If you have never owned a car powered by diesel fuel, you may wonder how this type of engine works. Many people are in the dark on the differences as well as the pros and cons of diesel vs. fuel.
Here’s a quick list of things to consider when comparing diesel and gasoline engines:
Gasoline engines use what is called, “spark ignition.” A mixture of gas and air is compressed and then exposed to a spark, igniting it to produce energy. This energy moves pistons that ultimately power the vehicle.
Diesel engines, on the other hand, use what is called compression ignition. They pull in air, compress it to raise its pressure and temperature, and then spray in diesel fuel. The heated compressed air ignites the fuel, and its expansion powers the vehicle. (The diesel engine was created by Rudolf Diesel, in case you wonder about the name.)
As for the advantages and disadvantages:
Mileage – Diesels get as much as 30 percent more miles-per-gallon than gasoline engines. They can even outperform some hybrids. However, diesel fuel, which used to be much less expensive than gasoline, is increasing in cost, which reduces the fuel efficiency advantage.
Ignition mechanism – Because diesel engines have no spark plugs or distributors, they rarely require tune-ups. But, regular maintenance is still required, including changing the oil and replacing fuel, air, and oil filters.
Power off the line – Because of the way they burn fuel, diesel engines tend to provide more power from a standing start than gasoline engines. However, gasoline engines provide better high-speed performance.
Longevity – Diesel engines were originally built with trucks and other heavy duty vehicles in mind, so reliability was a key component. Some Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles have recorded nearly a million miles on their original engines. But, when they do need service, diesel engines can be more costly to repair.
Towing – Diesel-powered pickups and SUVs provide more torque to the driveshaft than their gas-powered counterparts, so they are more efficient when towing things like boats or campers. However, if you don’t need that torque, a diesel may make less sense for you.
Diesel engines provide a number of advantages for drivers looking for certain attributes. And, government pressure to produce lower-emission vehicles is driving continual improvement in the technology. As you make your next car purchase, don’t rule out diesels.
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