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Video:See How a Car Runs on Vegetable Oil

with Joe Fisher

High gas price make running cars on alternative fuels a very attractive option. See how a car has been converted to run on vegetable oil, and learn what kind of care and maintenance this requires.See Transcript

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Transcript:See How a Car Runs on Vegetable Oil

Hi, I'm Joe Fisher, bio-fuels expert from dachaproject.com, here on About.com I'm going to show you how to take care of a veggie oil car.

Diesel Engines and Alternative Fuels

Did you know that the diesel engine was designed originally to run on peanut oil? Vegetable oils are not only renewable fuel sources that we can grow, but are also carbon neutral. It's really great to be able use this older technology to deal with present day issues. And it doesn't hurt that I get to drive around for almost no money.

I converted this 1984 diesel Mercedes to run on waste vegetable oil to save on fuel costs and to have a positive impact on the environment.

How Does Vegetable Oil Conversion Work?

Before we jump in, here's a quick overview of how a vegetable conversion works. Your vegetable oil goes into a vegetable oil tank, usually kept in the trunk. From there it travels through a set of filters, which catch particles too big for the car's fuel system.

After being filtered the vegetable oil flows through this aluminum tube inside the coolant hose which runs to the back of the car heating the veggie oil on its way to the engine bay. The heated oil then flows to this fuel selector valve, that's controlled by a switch inside the car. This valve determines which fuel is going to your engine, diesel or veggie.

Obtain Vegetable Oil for the Car

Now that you understand the basics of the conversion, you are ready to go find yourself some oil. I got this for free from a local Chinese buffet.

I used an inexpensive barrel pump from a tractor supply store to pump the oil out of their grease dumpster and into to this container, or QB as they are affectionately called.

Filter Vegetable Oil for Cars

With most vegetable oil conversions it is important to filter the waste oil before using it in your car, so you don't have to change your systems filters as often. My system was designed to filter grease on the fly, so I can skip this step. Even still, I let my oil settle for a while before using it.

But eventually you will have to change your filters. A good tip is to fill the new filters with diesel oil, instead of vegetable oil, before you install them. The reason you use diesel, is because it displaces air out of the filter faster. Too much air in the system can prevent your car from starting.

Store the Vegetable Oil Safely

Chances are you'll get more oil than can fit in your trunk. If this happens you can store it in your garage or in a mini-solar heater of your own design. This is a small solar heater that absorbs heat from the sun to heat the oil. I made it from recycled windows and reflectix insulation. Heating the oil allows solid particles to sink to the bottom of the QB so I don't pour them in my tank.

Mixing Oils to Prolong Engine Life

One of the main purposes of a veggie oil conversion is to heat the oil to give it a similar viscosity as conventional diesel fuel. Yes, in colder climes, you do need to keep a bit of regular diesel in your normal gas tank to be able to start and stop the engine when it's too cold for the veggie oil to be viscous. In fact, a lot of people suggest that you do this anyhow, in any climate, to prolong engine life.

Before I go on a long trip, I put ten full cubies in my trunk, this fifty gallons of fuel keeps me on the road for 1000 miles without having to stop at a gas station or a restaurant.

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