Plantoil/diesel conversion basics
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danalinscott

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A ten step guide to converting diesel vehicles to SVO/WVO fuel
Summary

Step 1.
Determine if VO fuel is an economically viable/wise option in your specific circumstance.
(e.g. will a VO conversion at least pay for itself?)

These links may be helpful in this process...
What does it cost? How much can I save?
What are the best engines/vehicles to convert?
"Hidden costs" of converting to VO fuel.

Step 2.
Determine if you have a low cost supply of veg oil available and secure that source.
Finding and securing a source of wvo.

Step 3.
Determine if your engine is in good shape , what configuration is most appropriate for your vehicle, climate, and budget and which components will be required to convert it.
Buying a used diesel engine/car/truck -Avoiding worn out engines.
The differences between "single tank and "two tank" VO conversions
Conversion Parts and Accessories
Is this engine/vehicle well suited to conversion to VO fuel?

Step 4.
Decide if you want to assemble or fabricate your own components as well as install them...or buy the components as a "kit". If in doubt seriously reconsider your decision. Be realistic.
Assembling your own conversion kit.
Kit comparison charts
Major kit Vendors

Step 5.
Make or purchase a prefilter/dewatering unit. There are many options depending on your budget and the quality of available wvo. Test the prefiltered/dewatered wvo fuel to make certain that you you can produce WVO fuel that is "dry enough" to not damage IPs and/or injectors.
FAQs - Processing

Step 6.
Determine what components will be needed in your conversion to safely use the WVO fuel you will have available in the climate/application you plan to use it in.
The basic components/part needed for a VO conversion

Step 7.
Order your kit or gather your parts/components/materials to make you own.

Step 8.
Install your veg oil conversion.

Step 9.
Test your veg oil conversion.

Step 10.
Maintain your veg-oil conversion.
Each of these steps is detailed below. For even MORE detail follow the links provided at the end of each step.
Note:  If you have basic questions please ask them HERE and they will be answered as quickly as possible. The questions and answers will then be archived and indexed so others with these same questions can find them easily later.

Also:
Some acronyms and abbreviations whose meanings may not be readily apparent to "newbies" are commonly used in these tutorials.  For a list with meanings and discussion of these go to Terms and Acronyms.
Finally:
If you have any comments or suggestions on this tutorial that may improve it please post them at this link: Suggestions for the "Ten Steps to converting to VO Fuel" tutorial



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danalinscott

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Reply with quote  #2 
Step 1.
Determine if VO fuel is an economically viable/wise option in your specific circumstance. (e.g. will it at least pay for itself?)


Not all diesel engines are adaptable to VO fuel. Nor are all applications where a diesel engine is used highly compatible with use of VO fuel. If you choose an engine that is highly adaptable to VO fuel conversion it is not only more likely to be simpler to successfully convert but also more likely to be easier to maintain AND less likely to experience serious problems before the investment in converting it is recouped. Similarly if you intend to use a VO converted diesel engine for an application that experience has shown is well suited to VO fuel use the odds swing more in your favor that the experience will be an economically positive one.  Ignore these factors and the odds significantly rise that your short term fuel cost savings will be outweighed by longer term maintenance and repair costs.

Diesel engines are not well suited to short use periods even when operated on "petrodiesel" and tend to develop problems when used only for light loads or short trips. These problems are magnified when diesel engines are run on VO fuel. No diesel vehicle can be expected to run well for very long if mostly used for trips of less than 15 minutes especially if run on VO fuel. In addition constant duty uses such as generators and irrigation pumps require that some provision be made to vary the load, switch to diesel ,or fumigate the intake occasionally to help burn off carbon accretions before they grow and harden.

Links:
What does it cost? How much can I save?
What are the best engines/vehicles to convert?
"Hidden costs" of converting to VO fuel.


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danalinscott

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Reply with quote  #3 
Step 2.
Determine if you have a low cost supply of veg oil available and secure that source.


If you don't have a ready supply of VO or WVO available it's probably  not a good idea to convert a vehicel to veg oil.

