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Old January 16th, 2013, 09:32 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Why do I get worse gas mileage in the winter?

I thought the idea is the colder the air is The denser the oxygen, the better fuel/air ratio. Is it the ethanol added in the winter that is killing my mileage?

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Old January 16th, 2013, 09:38 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Cold air makes the oil thicker, takes the engine longer to get to optimal operating temperature, time idling waiting for the car to warm up, just generally makes the engine work harder until it warms up.
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Old January 16th, 2013, 12:41 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Actually the kind of motor oil that's used here in the US (e.g. 5W20) is thinner at low temperatures.

I wouldn't count time spent "warming up" a car as a contributor to gas mileage because the car isn't moving toward a destination at those times. This practice (along with running the car with the A/C on to cool down the interior) does waste fuel, and isn't necessary with modern cars.

Things that can cause increased fuel consumption while the car is being driven includes road conditions. When roads are wet, or made slippery by ice, snow and even residual matter like salt and sand, cars can lose traction and burn up fuel spinning their wheels. For cars with electronic stability controls, the fuel is lost to heat when the ESC applies brake pressure to wheels to stop them from slipping. And of course using AWD or 4WD systems uses more energy.

Another thing to consider is that winter air tends to be colder, which makes it more dense. Modern fuel injection systems see that density, and add more fuel to maintain the right air/fuel ratio. That means that a car can produce more horsepower in the winter than in the summer. Those who don't adjust their driving habits to slow down in bad weather, or those who must apply full power will burn more fuel because of that.

Ethanol is used all year where I live. The gasoline itself is reformulated in the summer months to produce less smog in some areas. I don't know if one formulation is significantly less efficient, but it's a possibility.

Ethanol has a lot less power density than pure gasoline, so miles per gallon will drop as ethanol content goes up. E85 users will see the worst miles per gallon because it's 85% ethanol.

I think it's a combination of all of the above and more.
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Old January 16th, 2013, 01:20 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The primary reason gas mileage is less in the winter is because the air is denser. It takes more energy to push denser air out of the way. The effects can be lessened by driving a few miles per hour slower.
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Old January 18th, 2013, 08:32 PM   #5 (permalink)
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If you live up North, the oxygenated gasoline used in the winter will lower your MPG. In January of '09 I drove from S. Louisiana on up to Canada and the mileage dropped the farther North I traveled. We don't have winter/summer gas formulations down here so we don't normally see it.
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Old February 1st, 2013, 04:43 AM   #6 (permalink)
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The computer runs the engine richer to get to operating temperature faster.

Yes speed daemon, warming (or cooling) a vehicle without moving WILL contribute to lower MPG. You're burning fuel and not accumulating miles, effectively getting ZERO MPG during that time.

Last week we had negative temps, I didn't significantly change my startup procedure (let it idle the same as normal or a little longer), and I got 2 or 3 MPG less.
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Old February 1st, 2013, 06:34 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by mplevy View Post
Yes speed daemon, warming (or cooling) a vehicle without moving WILL contribute to lower MPG. You're burning fuel and not accumulating miles, effectively getting ZERO MPG during that time.
I think that you may have missed my point. Although at first glance it appears that you're getting 0 MPG, and the crude MPG meters in some cars will report it as such, the fact is that in a static condition like this, distance (miles) is a constant, not a variable. That means that "M" is always zero while the vehicle is parked. To reduce it further, there is no M in static situations.

If you have a constant zero as a numerator, the result is always the static number zero, which makes "measuring" MPG pointless under static conditions. Nobody puts a MPG meter on stationary motors for that very reason. In other parts of the world where the formulas use distance as the denominator (e.g. "liters per kilometer"), having a denominator of zero gives no quotient at all!

Under dynamic driving conditions, it takes more sophisticated math (like calculus) to factor in the necessary start/stop cycles in driving in traffic. The complex math can be reduced to a single scalar number that we call MPG. But there's a lot more to it than that.

In short, fuel consumption is not the same as gas mileage.

