Friday, November 18, 2005

Biodiesel Jelly

Yesterday I was in diesel hell. I am a teacher and needed to be at school at 7:00 AM for an AM basketball open gym that I am paid to run 2 times a week. I got in my 2000 Jetta to start it up and let it idle for a while. It started fine and then I went inside to tend to some things. I came out 5 minutes later and it had died!? I tried to restart it, but nothing. The low that night had only been 8F!?! OK, no problem, I'll just jump in SoDak and take her. She started right up and then after idling 30 seconds killed. AAAAAAARRRRGGGHHH!! The B50 biodiesel(1/2 biodiesel, 1/2 petro diesel) that I bought from the Twin Cities Biodiesel Coop, supposedly with a cold filter plug point of -20F, was plugging the filter at 18F (daytime temperature yesterday). The filters became plugged with wax crystals from the fuel. Both filters had been changed with in the past 4,000 miles. I yelled a few things that I won't publish here and had to call my parents at 6:10 AM to borrow their car. God bless mom and dad. I then plugged in the TDIheater (thermostatically controlled coolant circulating block heater - an amazing product!) to let it heat the engine for the day. My wife had no luck when she tried to start the cars again at 8am to go to class.

That day I called up the TC biodiesel folks and gave them an earful. To their credit, they did offer to help me get my cars started using various heaters, etc. The gentleman who told me that the fuel was good to -20 "did not recall" telling me that information. Hmmm.

Upon getting home that evening, I tried to start the Jetta - No dice. I then pulled the fuel filter, brought it inside, warmed it, drained it and refilled it with properly winterized petro diesel. I reinstalled it and the car started, but killed after a 1/4 mile. The fuel left in the lines plugged the filter again! AAAAAAARRRRGGGHHH!!

I walked home, drove back to the Jetta and pulled the fuel filter for the second time, drained it, refilled with petro diesel and this time put the fuel filter intake into a 5 gal. jug of petro diesel. I then ran the car for 15 minutes, turned it off, dumped the 5 gallons of petro in the tank, reconnected the fuel line and hoped for the best. Fortunately, the tank was only 1/4 full of B50. She started and ran. I then drove the the nearest filling station and filled the Jetta the rest of the way with petro diesel. SUCCESS! Through this whole process, my one-year old daughter was a great sport. She sat in her car seat, looking longingly out the back window as I tried to avoid yelling words I wouldn't want to hear coming out of her mouth next week.

Today is supposed to have a high of 40, so my wife will try to start SoDak again today. Success! She then filled her up with petro diesel. No more problems.

More info that you'd ever want to know about biofuels here.

The morals of the story...
If you want something done right, do it yourself. Biodiesel is a very bad idea for wintertime. If you insist on biodiesel blends for the winter, test your fuel in the freezer with a thermometer or use a salt/ice bath similar to making ice cream to get it really cold.


Blogger VeggieDreaming said...

Based on my reading about biodiesel and converting my 740 to run on veggie oil, I wonder if you were victim to the cleansing qualities of biodiesel. From everything I've read biodiesel should not have any issues with geling during cold weather.

Many biodiesel users have noted the need to replace the fuel filter up to 3 in a week, this tends to happen with B100. The biodiesel apparently acts as a solvent and dislodges buildup in the fuel lines thus causing the fuel filter to clog. Here's a link that you might find of interest

6:39 PM  
Blogger Mr. Winberg said...

I did not change either fuel filter after the biodiesel problems mentioned in this post. If my problems were due to filter clogging, my problem would persist to this day. I have no problems. I did carry an extra fuel filter in both my cars when running B100 just in case.

2:34 PM  

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