5 Diesel Engine Myths : Busted

There are several reasons why diesel engines in passenger cars and light trucks haven’t gained as much popularity in the U.S. as in other countries. For the most part it is due to misinformation or ideas based on much older technology. Today’s diesel engines are more efficient, more powerful, more durable, and cleaner running than their gas engine counterparts. 

Below are some of the more common myths surrounding diesel engines. 

(Myth #1) Diesel engines are slow or sluggish

Though diesel engines of the 80s and even early 90s were designed for pulling power and efficiency rather than to win races, modern diesel cars and trucks have power-to-weight ratios comparable to their gas burning counterparts. Not only are diesel engines coming from the factory with more than 440 horsepower and 860 lb-ft of torque, there is no shortage of aftermarket parts and support for more common diesel engines. As a result, diesel powered motor sports have exploded in the last few years. 1000 horsepower, street legal daily drivers exist, a feat that would be extremely difficult and expensive to achieve with a gas engine. 7 second diesel dragsters? Yes, we’ve got those as well. The lower, broad torque curve of a diesel engine provides excellent acceleration characteristics for highway merging and passing, without compromising fuel economy.

(Myth #2) Diesel engines suffer from poor fuel economy

Diesel engines typically have comparable or better fuel economy to gas engines. Sometime up to 30% better. As of 2010, the density of petroleum diesel is about 6.943 lb/US gal, about 12% more than ethanol-free gasoline.The diesel engine has the highest thermal efficiency of any standard internal or external combustion engine due to its very high compression ratio and inherent lean burn which enables heat dissipation by the excess air. Turbochargers also improve efficiency significantly.

(Myth #3) Diesel engines are hard to start in cold weather

 Diesel engines utilize compression ignition rather than spark plugs, which means they require the combustion chamber to be up to a temperature that will support ignition. Glow plugs and/or grid heaters in the intake track provide diesel engines with the heat necessary to start easily. Oil viscosity is greater in colder temperatures, which can cause issues with hydraulic actuated fuel injectors. This can be remedied by using good clean, lower viscosity and/or synthetic oil during the colder months.  Additionally, block heaters are included with most diesel engines sold in colder climates, which make starting a diesel engine in sub-zero temperature a breeze. It’s important to let your engine warm up more when the temperatures get low, this is true for gas motors as well. 

(Myth #4) Diesel engines have a higher cost of ownership

All things considered, owning a diesel powered vehicle is cost effective.

Diesel engines usually operate much longer before a major overhaul is required.

 While diesel engine service costs maybe slightly higher, service intervals are often longer and less repairs will be required during the engine’s life. Diesel engines are more sturdy in construction, meaning the engine’s life expectancy is much greater than a comparable gas engine. Million mile gassers are not common, but Ford, International and Cummins diesel engines often go hundreds of thousands of miles without any major repairs.  Diesel fuel is slightly more expensive than gasoline, but this is more than offset by the superior fuel economy.

(Myth #5) Diesel powered vehicles are only good for towing

 Diesel engines are very versatile and well suited for any application. Diesel engines are the typical choice for towing, because they provide a considerably flatter torque curve, and produce more torque at lower engine speeds. But the increased performance, reliability and fuel economy of modern diesel engines makes them a great choice for any type of transportation. 

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