Can You Really Burn Vegetable Oil In Your Car?

By Lonnie Whitcher
Updated September 5, 2014
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Can You Really Burn Vegetable Oil In Your Car?When you see today's high gas prices, doesn't it make you wish you had an alternative?  Wouldn't it be nice if you never had to go to a gas station again? Think how much money you could save if you had an alternative fuel, especially if it was something that was readily available and inexpensive (or even free). For some people, this is more than just a dream. You may have heard of people who use vegetable oil for fuel. Is it true? Can you really burn vegetable oil in your car? 

You can't just pick up free used cooking oil from the local restaurant and pour vegetable oil in your car. There are important considerations, and if you don't know what you're doing, this could completely ruin your engine. Here's what you need to know about using vegetable oil in car engines.

1.) You Need A Diesel Engine.

If your car has a gasoline engine, you cannot put vegetable oil in your car.  The systems in a gas-powered engine will not be able to create the proper combustion with this type of fuel, because it is too different from the gasoline that goes into a normal, non-diesel engine vehicle.  If you have a diesel engine in your car, then using vegetable oil may be a possibility.

2.) Biodiesel Vs. Vegetable Oil.

When you hear about people using biodiesel for fuel, that term refers to a type of fuel that is produced from vegetables, often made using soy.  Biodiesel is regulated.  It is refined at special facilities, and has to meet certain standards and needs to follow anti-pollution regulations.  Many diesel vehicles can run on biodiesel without a problem. 

Vegetable oil is another matter.  If you want to put vegetable oil in car engines, you can use vegetable oil from a supermarket, or even used vegetable oil from a restaurant. This type of fueling is more of a do it yourself type thing.  This is not refined in the same way, and is not regulated, nor does not have the same standards as biodiesel. Because of environmental laws, some states have special rules about vegetable oil as a fuel, so if you decide to use it, be sure to check with your city or state first.

3.) Problems With Using Vegetable Oil.

Compared to diesel or biodiesel fuel, the viscosity of vegetable oil is very high.  Its thickness means that it is not atomized effectively, and this can result in unburned fuel that can clog your engine.  The simplest solution for this issue is to combined vegetable oil with standard diesel, and burn the mixture in your car.  This will lessen the problems with clogging the engine, but will not remove them entirely.

4.) Modifying A Car To Burn Vegetable Oil.

If you want to burn vegetable oil in your car efficiently, you can make some modifications to the vehicle.  One step is to add fuel injector nozzles that have filters to ensure that only clean oil gets into your engine.  Installing new glow plugs specifically designed for vegetable oil will make it easier to start the car.  You can also move engine coolant lines to be next to fuel lines.  This will heat the fuel, and make it burn better.  There are conversion kits available if you decide to update your car; however be sure to read into the subject throughly as this is no easy task.

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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.