Niagara Gazette

Columns

November 28, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: Time for a litte diesel engine 101

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Here’s a quick thermodynamics lesson to illustrate this fact:

1 gallon (3.8 L) of diesel fuel contains approximately 155x106 joules or 147,000 BTU

1 gallon of gasoline contains 132x106 joules or 125,000 BTU

In short, you get more bang for your buck out of a gallon of diesel fuel (about 20 to 25 percent greater efficiency) than you do from a gallon of gasoline (this is because of the steady, even and complete burning of the diesel fuel as it expands and pushes the piston downward in the power stroke).

The Danger of Mis-Fueling Your Diesel Vehicle

What happens if you inadvertently fill your diesel car with gasoline? Whether you’re new to diesel ownership, or might own both diesel and gasoline powered vehicles it can be easy to accidentally mis-fuel your diesel tank with gasoline. Filling your fuel tank is such an ordinary task, that just a moment’s inattention can cause you to grab the wrong nozzle and pump.

Hopefully you realize the mistake right away and get the car towed to a shop to have the tank drained and the system blown free of the offending fuel. But what if you don’t even realize the mistake and end up driving away with a tank full of gasoline? Chances are you won’t get very far (maybe just a mile or so until the diesel in the fuel line gives way to the fresh batch of gasoline on the way from the tank) and the engine starts to run “funny.”

Granted, it all depends on how much diesel remained in the tank before the gasoline was added and how new and sophisticated the diesel engine in your car is. For the record, in an ‘07 or newer clean diesel engine, any amount of gasoline will probably damage the sensitive emission control components and/or system. In older engines with much less sophisticated and “touchy” emissions systems, a lightly diluted (say 90 percent diesel/10 percent gasoline) mix would probably pass through with little or no detriment (hopefully that is…). It might simply cause reduced engine power, perhaps a bit more noise, and possibly a sharp warning from the emissions sensors that detect something other than pure diesel exhaust. It’s high concentrations of gasoline that spell real trouble in a diesel engine. Whether a modern clean running diesel or an old indirect injection unit, burning straight gasoline or highly diluted diesel fuel will almost certainly result in catastrophic damage to the diesel engine. If you mis-fuel your gasoline vehicle with diesel fuel, it will start running poorly and stall, get it to a shop, drain and clean the gas tank, blow the system out with air and hopefully it will start and run without fouling any sensors for the emissions system. in most cases, this is all you’ll find wrong with the car.

That does it for this week. Class dismissed!

‘Til next time ... Keep Rollin’

“America’s Car Show” with Tom Torbjornsen airs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday on WBBZ-TV.

"America's Car Show" with Tom Torbjornsen airs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday on WBBZ-TV.

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