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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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