Usually the most "available" (read as inexpensive) veg oil is WVO (waste veg oil) so this is the option I  recommend investigating first. You cannot simply TAKE WVO from the dumpsters sitting behind restaurants. It usually BELONGS to somebody else. In most cases WVO in a dumpster BELONGS to the rendering/grease disposal company that owns the dumpster. Removing WVO from these dumpsters is THEFT unless you have permission..and often the restaurant owner/manager may not have a clue that the contract with the grease disposal company takes full legal ownership of "grease" once it is poured into their "dumpster". Having "permission" from a restaurant that does not legally own the WVO will not be a defense if you are caught and prosecuted/sued by the grease hauler whose dumpster you are removing WVO from. And such prosecutions have already taken place.

Even if there are just drums or cubees of WVO sitting out back of a restaurant it may not be OK to simply take the WVO contained. It may belong to another person making bio diesel or collecting for their own veg oil converted diesel. Best to thoroughly reconnoiter the restaurants in your area to see if they all currently have grease disposal company owned dumpsters "out back". If so you will need to convince the restaurant to pour their fryer oil into a container you provide to legally collect it. Some are willing to pour the fryer grease back into the containers it comes in (Cubees) for you. It never hurts to ask. The benefit to them may be that they save money on grease disposal costs since most grease disposal companies charge for each time they pick up grease and an alternative way to dispose of the fryer oil may cut their bill by several hundred dollars a year.

I suggest starting with any oriental restaurants/buffets in your area. These usually have the easiest to process (filter and dewater) WVO. Burger places usually have the hardest to filter/dewater and use WVO..check these last. If possible look in the prospective sources existing WVO disposal container first. High quality WVO looks clear at temperatures above 50*F. It may be from golden colored to as dark as Coke...but if it appears creamy it should not be your first choice. In weather colder than 50*F you may have to take a small sample home and warm it to 50* to determine its quality. If you can find a source of high "Melt Point" WVO it will make your life much easier than if you only have a low MP WVO source available. So take your time..this step is important. It IS possible to use high fat or hydrogenated WVO in a conversion as long as that conversion is designed to deal with its tendency to turn to "pudding" at temps where diesel fuel is still quite free flowing. Many VO conversion kits are not designed with this capability ..but can be easily upgraded.

Once you find a possible WVO source or two it is time to approach the managers about the possibility of collecting some of their "waste fryer oil". Don't show up too well dressed..or at a time they are likely to be very busy. But don't show up greasy either. I have usually approached restaurants in this manner with good success:

At a time in the early afternoon when the restaurant is nearly empty I order a small meal and ask to speak to the manager "when he as a few minutes" as I order. Normally he/she will come to your table half expecting a "sales pitch" since restaurant supply salesmen use this approach too. So it may take a few minutes before they understand that you are asking to take a waste product off their hands (saving them money) rather than sell them something. Go slow at first and if you get a blank stare go slower. Expect them to look at you as if you are asking a very unusual question. You are..and this is good.

Explain that you have discovered a sizable group of individuals experimenting with using waste fryer oil as a fuel for their diesel cars and trucks with only small modifications to the fuel systems. You are planning to try this experimentally and are trying to find a restaurant that would be willing to let you take some of their waste fryer oil to see if it really does work as fuel. Eventually you might want all of their "fryer oil" but for now you're just interested in some for initial experiments. If they say NO ask if they have a policy against this..some chain restaurants do. If so..it is best to simply thank them for their time and forget this as a source of WVO. It isn't going to happen...and arguing won't change that. Managers do not risk their job questioning or breaking "corporate policy". Go on to your second choice. You may also find that they are being paid for their WVO...in which case ask if the manager would be interested in a competitive bid from you if you cannot find a source that will provide it at no cost.

If they look skeptical let them think about it while you eat your meal. Offer to provide a collection vessel if they will not pour it back into cubees.  Ask if they foresee any problem that you may have to overcome or have any rule you may need to comply with. Be sincere and co-operative. If they say they need to think it over..or talk to the owner say that you will be here for lunch next week, thank them for their time, leave them your telephone number...and don't forget to tip the waitress after you finish your meal.