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Last week we had negative temps, I didn't significantly change my startup procedure (let it idle the same as normal or a little longer), and I got 2 or 3 MPG less.
Today we hit a low for the season in Madison. When I went out to pick up a package, my gas mileage was reduced by slippage due to the ice and snow covered pavement, parasitic losses due to the use of 4WD, and an especially long time it took to park in my indoor garage as my windows fogged over. I thought it was interesting that I had to take as long to park as the rest of the trip! But that's an excellent example of how there are many contributing factors to this complex equation.
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Old February 3rd, 2013, 09:19 PM   #8 (permalink)
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ever since i dumped the dinosaur that was my 1984 Fifth Avenue for a more modern 1992 Bonneville SSE, my gas mileage has stayed the same in all four seasons. you only notice a drop if you got a old carburetor car that is very cold natured, which dumps gas into it at an alarming rate when cold (as evidenced by the black smoke and carbon stains on snow first thing in the morning).

last car i had with a carb was my AMC AMX, and it was slightly better but still noticeably lower in winter. older cars don't take too kindly to corn ethanol either.

1984 Chrysler Fifth Avenue, 318 V8, 3-speed auto: 9 mpg highway winter, 13-18 highway summer
1980 AMC Spirit/AMX, 258 straight six, 4-speed manual: 18 mpg hwy winter, 20-21 hwy summer
1992 Pontiac Bonneville SSE, 3.8 V6, 4-speed auto: 29-30 mpg hwy winter, 33-34 mpg hwy summer
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Old February 3rd, 2013, 11:59 PM   #9 (permalink)
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While miles per gallon and fuel consumption may be two different things in math class, in the real world I think most people would consider them synonymous.
Nick, 3-4 MPG is a pretty significant drop in mileage.
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Old February 4th, 2013, 01:41 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by nickdalzell View Post
ever since i dumped the dinosaur that was my 1984 Fifth Avenue for a more modern 1992 Bonneville SSE, my gas mileage has stayed the same in all four seasons. you only notice a drop if you got a old carburetor car that is very cold natured, which dumps gas into it at an alarming rate when cold (as evidenced by the black smoke and carbon stains on snow first thing in the morning).
The technology for improving cold start performance in automotive engines has improved considerably over the years. Manual choke valves were the least efficient, as you were just guessing how to set them, and could forget to disengage them after the motor was warm. Carbs with bimetal thermostatic controls worked better, but were still crude. Electronic fuel injection was a quantum leap forward, since it could monitor various parameters for best efficiency. And direct injection has all but eliminated the need to enrich the fuel mixture.
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Old February 4th, 2013, 08:47 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Another contributor that I have noticed myself would be those "over" cautious drivers that will drive one speed then slow down, and then speed up again. Varying your speed does bring down your gas mileage. It is best to try and go a speed you are comfortable driving with in the current conditions and stick close to it.
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Old February 4th, 2013, 10:11 AM   #12 (permalink)
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you would also be amazed how tire health changes things too. tire pressures drop in colder weather.
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Old February 4th, 2013, 10:45 AM   #13 (permalink)
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i am so glad i no longer have to listen to my Fifth Avenue chugging a rough carbon-producing idle for the ten minutes it took to warm up, made worse by the stumbling ride it gave me had i tried to shift to drive right after i started it up. as i see it carburetors can die a slow, agonizing death for all i care. i swear the gas needle would drop almost 1/8th the gauge if i let it chug away doing nothing
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Old February 4th, 2013, 12:29 PM   #14 (permalink)
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While EFI may have helped to improve fuel economy, people wanting heat - and wanting it YESTERDAY - as well as the desire to get the engine to optimal running temperature for peak efficiency, calls for the engineers to enrich the mixture to speed up warm up times.

Now, my 4 cyl. Subaru (2011) doesn't warm up as fast as my 6 cyl. Pontiac (2006) did but the Subie gets considerably better MPG despite the AWD, brick-like aerodynamics and heavier vehicle. Yes, it's a 4 cyl. but it's also less powerful for a heavier vehicle with more drag. Yes, I see a significant drop in MPG in the winter, especially when the temps go below 20, but my avg. MPG for a tank never comes close to matching the temperature like it did on the Pontiac sometimes.
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Old February 4th, 2013, 07:20 PM   #15 (permalink)
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you would also be amazed how tire health changes things too. tire pressures drop in colder weather.
Ah...the last time I checked, it was the responsibility of the vehicle's operator to make sure that tire pressure is correct regardless of season.

My Mustang has UHP summer tires that are sensitive to differences in inflation as little as 1 PSI. At 33 PSI exactly, the tires hold like glue. At 32 PSI they turn into smoke machines when trying to accelerate out of turns.

