more efficient way. Yet here in the US, if you want a diesel engine, you’ll have to shop for either a pickup or SUV; recent scandals involving emissions tampering stopped sales of diesel cars here in the US in favor of hybrids and electrics.
Still, if you are in the market for a pickup or SUV, diesels offer advantages. According to the EPA, diesel fuel contains up to 15 percent more energy per gallon than gasoline. That makes it more efficient, meaning you go farther on a gallon of gas, and save money doing so overall.
If you’ve ever driven a car or truck with a diesel engine, you might have fallen in love with the way it drives. There are many reasons for drivers to prefer diesel, including:
- Lower emissions
- Better fuel efficiency
- Less maintenance when compared to gas powered engines
However, fewer trips to a mechanic doesn’t mean you should ignore maintenance altogether. Driving a diesel powered truck means you might push it more for both work and personal use. It still needs regular maintenance to continue operating as efficiently as possible.
With these diesel engine maintenance tips in place, you can keep your vehicle running for years – decades – and have this vehicle be one of the best you’ve ever owned.
The difference between diesel fuel and gasoline
Before we get into the difference in how the two engines work, let’s start with the fuel used to keep your vehicle in operation.
Both gasoline and diesel engines use an internal combustion engine to convert fuel into energy. The difference between the two is when the combustion occurs.
If you drive a car powered by gasoline, fuel combines with oxygen, which is compressed by pistons and ignited by sparks created by the spark plugs.
If you drive a vehicle powered by diesel fuel, air is compressed first to a very high temperature, and then fuel is injected and ignites with the hot air.
Diesel engines don’t require spark plugs for this process to occur. Without these inside the engine compartment, it’s one less system you’ll have to maintain and eventually replace over time.
Can you use gasoline and diesel fuel interchangeably?
Instinctively drivers know that you can’t mix the two types of fuel. You can’t put diesel fuel into a gasoline tank, and vice versa.
Diesel fuel is heavier than gasoline. It has different density and viscosity levels. Its flash point and ignition temperatures are also significantly higher. That also makes the opposite true: gasoline is lighter than diesel fuel, and ignites at a lower temperature. This is what causes problems if you intermix the two.
Let’s start with putting gasoline in a diesel engine. Even a small drop can be dangerous because of the flashpoint. Gasoline lowers the flash temperature significantly, which means diesel fuel can prematurely ignite, leading to engine damage. It can damage the fuel pump, and impact the diesel injectors, all because of an incomplete combustion process. Because of today’s technology, the computer will try and adjust based on readings, which can cut power and cause further damage inside the system.
The reverse can also be damaging. If you add diesel fuel into a gasoline tank, it becomes more volatile and burns at a much lower flash temperature. The gasoline will ignite before the pistons complete their action. At best, you’ll get a knocking sound. At worst, it’ll quickly damage the piston and rod. Diesel fuel is heavier than gasoline, meaning it quickly sinks to the bottom of the tank. That can create problems throughout the system, including damage to the intake manifold, master cylinder, and eventually into the exhaust system.
If you mix the two, your best course of action is to have it towed and remedy the problem before you drive it again.
Keeping your diesel engine healthy with these maintenance tips
While your diesel engine truck or SUV won’t require exactly the same maintenance routine as your gasoline powered luxury sedan, it still requires TLC to keep it operational and running smoothly throughout its life.
Start with regular oil changes. Oil is a critical component in every vehicle to ensure it’s fully operational. Like any vehicle, an oil change should be scheduled regularly according to manufacturer’s guidelines. Check to ensure your oil is at appropriate levels, watch for buildup of sludge under the cap, or for changes in viscosity.
Replace fuel and air filters regularly. Diesel engines have two fuel filters in place, which should be replaced regularly to ensure your engine operates efficiently. If you push your vehicle for either business or personal use, it might benefit you to replace them more often. With the air filter, you can monitor it and replace it as soon as you see dirt accumulating. This helps your engine take in clean air to help it run smoothly.
Check coolant levels. Because diesel engines operate at higher temperatures, they rely more heavily on the cooling system for performance. This puts more heat and pressure on the radiator, which can increase the likelihood of overheating. An easy way to avoid serious damage is to check your coolant regularly, and add as necessary.
Keep your engine compartment clean. For some, a dirty truck is a happy truck. But buildup underneath the hood can damage critical components of your vehicle. Dirt, grime, debris, and other contaminants can impact the engine’s ability to perform efficiently. The more you use dirt roads, drive on rough terrain, or even navigate the Colorado roads sprayed with chemicals in the wintertime, it’s important to ensure you spray away the damaging particles regularly.
Use these maintenance tips regularly to keep your diesel engine operating at its best
Whether you’re driving a brand new SUV or truck, or you have a favorite vehicle you’ve been driving for years, the best way to keep it operating at its best is with regular maintenance.
We can help with that. For regular maintenance, or a significant repair, our team of mechanics is ready to help you keep your vehicle running smoothly for many years to come. Give us a call today.