Myth:- Biodiesel will damage your car!
Mostly Wrong!, Biodiesel has been used by thousands of diesel car owners, in different types and makes of car for well over a decade. Biodiesel is used all over the world in both new and old diesel cars, including many top marques including BMW & Mercedes to name two. I have successfully used 100% blends of biodiesel for well over 10000 miles (Dec 2008) in my 2003 reg 320D which is a European common rail variant, and a model widely publicised by the manufacturer to NOT be compatible with Biodiesel.
Most of the rumours spread about biodiesel damage is started by bandwagon jumpers who have never used biodiesel and sometimes may never even own a diesel car!. These people just love to use the internet to spread rumours, add their weight to the latest negative issues and start their own Chinese whispers!.
Many people are also just perhaps passing on the experiences of a friend of a friend or even just repeating information given by other mis-informed individuals!
If you read the various motoring forums, then there is always somebody who has had a ‘negative’ experience of biodiesel. The again, if you read that closely there are people who have had fuel pump problems, engine damage, turbo failures on cars which have never even had a sniff of biodiesel!.
However, as with most things in life, there are some exceptions, and so a small risk, and so any owners venturing down the alternative fuel route will have to accept that all batches of biodiesel are different, and what may work for some will not work well for others.
Biodiesel will not damage your engine – however BAD biodiesel can!
Most of the genuine biodiesel problems occur when people have been careless about the quality of biodiesel which they pour into their cars. Well made and washed biodiesel will work in nearly all pre 2006 model cars without significant loss of power or any risk of damage. However there are suppliers out there who are not making biodiesel correctly, and those who are just selling Vegetable oil and thinners – which is NOT biodiesel.
Some people are also unaware that when first using biodiesel, it does clean out the fuel system and engine which can in turn, lead to blocked fuel filters. Although these are cheap and easy to replace, the effects of a blocked fuel filter (poor idle, sluggish, lack of power, limp home mode triggered in ECUs) are often confused with damage from Biodiesel, and reported as such! However these are, in fact, perfectly normal signs of a blocked fuel filter and unlikely to cause damage.
Using biodiesel which hasn’t been filtered or washed properly, can cause fuel pump failure and injector problems and these are expensive to repair and replace. You do need to ensure that you buy from a reputable biodiesel supplier and read the feedback on forums (or eBay) to see the opinions of those who have bought from the biodiesel supplier before.
Owners forums and places like Pistonheads or TDICLUB can be a great source of information for biodiesel use – also have a look to see if there is a forum for owners of your particular make and model of car.
Myth:- Just pour in Vegetable Oil – its just the same as biodiesel but cheaper!
This statement is not only misleading, but it can also cause you expensive damage to your car!. Biodiesel is NOT the same as Vegetable oil.
There is no way that you should be just pouring new or used vegetable oil into your fuel tank without doing some serious research first, and possibly investing in a twin tank conversion for Veg Oil use!. If your car is a Direct Injection or Common Rail engined car, or manufactured after 2001, then there is a very good chance that your car will NOT run on Vegetable Oil and the risk of damage will result. Properly made Biodiesel will run in nearly all cars, and all types of engine including DI, TDI, HDI, CDI, TDDCI – however Vegetable Oil will only run in a fraction of much older types of car.
Vegetable oil is far thicker than Biodiesel, and so is more likely to not only clog up your fuel system, but also damage your fuel pump and clog up your injectors. Newer common rail diesel cars have extremely small, high pressure injection systems which will be quickly damaged by vegetable use, even when mixed with regular diesel!.
It is true that Biodiesel IS made from vegetable oil, often waste vegetable oil, and this is where the confusion often begins, however that is also where the connection between biodiesel and veg oil ends. To produce biodiesel, the waste oil has to be heated, dewatered, filtered and then mixed with other chemicals in a process called transestification, this process is then followed by more filtering, washing (to remove glycerine and methanol) and then polished – only then can it be called well made biodiesel, and only then should it find its way into your fuel tank!.
Myth:- Diesel Cars get better MPG from Biodiesel use
Opinions on this are mixed!, however in my own personal experience, there is a slight loss of MPG when using biodiesel instead of regular diesel. This is because Biodiesel has less energy than fossil diesel during the injection and combustion process, and so the fuel system needs to use slightly more fuel in order to produce the same amount of power compared to that needed on regular diesel.
It does however depend on the type of car, the type of fuel injection system and the types of journeys that you do!. There are some diesel owners who do get the same or slightly more MPG when running on biodiesel, however these tend to be older cars and on longer runs – if you do mainly short journeys where the engine does not reach normal operating temperature then the drop in MPG on biodiesel may be considerable.