Don't try to tell them everything you know about veg oil fuel..unless they ask. It won't help. If they give you the same "I need to talk to the boss" line next week ask if it would be more convenient for you to contact them by phone rather than when you come for meals. Use you best judgment..but I prefer the "soft sell" and patience to being pushy when asking for WVO access. And if I have to come back a second time..I usually bring in a table full of friends when I do. It helps... Big Grin


Remember!
Once you have secured a source of WVO try very hard to maintain a good relationship with the managers and cooks. Keep the grease disposal area clean and be unobtrusive. I rent a pressure washer each fall to clean the greasy back areas as a "perk" the grease haulers never provide. In a few case I have gone back to the restaurant that said they "were not interested" originally and ask if they would like me to pressure wash their grease disposal areas..for free. Except for the corporate policy restaurants this results in about 50% changing their minds about allowing me to pick up their WVO. You may not need this..but I use thousands of gallons of WVO fuel each year personally and am responsible for securing WVO sources for fleet clients that use several thousand gallons per week and it is always better to have a waiting list of restaurants that want you to pick up their WVO than not enough to meet your needs.

Never load grease when it might in any way create more work or trouble for the restaurant.  Don't "gab" with the cooks..they may be busy. Just be friendly and efficient and as invisible as possible.

And finally...
If possible bring in "business" in the form of restaurant customers whenever you can...it will help secure the source of WVO more than anything else.

And leave decent tips.
Waitresses are paid lousy wages and tipping creates "good karma". Really!

Links:
Finding and securing a source of wvo.


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danalinscott

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Reply with quote  #4 

Step 3.
Determine if your
engine is in good shape ,  what configuration is most appropriate for your vehicle, climate, and budget and which components will be required to convert it. 
Test your engine to see if it is in good shape before deciding on a configuration.
Many of those reporting  engine failures within 20K miles after conversion appear to have converted already seriously worn out engines. Although diesel engines are usually capable of accumulating 2.5 to 4 hundred thousand miles before needing an overhaul... if they have not been properly maintained..or if they have been abused they may wear out much more quickly. And a diesel engine with badly worn rings will contaminate the crankcase (lubricating) oil quickly and require special maintenance to avoid rapidly accelerated engine wear/failure.  It is best to only convert an engine that is up to acceptable operating specifications and to determine that it is best to have a compression and leak down test performed on it prior to conversion. It is best to also have the injectors tested since if they are not up to spec it is more likely that the engine will not last as long as it would if they were. If you plan to convert a "junker" and only have it last 20-30K miles the most appropriate conversion configuration may be very different ..and much less expensive.. than if you are converting an engine you hope to wring several hundred thousand miles out of.

Finding a diesel vehicle is part of step 3 for those that do not already have one.
Here is a discussion with links to help you find a used diesel vehicle.
 
The "best vehicles" for those that have not converted a diesel to VO before are:
Mercedes (pre-1990) and Dodge Ram (12 valve Cummins) .
They have simple, durable, and forgiving engines.
 
Second in line (for first timers) would be non-Powerstroke Ford and GM diesels manufactured in the 90's.
 
VW diesels are among the least forgiving of conversion and operating errors.

Helpful Links:

Buying a used diesel engine/car/truck -Avoiding worn out engines.
Conversion Parts and Accessories
Is this engine/vehicle well suited to conversion to VO fuel?
Before you convert any engine
Two tank tutorial
The differences between "single tank and "two tank" VO conversions
Configuration schematics
"Return" fuel circuit options
Coolant circuit configurations.


 


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danalinscott

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Reply with quote  #5 
Step 4.
Decide if you want to assemble or fabricate your own components as well as install them...or buy the components as a "kit". If in doubt seriously reconsider your decision.  Be realistic...if you can't successfully make your own wvo processor you should probably not try to make your own conversion kit. (Here are my guidelines 

The earliest (most primitive) VO conversions simply tried to substitute highly liquid vo for diesel fuel.  It soon became obvious that this dramatically shortened engine life. It also limited VO fuel use to warm climate ares and could not utilize most of the WVO available (since it was not highly liquid). Soon it was discovered that by adding heat to the VO using a heated filter and heated fuel lines conversions became slightly more reliable and capable of operating in slightly cooler climates. I refer to these as Stage 1 conversions.  These are only capable of utilizing  very low viscosity wvo or wvo/diesel blends in temperate climates but are normally used only on IDI diesel engines with in-line IPs. Don't expect to get decent engine longevity, be able to use the majority of wvo available, or reliably operate year round in most ares with a Stage 1 conversion.  DI engines...especially high performance/high MPG engines tend to have very short lifespans if converted with a Stage 1 conversion.

