What's Biodiesel and Can I Use It?

As the world looks for new sources of energy, biodiesel has become an interesting topic. In a nutshell, biofuels are made from biological ingredients instead of fossil fuels. These can range from vegetable oils like corn or soybean oil or can come from animal fat. The main key to biodiesel is how a diesel engine works. You see, diesel engines run only on compression, not combustion. This means that there is no need for an explosion, just the right viscosity of fuel used in the engine.

Traditional diesel fuel is made from petroleum and runs many of the large trucks and busses on the road today. Biodiesel is designed to mimic traditional diesel fuel so it can work in most diesel engines while being non-toxic and renewable. In most cases, biodiesel is safe to use in standard diesel engines with little to no modifications. However, to make this easier on consumers, much of the biodiesel on the market today is blended with traditional petroleum diesel. These blends feature a code in the form of Bxx where the xx stands for the percentage of biodiesel in the mix. So a B20 blend would be 20% biodiesel and 80% traditional while B100 is pure biodiesel.

The best thing to do before trying out biodiesel in your car is to check with your manufacturer. They will have recommendations on whether or not modifications are needed to your engine. In some cases, the use of biodiesel may void manufacturer's warranties, so it is always best to double-check. You can also check with the producer of the biodiesel before giving it a shot in your vehicle. Your best bet is to start with B10 or B20 to play it safe. If you don't notice a change in performance or other issues, start bumping it up to B40 and so on until you're comfortable running on B100.

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