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French Fries In Your Tank: Diesel and Grease Kits

With gas and oil prices on the rise, it makes sense to review your fuel expenses and see if there’s any way to control your costs. While you do have a few options, the absolute best way to reduce what you pay for gas is to purchase a diesel vehicle – new or used, car or truck.

Diesel engines burn hotter and more cleanly than regular gasoline engines, and thus require less fuel to cover the same distance as a tank of regular gas. This allows you to save on gas as you’re getting substantially better mileage from one tank of fuel. Additionally, diesel cars can use biodiesel fuels without requiring any modifications.

Having a diesel car opens up several bio-fuel pathways for you. To reduce what you pay at the gas station, you can either buy or produce biodiesel fuel, and you can realize an even greater cost savings by installing a grease kit in the trunk of your car.

The grease kit allows your diesel vehicle to run on pure vegetable oil. The kit consists of a tank (for the oil), which is installed in your vehicle’s trunk area. The tank is connected to your vehicle’s engine, and the system features a switch that allows you to toggle between the diesel and vegetable oil fuels.

Your car still requires diesel fuel to start and run briefly until the vegetable oil can be brought up to temperature. The tank has an integrated component that uses waste engine heat to warm up the vegetable oil, and this makes the oil more viscous and easily burned. After about 10-15 minutes, you toggle the switch to shut off the flow of diesel fuel to your engine and turn on the vegetable oil pump. You do not need to stop the car – you can keep driving while the fuel switches over.

Note that your engine can run on cold oil, but it will be thick and will not burn well – reducing the potential mileage and other benefits you gain by using this form of fuel.

When you reach your destination, you’ll need to toggle the car to flip back to diesel fuel. The system “blows back” the vegetable oil, clearing it out of the engine, and allowing diesel fuel back into the engine. This lets your car start quickly when you’re ready to go as the diesel fuel is already present in the engine. As before, you do not need to stop the car in order to switch between the two fuels.

The best part about grease kits is that you can use any type of vegetable oil – even used vegetable oil. Rather than purchase oil, you can go to restaurants and ask if they’d give you or sell you their used oil. Restaurant management is usually happy to work with people on this as they have to pay a fee to dispose of the oil. You may be able to work out an arrangement with the management and leave buckets for them to fill up over the course of a week, and then only need to make one trip to each location.

Fast-food restaurants will generally have a greater quantity of used oil, but higher-end restaurants will use correspondingly higher-quality, non-hydrogenated vegetable oils. Non-hydrogenated oils burn more cleanly and you’ll gain better engine performance from them. When in doubt, try using oil from several different restaurants to see if you have better mileage from a particular type of oil.

Once you have your used vegetable oil, you’ll need to allow it to sit for a week to let any water and foreign material settle, and then it will need to be filtered to remove those components. You can buy the necessary equipment at most home or hardware stores. A quick Internet search will give you information on what you’ll need and how to filter the oil. Generally, you’ll need to start off with a coarse filter, about a 400-600 micron range. 600 and 1,000 micron get out all the really big chunks, like French fries and stuff. Then you’ll want to de-water the oil.

There are several methods for doing this. You can heat the oil to 212 degrees Fahrenheit to vaporize the water. Another method is to simple let it settle. Pour your oil into a container with a drain valve on the bottom (the same method used to drain water from an air compressor). Let it sit for a week or two, and then open the drain cock and let the water run out. There are other methods as well, and an Internet search will introduce you to these.

After you’re done removing the water from the vegetable oil, you’ll filter through increasingly finer filters (400, 200, and 100 micron, and so on) to catch the smaller particles. Polyester filtering bags are a good choice for this. It’s best to heat your oil to about 100+ degrees Fahrenheit to allow the oil to flow freely through the fine filter. Any colder and you risk the fats in the oil clogging up your filter. Continue to filter in increasingly finer material – 50, 25, 10, etc. It’s recommended that you go down to a 5 micron filter for vegetable oil to ensure the purity of the oil.