Stage 2 conversions were developed  mainly to allow year round operation in colder climates. These added fuel tank heaters, higher temperature filters, and in-line fuel heaters (either electric or coolant heated) to the heated fuel lines of the earlier ... more primitive... stage 1 VO conversion configurations. These were by and large "two tank" conversions...but some single tank stage 2 conversion configurations were attempted as well which worked passably well in warm climates for "long distance" drivers.

Stage 3 conversion configurations were developed as the correlation between final VO temp and engine longevity became more apparent to the "do it yourself" (DIY) VO conversion community and results of formal studies on VO combustion/conversion became more available. The widely accepted "pre-IP" VO temp range of 150F-160F was established by private research which indicated that VO hotter than this was actually cooled as it passed through the IP. Stage 3 conversions usually incorporate the now ubiquitous Flat Plate Heat Exchanger (FPHE) as it has proved to be the most compact and efficient component capable of reliably raising VO to that temperature range using only the waste heat present in engine coolant. Since the DIY VO conversion community had also discovered that the "Whole Tank Heaters" that some Stage 2 conversions used tended to promote rapid VO polymerization (which can clog filters) and were significantly less capable of thawing solid VO fuel fast than heated fuel pickups these were also incorporated in most Stage 3 conversion configurations.

Stage 4 conversion configurations developed in response to the ACREVO study which clearly showed that VO did not atomize as well as diesel fuel until pre-injector VO temps of nearly 300F are achieved. Since fuel efficiency is directly linked to how well the fuel is atomized by the injectors and this in turn is directly linked to increased exhaust emissions AND engine coking several efforts were made to attempt to develop "post IP" VO heating components.  The efforts made in Europe aimed at heating the injectors resulted in an inductive injector heater which worked effectively but not efficiently. In the US several independent efforts were made to develop Injector Line Heaters (ILH) which proved to be a simpler and more efficient method of raising VO final injection temps beyond what is possible with only pre-IP VO heating components. Currently no conversion kit vendor offers post IP heating components but they are an easy option to install on most engines with injector lines. Another even simpler option that at least lowers the amount of heat lost from VO as it passes through is lightweight injector line insulation.  As availability of  wvo has dropped due mainly to the proliferation of bio-diesel plants nationally the need to have conversions that are capable of using even "lower quality" wvo (WVO that is solid or semi-solid at temps as high as 50F) has become more and more obvious.  Finally since air bubbles in VO fuel systems are the most common problem in new conversions more and more DIY conversions are incorporating some method to prevent them from accumulating to the point they cause partial (or total) fuel starvation.


So..since no one else is defining exactly what a Stage 4 conversion is I will take the opportunity to do so.
In order to be considered a Stage 4 conversion it must have:
1. A highly effective heated VO fuel pickup (no whole tank heater).
2. Heated and insulated VO fuel lines.
3. An FPHE or equally efficient coolant/fuel heat exchanger capable of heating VO passing through to a final temp of at least 140F.
4. An "separator/remover" device to prevent accumulation of air bubbles in the VO fuel system.
5. A high temp heated VO filter.
and
6. Post-IP heat capable of adding at least 50 degrees to the final pre-injector VO temp.

I encourage those who are considering a DIY conversion to try to meet this standard and those who are considering buying a conversion kit to buy those which most closely matches it.  

For a description on all the possible components in a modern conversion look HERE


With very few exceptions it is the DIY VO conversion community that has been primarily responsible for developing new advanced in VO conversion technology over the past 10 year while VO conversion vendors have tended to primarily concentrate on developing devices that automate operation of VO conversions. This is why I tend to concentrate my efforts on aiding the former rather than the latter.  It is only through the creation of a demand for higher quality and more effective conversion kits that they will be created and eventually offered to the public by vendors.

