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Can You Use Biodiesel on Your Diesel Engine?

Do you drive a diesel car or truck? If so, you’re part of a growing trend. The popularity of vehicles powered by this alternative fuel is steadily on the rise. And, there are more options than ever before for clean diesel vehicles!  Diesel engines make for quiet, fun to drive, and lower-emission vehicles. But, more and more consumers are shopping for earth-friendly rides instead. So, what if we told you that you could get the best of both worlds from just one automobile? Biodiesel is a sustainable option that will help you find a compromise between the diesel vehicle of your dreams and environmentally sustainable transportation.

Keep reading for more information and to find out if it’s a viable option for your car or truck!

What Is Biodiesel?

According to the National Biodiesel Board, biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement made from an alternative resource such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil, or animal fat. And, depending on your vehicle’s current diesel engine, it may be used without making major modifications to your car or truck. 

Biodiesel blends are also available, using a mixture of traditional petroleum-based and sustainable fuels. And, in some cases, additives like ethanol.  

Most biodiesel is made via called transesterification – a chemical process that separates glycerin from fat or oil. This process leaves behind two individual products – methyl esters and glycerin. Methyl esters is the scientific or chemical name for biodiesel, and glycerin is used to produce a variety of products, including soap.

Can You Use It?

The easy answer is that it depends on what kind of car or truck you drive. 

While there are plenty of new vehicles that come equipped with biodiesel engines, this feature isn’t essential for using alternative fuels. In fact, nearly 80% of the new diesel vehicles currently being manufactured are biodiesel compatible – even if they’re marketed as being built with a traditional diesel engine.

If you drive an older model or operate heavy-duty diesel engines, there’s a chance that you’ll have to make a few modifications before making the switch to renewable fuels. But, the process is relatively common and simple to complete. And, it may be unnecessary if you stick to biodiesel blends rather than making a total change.

These mixed fuels can include up to 20 percent biodiesel, well under the limit of what most diesel engines can handle without modification. And, blends under 4 percent don’t even require a consumer notice or labeling – as they are compatible with all traditional diesel engines.   

If you aren’t sure whether your diesel engine is cut out for alternative fuels, your best bet is to work with a diesel mechanic or diesel engine specialist before making a change. These professionals can help you decide if biodiesel will work well in your car or truck and fill you in on any modifications you might need to make. They’ll also be able to advise on which blend is best for your vehicle.

Big Environmental Benefits

With a name like biodiesel, it should be obvious to most consumers that this alternative fuel comes loaded with environmental benefits. But, just in case you aren’t convinced to make the switch, here are a few of the positive ways that your decision could impact the planet. 

When compared to petroleum-based diesel fuel, biodiesel emits 86% less lifecycle greenhouse gasses. This is absolutely essential for reducing the impact of transportation emissions, believed to be a key component of climate change.

Biodiesel also reduces hydrocarbon emissions and lowers the particulate matter put out by a vehicle’s exhaust. These factors reduce smog and make our air healthier to breathe. They also contribute to a healthy water cycle with fewer contaminants.

Biodiesel also requires far fewer resources, like land and energy, to create. This is especially important to note as more and more countries begin to search for new fossil fuel resources, even within highly protected regions like state and national parks.  

Other Considerations

Before making the change to biodiesel, there are a few other key factors to consider. 

First of all, you can’t just dump any old cooking oil into your diesel vehicle and expect it to run properly. Instead, you’ll need to find a reliable source for clean and safe biodiesel that is free from particles and impurities that could otherwise damage your engine. This can be a concern if you live in an area where biodiesel is not regularly available.

If you drive a newer vehicle, you’ll also need to research your warranty. While most newly manufactured diesel cars and trucks are covered, so long as you’re using certified fuel, there are a few common caveats. Among these, the most common is the acceptable percentage of biodiesel your vehicle is warrantied to use – in most cases, between six and 20 percent. 

It’s also essential to consider how you plan to use your vehicle before converting to a sustainable fuel source. Biodiesel has a small cycle variation and a stable combustion state when compared to traditional fuels, meaning that it works well for vehicles idling and operating at low speeds. This makes it especially practical for urban drivers!

But, biodiesel may not deliver the same power as traditional fuel in high RPM situations. Specifically, blended fuels that combine biodiesel and ethanol may not deliver top performance between 1500 and 1800 RPM. This can lead to a loss of power at high speed. 

Making the Switch

Now that you know a bit more about biodiesel, you’re probably excited to make the switch. That’s awesome news! Reading this article might have been your first step toward making the switch to a clean fuel alternative that allows you to keep driving the diesel car or truck of your dreams.

Keep this article as a reference guide, and you’ll never go wrong. And, for more information on all things related to diesel engines, check out the rest of our blog posts! We promise you’ll be happy you did.