My 4x4 has tires rated at 32 PSI, which is what I keep it at in good weather. But I bump that up to as much as 35 PSI in order to reduce the contact patch and keep the tires planted better. It also gives me a margin of safety for when temperatures drop. IME a 10°F temperature change loses 1 PSI of tire pressure.
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Old February 4th, 2013, 09:12 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by mplevy View Post
While EFI may have helped to improve fuel economy, people wanting heat - and wanting it YESTERDAY - as well as the desire to get the engine to optimal running temperature for peak efficiency, calls for the engineers to enrich the mixture to speed up warm up times.
Actually richer mixtures create excessive endothermic cooling when the fuel evaporates, which slows the engine's ability to heat the passenger compartment.

The only reason for enriching the mixture in the first place is because fuel atomization is inhibited at lower temperatures. That's why I took note of how technology, especially direct injection solves the atomization problem and eliminates the need to enrich the fuel mixture at all. Direct injection uses much higher fuel pressures, and the heat of the combustion chamber. This improves fuel economy, warmup times (for cabin heat) and engine performance.
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Old February 6th, 2013, 11:30 AM   #17 (permalink)
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My TDI seems to get significantly lower MPG in the winter than summer... But I stil average 35-37mpg with city driving. I will say this- its MPG counter does seem to factor in idle and stopped time.
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Old February 6th, 2013, 06:55 PM   #18 (permalink)
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i never saw any gas guzzler heat up any faster than a modern EFI-equipped car or truck in my experience. in fact, it took 10 or more minutes before the heater would work in my Fifth Avenue, Dodge Ram, AMX, or any other carburetor-equipped vehicle i owned. i think that is due to older cast iron engine blocks in older vehicles, and more newer vehicles have aluminum blocks/heads and warm up a lot faster than their cast iron predecessors. my Bonneville is warmed up pretty fast, and the electronic climate control won't even turn the fan on until it is warmed up properly.
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Old February 8th, 2013, 01:36 AM   #19 (permalink)
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I will say this- its MPG counter does seem to factor in idle and stopped time.
Same thing with mine. Those things aren't precision instruments by a long shot. OK for highway MPG on long trips, but that's about it.
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Old February 8th, 2013, 01:45 AM   #20 (permalink)
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i never saw any gas guzzler heat up any faster than a modern EFI-equipped car or truck in my experience...
...i think that is due to older cast iron engine blocks in older vehicles, and more newer vehicles have aluminum blocks/heads...
Just the sheer mass of the motors tells the story. The old big block V-8 motors weighed in at well over 600 lbs., which is 2-3 times as much mass as the average 4-banger in most new cars. The catalytic converters make a lot of heat too.
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Old February 8th, 2013, 07:03 AM   #21 (permalink)
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My TDI seems to get significantly lower MPG in the winter than summer... But I stil average 35-37mpg with city driving. I will say this- its MPG counter does seem to factor in idle and stopped time.
Diesel engines take longer to warm up than gas engines, and all motors are most efficient when they reach normal operating temperature.
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Old February 8th, 2013, 12:39 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I know they take longer. My car's mileage counter has proven accurate when compared to the old gas tank fill-up calculation.
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Old February 8th, 2013, 03:27 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Another thing is the front window defroster. It runs your air conditioner to dehumidify the air, then heats it and directs it to your windshield and side windows. If you run this as your standard heat (in some conditions, I have to on my Civic, as I can't keep the windows clear otherwise) it's basically like driving with the A/C on on a summer day.
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Old February 8th, 2013, 05:15 PM   #24 (permalink)
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since the A/C compressor is locked up tighter than a drum on my Bonneville, i do not think that problem concerns me
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Old February 21st, 2013, 06:13 AM   #25 (permalink)
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I think the affect of temperature on the volume of the fuel could have something to do with it .. though I don't know what!

The amount of gas you get in a 'gallon' changes depending on the season / temperature and your region. This is to compensate the gas company for the fact that, in the cold of winter, gas contracts so you would get more in a gallon and in the summer it expands, so you would get less.