Once in your storage container, filter it once more through a 1 micron filter as you pump it into the grease kit tank. This type of fuel burns efficiently and will provide excellent mileage. Considering that you may be able to acquire the oil for free, this can provide you with significant savings on your monthly gas costs.

Several different grease kits are available online and typically cost around $1,200. One model does not have an integrated heating unit, and you would need to purchase additional parts to add this component. While the system can run without one, it will be much more efficient if the oil is heated to the proper temperature before use.

As an example, one grease kit user estimated his gas expenses at $500 per month. After installing a grease kit, acquiring used vegetable oil from local restaurants, and filtering and using the oil, the driver was able to cut his monthly gas expenses to $100, even with a 40-mile commute to work. Saving $400 per month provided him with a yearly savings of $4,800. The grease kit paid for itself in less than a year, and put a significant amount of money back into his family’s budget.

Regardless of how much time you spend on the road, the grease kit will give you some freedom from fluctuating gas prices. If you have a diesel car, and enough time to collect and filter the oil, it will help you cut your gas bill without reducing how much you drive. The one drawback is that your car will smell a bit like French fries when you’re burning used vegetable oil, so don’t drive hungry!

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9 comments

  1. Had not heard before about the veg. oil kit. You would have to have a large, heated garage or area for the filtering, and not mind the mess you would make. My guess would be that six or eight such cars in a town our size (5,000) would use up every bit of free oil from the cafes.
    Most people I am acquainted with do not have deisel cars (deisel is higher priced than gasoline), do not have the money to buy the filter kit, much less the car, and do not have the heated space, which in order for them to provide would add to their other energy costs (heat and electricity).

    • Note to Ruth;

      Craigs list – picked up my 1995 Dodge 3/4 ton P/U for $3000. 156,000 miles and barely broke in.

      1 used 60 gallon electric water heater for $10. Heating elements removed.

      1 makeshift solar oven from mirrors I picked up at a glass shop. I got their broken stuff which they gave me. The plywood I got at Home Depot for $25.

      The stand was built from scrap wood from a nearby construction site. Free.

      Stripped the outer shell from off of the tank and remove the insulation. Mirrors are placed around the tank so that there is always some reflected sunlight hitting the tank through out the day. Even in winter the oil reaches 220*F for most of the day. After a week of draining off water and debris the oil is ready to use.

      I use 1 restaurant which provides me with 50 gallons a week.

      So far my cost is a whopping $35, vehicle excluded.

      Now for the fuel system on my truck.
      I use my main (original) tank as the petroleum diesel tank.

      1 – 110 Gallon Truck Bed Tank, bought off of Craigs list, used, in good shape, no leaks. $100.

      1 – Heater core element from a Chevy van, new from Auto-Zone, $65.

      Cost of having the heater core installed into the tank, $50.

      Kit to tie into the heater hose from the engine, $25 and this included the oil temperature gage from the tank.

      Switching mechanism, $30.

      12 volt fuel pump, $15.

      Hoses $15

      Total cost for fuel system on truck, $300.

      Total over all cost $335. Vehicle excluded.

      Any questions

  2. Just yesterday (4/17) I drove home my “new” (to me) VW diesel “Caddy” truck, which has been driven on commercial petroleum diesel, but I’ve been studying this recycled oil process for over 2 years now. A few months ago I test drove a VW Rabbit car 3 years older than my truck for which seller was asking more than I paid because hers had been expensively outfitted with the dual tanks you describe above. But I won’t be losing cargo space by doing this because I discovered another process.

    Back in WW2 days, when Rudolph Diesel was developing his engine, Hitler wanted it to run on peanut oil, so the engine was designed for this purpose. A descendent of one of Diesel’s employees is now working with a company in the US, and they have formulated a process that will let you mix a fuel, using their proprietary additive, that requires NO engine modification, no dual tanks, and no toggle switch. (Gad zooks, it was all I could handle driving home a 5-speed manual trannie after about 15 years away from manuals!)
    You can fill your tank with commercial diesel one day and pour in your own veggie oil mixture the next with no modifications. Considering that I’m (1) female and (2) a senior, the simpler the better for me.