Always factor in the price of biodiesel, compared to the loss experience in MPG. Sadly, some drivers are still filling up with biodiesel which only costs a few pence less than regular diesel, yet getting 5 – 10 mpg less on the same journeys. Obviously in these cases, it can cost you more in real terms than sticking with regular forecourt diesel, so always do the math!.
Myth:- Biodiesel cannot be used in new cars
Biodiesel can be used in any car which has a diesel engine!. However cars which have diesel particulate filters (DPF) should only be used on lower blends of biodiesel. This is because the DPF additive which is injected by the fuel system reacts adversely with biodiesel.
However, if you car does not have a DPF (Most pre 2006 models) then you can use well made biodiesel in any diesel engine, including IDI, DI, TDI, HDI, CDI, TDCI models.
If you have a warranty on a car, then you are not advised to use biodiesel in quantities above those which the manufacturers may recommend. However this doesn’t mean that your car will not run on biodiesel, or that damage will result. It is just common sense, because should the dealer note that your car is full of biodiesel during routine servicing, then it may be noted, and used as an excuse to get out of any warranty work in the future, even the non related fuel claims!.
Myth:- Using Biodiesel has more risks than benefits
If you are going to put homemade or untested commercially produced biodiesel into your car, then you have to accept that there are going to be some risks!. However these risks are on a par as other non manufacturer approved actions, such as fitting non manufacturer approved parts, fitting a tuning chip or other aftermarket accessories.
The main risk, is of course assessing the quality of the biodiesel, and making sure that it is of the highest quality. Diesel owners have successfully run many thousands of miles without any problems on biodiesel.
I have found that the cost savings of using biodiesel, coupled with much smoother running, cleaner emissions and the satisfaction of using a waste product that would be otherwise clogging up a sewer as a useful fuel, far outweigh the small risk of any long term damage.
Myth:- Biodiesel causes more wear and tear on your engine
Biodiesel is actually BETTER at lubricating diesel fuel pumps and engine components. If you are still concerned then I recommend the addition of Millers Power Plus 4 which will increase the cetane rating of your biodiesel making it combust more efficiently and also lubricate and clean the fuel system. Biodiesel also creates less soot when it burns, and so this should decrease the amount of soot, and carbon gunk in emissions control system such as EGR Valves and intercoolers.
Myth:- Biodiesel is easy to source
Biodiesel is actually getting harder to find in my experience, and sadly you may need to travel a fair distance in order to find a reliable source, or pay over the odds to a local supplier, as competition is few and far between. Sadly part of the reason that biodiesel is so scarce, is the lack of financial incentive given to them by the Government!.
Did you know that despite being an environmentally friendly fuel, Biodiesel only gets a small rebate in duty!. In the UK all commercial suppliers pay 30p of duty and VAT on each litre of biodiesel they produce.
So from every litre of biodiesel that you buy – 30p + VAT goes to the government in some form of Tax! and in most cases the Government actually earn more per litre of biodiesel produced than the actual producer. Given this point, it is hardly surprising that there is little biodiesel industry in the UK, and many biodiesel suppliers going out of business all of the time. However Biodiesel availability in Europe and especially the United States seems to be gaining ground, and in most U.S states, biodiesel is generally available in variations from B5 (5% biodiesel content) to B20 (20% biodiesel content) and even B99 (99% biodiesel content)
Myth:- Biodiesel is easy to make
Biodiesel is quite straightforward to make, requires care and attention to detail!. There are also some cautions which the glossy biodiesel processor brochures may not get across!.
Firstly, biodiesel production requires the use and handling of some nasty, corrosive and poisonous chemicals. Methanol poisoning can blind, maim and in sufficient quantities, even KILL. Equally, Lye powder is very corrosive and can burn down to the bone if it makes contact with unprotected skin.
When handling these chemicals, it is vitally important that you wear protective clothing, chemical gloves and also a full face mask. Also work in a well ventilated area, away from children and pets. When you mix the Lye and Methanol together, extremely poisonous and flammable fumes are produced and ideally the mixing should be done outside, and take place in a sealed container. Despite some websites referring to it, I wouldn’t be making biodiesel in my kitchen!
When buying a biodiesel processor, it is advisable to buy one which has a top mounted vent, allowing a hose to be fed from the processor to the outside in order to vent the processor whilst the reaction takes place. Never use an electric drill to mix the Meth and lye together as the sparks from the drill brushes may ignite the explosive vapours.
One of the most popular biodiesel processors is referred to as “The Appleseed Processor”.