By now you should know essentially which components you are going to need to convert your vehicle. Time to consider what configurations with those components look like. Configuration schematics

If you already KNOW at this point that you are going to buy a kit rather than make your own it is time to go to each kit makers website and decide which kit you can afford. From the information on vendors website it may appear that kits that are somewhat similar to another vendors when in fact they are not. In order to make the job of comparing kits significantly easier I have created a set of comparison charts with links to individual components in each kit and information designed to help the non-DIY'er make an informed decision. If (after carefully checking the comparison charts you still cannot decide which is your best option let me know and I will be happy to assist and advise you. Contact me at danalinscott@yahoo.com and use the email heading "Help choosing a conversion kit".
I will respond as soon as possible.  I endorse no specific vendors but can probably provide some insight into which kits may be most appropriate for your specific make/model and climate.

(Edit) This review should be very helpful to those thinking of sending me an email at this point. Please read it before asking for individual help.


Below are the links to the largest conversion kit vendors websites.
Some accurately portray their conversion kits capabilities..and some exaggerate them substantially and/or leave out critical information on their limitations.

I endorse no specific vendors but can probably provide some insight into which kits may be most appropriate for your specific make/model and climate.

Just because a vendor is listed below does is no indication that I consider them to be legitimate, honest, knowledgeable, competent, or trustworthy.   Just as with any new industry there are honest,legitimate vendors with a good working knowledge of conversion  ..and those just out to make a fast buck who may not know as much as you do.
Caveat Emptor!  (Buyer beware)
Even with a kit from a well respected vendor you are EXPERIMENTING with your engine and cannot expect any warranty to cover the unintended consequences of doing so.

North American Kit Vendors
Rover Hybrids
Vegistroke
Frybrid
Greasecar
GreaseWorks
Neoteric/Plantdrive

Greasel (now Re-named Golden Fuel Systems)
Veg Powered Systems

(Link to conversion kit comparison charts)

Lovecraft is a special case....primarily purveying really primitive conversions while marketing them as "state of the art".
Marketing seems to be the key to this vendors success as a business...if  you can call it that. These are the folks in the VO conversion industry that survive by generating LOTS of hype and scooping up the gullible who don't do much if any research prior to buying a kit.

UK Kit vendors
 
Veg Oil Motoring
DieselVeg
SmartVeg
 

In addition there are new kit vendors opening shop every month...and since most have very little idea of what they are doing  disappear just as quickly.
Below is a list of new vendors assembled in Jan of 2008...so many are now defunct that I no longer include conversions kit vendors/shops less than a year old.

Fossil Free Fuel
Veggiepower Inc.
GreaseOn
Alterdrive
Vegeterrainian
BioCoupe
Diesel Oil Conversions
GoCanola
Vegenergy

If you plan to assemble and install your own conversion "kit" read on.

To see a plethora of conversion configurations go here.
Find one with all of the components you have determined you will need using the Kit Calculator and begin to search out the individual components. If you can afford to purchase all of the components great. If not consider making them yourself to save 30-50%. If you cannot afford to buy or make the components maybe you should consider NOT converting to vegoil.
After all this is still considered experimental. So you may not want to experiment on your expensive diesel. Don’t have a diesel..then before you go further you will probably want to get on..since vegoil will not work in gas engines.

For a link on finding diesel powered vehicles in the US go here.

OK..lets assume you have your conversion components and configuration chosen..and have discovered where to most economically purchase them. You have secured a source of wvo and are poised to convert your diesel to vegoil fuel...but before you do I suggest you may want to make you prefilter/dewatering unit first..so you actually have some fuel on hand to use when you get you conversion completed. I usually recommend that customers considering fabricating their own components fabricate their own prefilter first to make certain that it is realistic to believe they can do so..even using my simple plans.

Hey...at this point you are almost halfway through the process of converting to vegoil. Lots of work is ahead of you ..but often the planning is the hardest part. And that part is pretty much done. On to step #5.

Links:
Assembling your own conversion kit.
Kit comparison charts
Major kit Vendors


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Reply with quote  #6 
Step 5.
Make or purchase a prefilter/dewatering unit. There are many options depending on your budget and the quality of available wvo. Test the prefiltered/dewatered wvo fuel to make certain that you you can produce WVO fuel that is "dry enough" to not damage IPs and/or injectors.