    Oh, I have not only purchased their manual and read it, but the brother of a close friend has been using this company’s process for some years in his diesel truck that he uses to transport a race car, and he says it works! His endorsement is good enough for me.

    So take a look at www (dot) dieselsecretenergy (dot) com and see what you think.

    Until we can grow in numbers larger and louder than the tree-huggers who are preventing us from drilling for our own on-shore oil in Alaska and the Dakotas and to build safe, economical, new generation nuclear plants (such as Integral Fast Reactor design—which is to Fukushima what a new Prius is to a Model T), I will do whatever I can to avoid being scalped by the greed of Big Oil and the destructive anti-American policies of the gang of crooks in D.C.

  3. Be careful with the use of bio-fuels…….the newer VW and other electronically injected diesels are very sensistive to fuel quality. I was talking to the the local vw dealer about the new TDI if purchased recently, and he informed me not to use any biofuel in it…..he just had another vehicle in that wouldn’t run, the owner had used biofuel and it ruined the injectors…..several thousand dollars damage, and NOT covered by warranty! The older mechanical injection systems can handle it, but the newer high pressure (20,000 psi) electronic systems cannot.

    • Here is the rub on the newer Diesel engines that have the 25,000 PSI systems on them (some systems go as high as 60,000 PSI). It’s not the injectors themselves. Ruin one of the TDI injectors and they’ll set you back about $200. Since there is only 4 of them that’s only about $800. The real problem are the seals inside the injectors and the injector pump. Bio-diesel is acidic in nature and cause most seal materials and o-rings to swell. With today’s tighter tolerances a swelling seal will wreck havok on the clearances and now we have a pump to replace. The easiest remedy is to have the car manufacturers install bio-fuels tolerant seals and problem solved. I have a 2000 Dodge diesel that has a 30,000 psi electronic system on it (VP44-HP) that I run on Bio-Diesel AND/OR Vegie Oil. It runs just fine. Back when this baby had 205,000 miles on it I lost the stock VP44 injector pump which I had only run on regular Petroleum Diesel. The cost of another stock pump was $1800. I found a rebuilt VP pump which had been modified to run on bio-fuels. It also gave me 190HP over stock. I now have 534,441 miles on it now, running nothing but Bio-diesel.

      However, mine is a modified pump to withstand the acid. I’ve never replaced the injectors. The biofuels get to the unmodified fuel injector pumps on both diesel and gasoline.

  4. Have been running my 2005 VW Jetta tdi on VegOil for over 4 1/2 years and almost 140K miles. We are just over 69% VegOil which gets us above the 67% imported crude oil. This was our first goal. The second goal was to start a Co-op. The Co-op started in 2008 and reached five members. One has moved and processes oil now for two vehicles and a tractor. We currently have two active members. In the last 4 1/2 years we have processed more than 8800 gallons of Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO) to VegOil for use as fuel. We stay legal and pay the Federal Road Tax $0.244/ gallon. Our current fuel cost for co-op members is $0.30/ gallon. Process building is solar heated and finished product is filtered to 2 microns absolute.

  5. i been doing this for the last 5 years to keep my cost low. With a diesel tractor and a wood/fuel oil outdoor boiler i make as much as i can. Just remember that you will have to pay state/federal gas tax on it even if you are making it yourself. It only takes one jelous person or a law enforcement officer that hears about or smell your homemade fuel and you could be paying more in fines then you save in gas.
    Another thing is wood-gas haven’t built one yet but looks very promising for fuel and generation. Check out the videos on this at u-tube.

  6. Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all people you actually understand what you are speaking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also consult with my web site =). We could have a hyperlink exchange agreement among us

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