This is entirely legal, however I suspect the calculations somehow end up favouring the gas companies - call me a cynic ..
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Old February 21st, 2013, 09:46 AM   #26 (permalink)
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Quote:
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I thought the idea is the colder the air is The denser the oxygen, the better fuel/air ratio. Is it the ethanol added in the winter that is killing my mileage?
Your vehicle's engine is designed to operate with a certain ratio of air to fuel. Among other things, this is important because it ensures all the fuel in the cylinder is burned completely. During the winter, colder, denser air enters your engine. To compensate, more fuel is needed to obtain the correct air-fuel ratio.
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Old February 21st, 2013, 05:41 PM   #27 (permalink)
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Your vehicle's engine is designed to operate with a certain ratio of air to fuel. Among other things, this is important because it ensures all the fuel in the cylinder is burned completely. During the winter, colder, denser air enters your engine. To compensate, more fuel is needed to obtain the correct air-fuel ratio.
One thing that needs to be understood to understand how the whole shebang works is that all modern vehicles have computers that take input from sensors and calculate how much fuel to add to the mixture. Most of the time these are closed systems, where the computer constantly monitors the oxygen sensor signal to provide an optimal air/fuel mixture. The closed system doesn't care what's in the fuel; it adjusts the mixture to get the best feedback. Some of these are made specifically for "flex fuel" applications, where the amount of ethanol can range from 10% (normal gasoline) to 85% (E85). The computer can handle any mixture at or between these limits in both closed and open loop modes.

Thanks in part to electronic controls, Diesel and turbine engines can also run on a variety of fuels, ranging from plain kerosene and home heating oil to biodiesel and some alcohols, in addition to their own (and each other's) normal fuel product. Military forces have a long history of being able to use alternate fuels in their equipment, and right now the US military has bases that use JP-8 for everything from the kitchen stove to tanks, boats and fighter jets. Even civilian truck owners are starting to use civil aviation jet fuel to replace automotive Diesel fuel.

Pretty neat, eh?
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Old February 23rd, 2013, 12:06 PM   #28 (permalink)
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i have seen old diesels from the '70s run on things like kerosene and rumors exist if they will run on moonshine. often a late-model VW Beetle has been able to run on just about anything that would burn. and since it had catalytic converter delete my old Chrysler Fifth Avenue would run (and get slightly better mileage) on Avgas (100 octane low-lead)

The VW Rabbit (older generation from the 1980s) has been another popular car to be homebrewed to run on all sorts of fuels and applications by auto hobbyists. the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon, similar in many ways to the Rabbit, another example. it's even had electric conversions.
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Old February 23rd, 2013, 02:14 PM   #29 (permalink)
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When the government-mandated phase-in of catalytic converters and phase-out of high octane auto fuel started during the '70s, a lot of people with high performance, high compression cars without hardened valve seats did whatever they could to get their hands on avgas to replace what they used to be able to get at filling stations. But the government cracked down hard on that! It's amusing that it's happening all over again, but this time because Jet A-1 is cheaper than road-taxed Diesel fuel.

No gasoline engine will run on pure alcohol, no matter what the source. But I've heard about all sorts of gasoline substitutes that take various household hydrocarbons (often including mothballs), mixes them up into a witches brew that will at least get you out of a jam. No doubt MacGruber has blown himself up many times doing something like this! I can't say for certain that it works, but since actual gasoline is a precision-made witches brew of aromatic hydrocarbons, it seems at least plausible.

Diesel owners have enjoyed multiple sources of alternate fuels that will work, often quite well. The thing about both gas and Diesel motors is that what you put into them must at least come close to ideal octane or cetane requirements, or bad things (or just nothing) can happen.

By far the best flex-fuel power plant is the turbine engine. Because of its design, things like preignition are less of a problem than they are in piston engines. You can throw just about anything that burns into a turbine mill!
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Old February 23rd, 2013, 02:55 PM   #30 (permalink)
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i actually have a large enough fuel system to run one of my cars on E98 if i wish. thats about as close to pure alcohol as you will get.
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Old February 24th, 2013, 12:18 AM   #31 (permalink)
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Yeah, that's one problem with using corn squeezin's as an automotive fuel. Ethanol has a low spatial power density compared to gasoline. It's also mighty costly to produce. The only reason why it's being used at all here in the US is because of factory farming and excessive corn subsidies that were never intended for factory farms, yet have been expanded under heavy pressure from the corporate welfare recipients.

If you're a US taxpayer and you're buying your E85, you've been swindled because you've already paid for it, often twice-over, with your tax dollars.
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Old February 24th, 2013, 01:06 AM   #32 (permalink)
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Well yeah. Imo corn lobbyists can die a painful, gasoline induced, fiery death.