 
Make or purchase a prefilter/dewatering unit if your vegoil source is WVO

In the US most available and affordable vegoil suitable for fuel use is in the form of previously used food grade "waste" deep fryer oil. This is mainly composed of vegetable oil which has been used in deep "fat" fryers and can be any one or a mix of soy, canola, peanut, or other vegetable oils. Sometimes it has lots of grill grease in it as well. It used to be fairly easy to avoid collecting and using heavy High Melt Point (HMP) wvo and just use the lighter more liquid wvo some refer to as "high quality" wvo. That is a misnomer since this HMP WVO is not actually of a lower quality ...it is just not possible to use in primitive or low quality VO conversions.  True... the cleaner and more liquid your WVO is at room temp the easier it is to filter and use..but if you are stuck with only high fat or hydrogenated content WVO it just makes the processing and use a tiny bit harder..not impossible. One just needs to treat it the same way one would less viscous svo in low ambient temperatures.

There are two unwanted components one must remove in order to make it suitable for fuel use, particulates and water. The filter units used to accomplish their removal from wvo are commonly referred to as "prefilters" (since they are filtering the vegoil before it is introduced into the fuel tank) after which it passes through at least one more final filter before flowing into the Injector Pump (IP) which has a very low tolerance for even very fine (10 micron) particulates..and even less for free water. Either one will scratch or pit the mirror like inner surfaces of an IP and significantly shorten its useful life . And normally IPs are very expensive to replace. For a more in depth explanation look here and here.

One of the simplest ways to dewater wvo is to allow it to settle for a few weeks at temperatures it is fully liquid at. A high particulate load may hinder settling so filtering out particulates first usually speeds up the process dramatically(hours instead of weeks). A combination of settling and filtering is probably the best way to ensure that good vegoil fuel results with a minimum of equipment. At the very minimum water must be allowed to settle out...which can take as few as four hours if the right conditions are present. However using ONLY settling as a form of prefiltering generally results in quickly clogged on board "final" filters and can result in some IP and/or injector damage.

A common technique is to collect vegoil from the top surface of any collection container and "follow" the surface down as it drops during the "pumping" process. This essentially uses the collection vessel as a primary settling unit. Other techniques are to allow any wvo collected to settle for a few hours at temps it is fully liquid at and then decant/pour off/siphon the wvo off leaving any heavy sediment behind. These techniques will allow any prefilter unit filters to process many more gallons of wvo prior to requiring cleaning or replacement but are risky to use as the ONLY form of wvo processing.

Several vegoil conversion maker has developed their own prefilter units.
None appear to address removing suspended water except to warn that only well dewatered wvo must be used in these prefilter units. At least one prefilter vendor (Greasebeast) makes claims about their prefilters ability to remove suspended water that are patently false and if relied upon will result in damage to IPs and/or Injectors. Unfortunately this is only slightly less misleading than several of the VO conversion kit vendors info on prefiltering and dewatering wvo for use as fuel.  In fact if you want a prefilter unit that is capable of dewatering sufficiently to not allow your wvo fuel to damage your diesel engines IP and/or Injectors you will have to make it yourself. There is currently no prefilter unit available for purchase that will do that.
If you choose to use inadequately dewatered wvo fuel plan on having your injectors tested every six months (and rebuilt or replaced) unless you are willing to accept a significantly shorter engine life.

Here are the current options for prefilter/dewatering units you can make yourself.

From most expensive to least expensive:
The DieselCraft centrifugal filter.
The Frybrid "Still".
The Simple Handpump Pefilter/dewatering unit.
The upflow prefilter/dewatering unit.

And a few you can purchase ready to go.
SimpleCentrifuge
Absolutecentrifuge
The DieselCraft centrifugal filter.
The Greasecar prefilter.


None of these ASSURE that any wvo passed through them is low enough in suspended water to not damage IPs and/or Injectors. To be certain of that you need to regularly test with either the Hot Pan Test or the Sandy Brea fuel tester. Do not confuse the Frybrid "crackle test" with the HPT. They are not the same.

Regardless of how you prefilter your wvo fuel there will always be some unusable settling is too dirty or full of water after settling/filtering. A discussion on getting rid of these dregs is here

Since before you can use wvo as fuel it must be prefiltered/dewatered this is a logical place to begin the fabrication/conversion process.  I have always suggested to non commercial clients that they fabricate their own prefilter unit. This usually saves a significant amount of $$$ and allows them to purchase or build a much better conversion..and allows me  to determine if they have the skills necessary to fabricate their own conversion ...or not.

A prefilter unit is the first major investment in converting to vegoil fuel. Once you have a wvo prefilter/dewatering unit you are halfway to running your diesel on vegoil. If you do not feel you have the skill required to fabricate a prefilter unit you should probably buy ready to install components and consider having a mechanic install them. At the very least you should consider enlisting the help of friends with mechanical skills.

FAQs - Processing



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Reply with quote  #7 

Step 6.
Determine what components will be needed in your conversion to safely use the WVO fuel you will have available in the climate/application you plan to use it in. 

WVOs viscosity can vary from free flowing to solid depending on ambient temperature and how much fat or hydrogenated VO is mixed in to it. Most wvo is too thick to freely flow from an unheated fuel tank or through  fuel lines at temperatures below 35°F. Some blend diesel fuel with wvo or only collect very low Melt Point (MP) wvo but by far the most common remedy for this is either a heated tank or a heated fuel pickup.  Of the two a heated fuel pickup is significantly more desirable since it can apply the available energy where it will provide fully liquid wvo the quickest and have less tendency to overheat the entire contents of the tank (which promotes rapid polymerization). (Links to examples of heated tanks and fuel pickup heaters)

Just as the wvo in the fuel tank must be fully liquid to allow it to flow to the engine so must the wvo in the fuel lines. This is usually accomplished with either Hose On Hose (HOH) or Hose In Hose (HIH) heated fuel lines. (Links to examples of heated fuel lines) 

All two tank conversions have to have some way to switch from the start/purge fuel (diesel or bio-diesel) to VO/WVO. This is either accomplished using manual valves, solenoid valves, or twin fuel pumps. Most manual valves are engineered to withstand higher temperatures than the wvo in the fuel lines of any VO conversion are likely to reach. They may also be less expensive than either solenoid valves or electric fuel pumps. Generally speaking however conversion configurations using manual valves will have significantly longer purge times.  Any conversion configuration which uses solenoid valves must take into consideration that most remote fuel valves are NOT designed to operate at the high temperatures which exist in WVO fuel lines. If a remote fuel valves can not be located in a part of the fuel system that always remains under 100°F long term reliability cannot be expected. The same rule holds true for most low cost electric fuel pumps. If the configuration you choose requires that either a remote fuel valve or electric fuel pump be located in a section of the fuel system where temperatures will exceed 100°F I advise substituting a more expensive unit engineered to operate under those higher temperatures. A second very important consideration for those planning on  using a twin fuel pump conversion configuration is that both of those pumps MUST be able to duplicate the fuel volume and fuel pressure provided by the engines stock fuel pump (since under or over pressuring the fuel injection pump may cause expensive damage to it).
(Link to solenoid valves/remote fuel valves) (Link to electric fuel pumps)

Just as the WV in you fuel tank and fuel line(s) must be heated to make sure it is liquid the VO fuel filter must also be heated. While many diesel filters have small heaters in them these are designed to slightly warm diesel fuel in to liquefy the coating of paraffin crystals that can collect on the filter element very cold ambient temperatures. These internal heaters are usually temperature limited to under 65°F by integral thermostats and are in most cases not capable of providing enough heat to prevent coating of the filter element by the huge amounts of high melt point components present in WVO.  There are many high heat output fuel filters available as well as simple/inexpensive modifications that can be made to existing filters to provide for much higher heat inputs. (Links to heated fuel filters and filter modification diagrams).

Finally since even very small bits of particulates may manage to bypass your filter (and plug or damage your IP or injectors) a final "chunk catcher" mini-filter is a recommended option. It is a small investment that is considered "cheap insurance" by most of the "old hands" of VO conversion.

The above components are the basis of any VO conversion whether provided in a kit or not. Below are examples of other components which may still be considered optional.