But it is cheaper than c16 and makes more power to boot
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Old March 9th, 2013, 02:21 PM   #33 (permalink)
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When the government-mandated phase-in of catalytic converters and phase-out of high octane auto fuel started during the '70s, a lot of people with high performance, high compression cars without hardened valve seats did whatever they could to get their hands on avgas to replace what they used to be able to get at filling stations. But the government cracked down hard on that! It's amusing that it's happening all over again, but this time because Jet A-1 is cheaper than road-taxed Diesel fuel.

No gasoline engine will run on pure alcohol, no matter what the source. But I've heard about all sorts of gasoline substitutes that take various household hydrocarbons (often including mothballs), mixes them up into a witches brew that will at least get you out of a jam. No doubt MacGruber has blown himself up many times doing something like this! I can't say for certain that it works, but since actual gasoline is a precision-made witches brew of aromatic hydrocarbons, it seems at least plausible.

Diesel owners have enjoyed multiple sources of alternate fuels that will work, often quite well. The thing about both gas and Diesel motors is that what you put into them must at least come close to ideal octane or cetane requirements, or bad things (or just nothing) can happen.

By far the best flex-fuel power plant is the turbine engine. Because of its design, things like preignition are less of a problem than they are in piston engines. You can throw just about anything that burns into a turbine mill!
With diesel you can run bio-diesel, pure vegetable oils (with slight modifications, what Rudolph Diesel originally designed the engine to burn) or any processed natural oils such as animal fats or waste vegetable/animal oils, motor oil, most jet fuels (one, I can' remember which will destroy your engine) and kerosene to name some. You also have a wider cetane range that can be worked with on a diesel engine than octane range on a gas engine.

The real beauty of diesel is it has a much higher btu output which translates to more power and efficiency than gas or alcohol. The downside is being a fuel oil and not an aromatic petroleum distillate it is far more susceptible to cold temperatures but once you are at operating temperatures it will perform better.
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Old March 10th, 2013, 10:36 AM   #34 (permalink)
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Depends on the engine type- VW TDI's won't run nicely on a lot of types of diesel.
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Old March 10th, 2013, 01:39 PM   #35 (permalink)
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Some of the car engines are so tightly engineered they are a lot more particular.

Larger diesels don't have this problem, at least not yet.
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Old March 10th, 2013, 07:54 PM   #36 (permalink)
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With diesel you can run bio-diesel, pure vegetable oils (with slight modifications, what Rudolph Diesel originally designed the engine to burn) or any processed natural oils such as animal fats or waste vegetable/animal oils, motor oil, most jet fuels (one, I can' remember which will destroy your engine) and kerosene to name some. You also have a wider cetane range that can be worked with on a diesel engine than octane range on a gas engine.
Yes, it's really quite amazing how "green" Diesel was, and so far ahead of his time!

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The real beauty of diesel is it has a much higher btu output which translates to more power and efficiency than gas or alcohol. The downside is being a fuel oil and not an aromatic petroleum distillate it is far more susceptible to cold temperatures but once you are at operating temperatures it will perform better.
Yes, the spatial power density of Diesel fuel is tops. This is especially valuable for tiny economy cars with limited fuel capacity. And I've seen some clever ways of dealing with the cold.

When it comes to driving pleasure, I'll still stick with the wide power bands supplied by the faster burning fuels used by my Otto motors, though!
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Old March 10th, 2013, 08:04 PM   #37 (permalink)
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When it comes to driving pleasure, I'll still stick with the wide power bands supplied by the faster burning fuels used by my Otto motors, though!
There have been some very big advancements in this field as well for diesel with prototypes from Audi and Volvo to name a few as well as some exotic race cars.

To quote Enzo Ferrari, "Horsepower sells cars, torque wins races." No gas motor in existence can come close to the torque curves and levels of a diesel motor!
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Old March 10th, 2013, 09:45 PM   #38 (permalink)
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To quote Enzo Ferrari, "Horsepower sells cars, torque wins races."
Mr. Ferrari said that to justify his use of 12 cylinder motors, which were exotic when that quote was made, and still are. As you know, the more power pulses per crankshaft revolution, the more torque. I agree completely, which is why I only buy cars with a minimum of 8 cylinders.

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No gas motor in existence can come close to the torque curves and levels of a diesel motor!
You say that as if it's a good thing.

The whole reason why diesel motors have torque figures that are grossly disproportionate to horsepower numbers is because the Diesel fuel burns too slowly to spin them up to the 5252 RPM in the horsepower to torque equation. Sure a large turbo-Diesel motor can make some large torque numbers...until they quit at ~2000 RPM. But a force-fed gasoline powered Otto motor can produce the same torque numbers at two, even three times the RPM as their Diesel cousins.

What's more important is that the Otto motors will produce horsepower that Diesels simply can't make. Torque is just a function of horsepower, so one way or another it's all about horsepower. Horsepower and weight. Between the weight of the motor itself, and the gearbox with enough gear ratios to keep a Diesel "on the cam" on the race track, a Diesel would be self-defeating. Either it would be too weak or it would be too heavy compared to an Otto/gasoline motor. That's why Mr. Ferrari's V-12 exotics use the Otto cycle and burn gasoline.

I'll grant you that it's impressive to watch a big rig driver shift up to 6th gear in just a couple of seconds. But when I see that in 6th gear the big Diesel is only moving at 20 MPH or so...

Here's another POV on the subject.
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Old March 11th, 2013, 09:08 AM   #39 (permalink)
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And yet, winning cars at 24h of Le Mans the last few years were all diesels. In fact, last year's were turbodiesel hybrids.
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Old March 11th, 2013, 07:28 PM   #40 (permalink)
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And yet, winning cars at 24h of Le Mans the last few years were all diesels. In fact, last year's were turbodiesel hybrids.
Yes, it's quite interesting why they switched to Diesel power. Obviously in a race like that, fuel mileage is important. But it was actually a rules change, particularly one that mandated heavier cars, and thus making the heavier Diesel engine possible. (Restrictions like this are typically done when the most powerful cars are going too fast and crashing too often.) So the ballast and turbo penalty rules now favor the turbo-Diesel.

Time will tell how long the rules will give this technology the edge at Le Mans. Other interesting technologies in auto racing (the turbine powered Indy cars, the Chaparral fan cars, motors like Chrysler's 426 Hemi and Ford's 427 Cammer, and aero designs like the Plymouth Superbird come to mind) were banned as soon as they got a chance to dominate the tracks. Seems like the racing world is run by sore losers or something.

BTW, I mean no disrespect for your Jetta's turbo-Diesel mill. IMO it's an excellent, state of the art powerplant for the purpose it was made for. I just want to be fair to the American, German and Italian V-8, V-10 and V-12 motors, and the massive power they produce.
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Old March 12th, 2013, 07:08 AM   #41 (permalink)
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Oh, trust me. I understand. There's a big differences. Its like me and my fiancee comparing her Dodge Dart's little 1.4L Abarth engine to my 2.0L TDI. She gets 30 more horses than I do, but 50 less lb/ft. However, its like talking Granny Smith to Red Delicious apples. Some will favor one for various reasons, some will favor others.
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Old March 14th, 2013, 11:40 PM   #42 (permalink)
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Default Re: Why do I get worse gas mileage in the winter?

Don't some companies use different blends of gas in the winter and summer? I heard that somewhere and I'm not sure if it's true or not.
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Old March 16th, 2013, 04:43 AM   #43 (permalink)
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Don't some companies use different blends of gas in the winter and summer? I heard that somewhere and I'm not sure if it's true or not.
There are local EPA laws that mandate using less volatile gasoline mixtures in the summertime to help reduce smog. When I lived in the Chicago area, the IEPA had much stricter rules for everything automotive within large metropolitan areas, including Chicago. There are no such rules here in Madison, WI. No annual emissions tests, which is nice. When I travel to the Chicago area to visit my mom and friends, I buy my gas out of the regulated zones, and save 10-50˘ a gallon by doing so.

The various brands of gasoline that you buy are actually made at typically only one or two local refineries, so aside from additives, all gasoline is the same. The refineries that produce for the restricted big city areas probably shift all gasoline production over to the "summer blend" to save themselves the expense of running two production lines at once. So a large area of the country gets the summer blend whether they want or need it. And if the major gasoline wholesalers use this as an opportunity to soak the consumer, it's our tough luck...unless we as a whole discipline ourselves to travel less during summer months enough to drive down prices.

So yes it's the companies that own the refineries. But not necessarily the same companies that sell the gasoline at the retail level.
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Old March 16th, 2013, 07:45 PM   #44 (permalink)
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There are local EPA laws that mandate using less volatile gasoline mixtures in the summertime to help reduce smog. When I lived in the Chicago area, the IEPA had much stricter rules for everything automotive within large metropolitan areas, including Chicago. There are no such rules here in Madison, WI. No annual emissions tests, which is nice. When I travel to the Chicago area to visit my mom and friends, I buy my gas out of the regulated zones, and save 10-50˘ a gallon by doing so.

The various brands of gasoline that you buy are actually made at typically only one or two local refineries, so aside from additives, all gasoline is the same. The refineries that produce for the restricted big city areas probably shift all gasoline production over to the "summer blend" to save themselves the expense of running two production lines at once. So a large area of the country gets the summer blend whether they want or need it. And if the major gasoline wholesalers use this as an opportunity to soak the consumer, it's our tough luck...unless we as a whole discipline ourselves to travel less during summer months enough to drive down prices.

So yes it's the companies that own the refineries. But not necessarily the same companies that sell the gasoline at the retail level.
That makes sense, thanks for explaining it. Also, does that mean that brand names don't matter in gas? For example, is BP gas any better than the gas the supermarkets sell?
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Old March 17th, 2013, 03:42 AM   #45 (permalink)
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That makes sense, thanks for explaining it. Also, does that mean that brand names don't matter in gas? For example, is BP gas any better than the gas the supermarkets sell?
My grandfather and uncles who were Phillips Pertoleum retailers in Texas and Arkansas would be the first to say "absolutely not", even though they were loyal to their brand. OTOH IME as a former retailer of Standard Oil of Indiana (at the time, "AMOCO") products I know that different brands do contain proprietary additive packages that do have some scientific research (albeit dubious) to back up their claims of being value-adding. Although I'm not privy to what's in any of them, I doubt that additive packages would offer enough real-world benefits to justify spending even a penny per gallon more for them.

To this day, I buy my gasoline based on only 2 things: the minimum octane requirements of my vehicles, and the best price that I can find. In my informed opinion, that's all that really matters. Unless you live in an area where you get unusually low octane gas (3rd world countries mostly), or have high performance cars, it's safe to ignore the first one. So my answer is "yes, but not enough to matter."

As long as we're on the subject of fuel additives, I should point out that buying most fuel additives is a waste of money unless you have a specific need. The ethanol in most gasoline these days is hydrophilic, meaning that it does the same job as Heet® in the wintertime, and makes a pretty effective fuel injector cleaner. Not that you actually need those things as preventive maintenance.

After a costly fuel system failure in my rarely-driven Mustang, I have started adding a fuel stabilizer to both my cars whenever I gas up, and waiting until the tank is nearly empty before doing so. I don't drive much, so fill-ups are not very often, and gum that forms in old gas clogs in-tank fuel filters (on in-tank fuel pumps, which are now the norm) all too easily. So if you have a rarely-driven car, or a plug-in hybrid that can go for months without needing a fill-up, adding a product like Sta-Bil® might be the sole exception to the rule.
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Old March 20th, 2013, 03:14 AM   #46 (permalink)
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My grandfather and uncles who were Phillips Pertoleum retailers in Texas and Arkansas would be the first to say "absolutely not", even though they were loyal to their brand. OTOH IME as a former retailer of Standard Oil of Indiana (at the time, "AMOCO") products I know that different brands do contain proprietary additive packages that do have some scientific research (albeit dubious) to back up their claims of being value-adding. Although I'm not privy to what's in any of them, I doubt that additive packages would offer enough real-world benefits to justify spending even a penny per gallon more for them.

To this day, I buy my gasoline based on only 2 things: the minimum octane requirements of my vehicles, and the best price that I can find. In my informed opinion, that's all that really matters. Unless you live in an area where you get unusually low octane gas (3rd world countries mostly), or have high performance cars, it's safe to ignore the first one. So my answer is "yes, but not enough to matter."

As long as we're on the subject of fuel additives, I should point out that buying most fuel additives is a waste of money unless you have a specific need. The ethanol in most gasoline these days is hydrophilic, meaning that it does the same job as Heet® in the wintertime, and makes a pretty effective fuel injector cleaner. Not that you actually need those things as preventive maintenance.

After a costly fuel system failure in my rarely-driven Mustang, I have started adding a fuel stabilizer to both my cars whenever I gas up, and waiting until the tank is nearly empty before doing so. I don't drive much, so fill-ups are not very often, and gum that forms in old gas clogs in-tank fuel filters (on in-tank fuel pumps, which are now the norm) all too easily. So if you have a rarely-driven car, or a plug-in hybrid that can go for months without needing a fill-up, adding a product like Sta-Bil® might be the sole exception to the rule.
That answers my question, thanks!
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