In-line electric fuel heaters are used to provide additional heating to VO in the low pressure areas of the fuel system when the existing components are not sufficient. In some cases these are supplied as the MAIN WVO heating component in VO kits intended only for very warm climates. (Links to in-line electric fuel heaters)

Injector Line Heaters are used to provide additional heating to VO in the high pressure area of the fuel injection system located between the IP and the Injectors. (Links to injection line heaters)

Fuel system pressure and temperature monitors/gauges can help operators of converted diesel vehicles/engines more accurately determine when to safely switch to VO fuel and if fuel filters or pumps  need maintenance or repair. (Links to fuel system gages and monitors)

Automatic controllers are available which monitor fuel temps and automatically switch to VO fuel when it is safe to do so. There are also "purge alarms" that remind the operator that the fuel system has not been switched back to diesel fuel when the engine is turned off. (Links to automatic controllers and alarms)

Links: 

The basic components/part needed for a VO conversion
Configuration schematics
"Return" fuel circuit options
Coolant circuit configurations.
Conversion Parts and Accessories


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Dana danalinscott@yahoo.com
danalinscott

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Reply with quote  #8 
Step 7.
Order your kit or gather your parts/components/materials to make you own.
 
OK, it is time to either lay out the cash for a complete conversion kit or begin to gather all the components to make your own. Regardless of whether you are buying all your components as kit or separately or making them you should make a complete list of what you are going to need for you conversion as a first step. (Link to component descriptions) (Link to configuration examples) If you have not done this...go back to step 6.

It is possible to assemble your own fairly sophisticated conversion kit for about the price of what very primitive pre-assembled kits cost. And comparable pre-assembled kits will probably cost three to four times as much as one you assemble/fabricate yourself. But if your time or skill are very limited a good quality pre-assembled kit is probably your best option. If you are considering purchasing a kit simply because you don't feel you have a good understanding of the basic principles of VO conversion DON'T!

Regardless of whether your VO conversion is completely DIY or out of a box you MUST have a good basic understanding of this or I can nearly guarantee that you will wish you had never chosen to convert to VO fuel within six months. If you proceed by making up your own kit at this point without this knowledge you will soon feel hopelessly lost or find you have a vehicle that leaves you stranded on the side of the road. This is a totally unregulated "industry" and so there are always unscrupulous kit vendors that are willing to take advantage of the gullible and uninformed. If you rely ONLY upon the knowledge, skill, and honesty of a kit vendor to provide "what you need" you run a high risk of being among those being taken advantage of. There is a clear choice to be made...be an informed consumer or roll the dice and hope for the best.

Finally...regardless of which route you choose a good quality shop manual for your vehicle will be VERY handy not only while you are planning and installing the conversions....but also later when you need to know fact about your engine to perform your own maintenance and light repairs. It will pay for itself many times over in most cases.

If you have decided to purchase a kit here are some helpful hints:
1. Compare what is offered from the various kit makers listed in the previous section. Use this (Link to kit comparison charts) to get an "apples to apples" look at the individual main components in each kit since kit vendors website  descriptions will usually not be accurate or complete enough to allow an easy side by side comparison with other vendors kits.

2. Determine if it includes all of the needed components or if you will be responsible for finding some of them elsewhere. Not all kits come with everything you need to completely install the conversion. In fact..few do. Before you purchase any kit request a list that clearly notes what components and parts will be shipped to you as part of the kit and what additional parts you will have to purchase separately.

3. Ask for a copy of any warranty that the vendor provides with the kit. Don't be surprised if the warranty only covers defective parts since you will be responsible for correctly installing it, operating it, and processing all the VO/WVO that is used to fuel it. The majority of the risk involved in converting ANY diesel to VO is on YOUR shoulders regardless of whether your kit comes from a vendor or is completely DIY. If you are not willing to accept that fact you may want to seriously reconsider converting at all. In my experience those that accept ALL of the responsibility seem to be most satisfied with their conversions and those that do not are among the most dissatisfied.

4. If you think that you will need a lot of help installing the kit ask the vendor if this help is included in the cost of the kit and how to access this help. Ask if that help via phone or email or both and what hours and days is the help available?  If help is not available after 5 EST or on weekends it is probably not a good idea to plan on installing a kit starting on Friday afternoon on the west coast.  Not every vendors "help line" is easy to contact even during normal business hours. If you are buying a kit primarily so you have access to experienced help while installing it I advise testing how easy it is to actually contact the vendors "helpline" and how quickly they respond during the time of day and days of the week that you anticipate needing them..before you buy the kit.

5. I hate having to even include this...but. If you are female you may not receive fair treatment from some vendors. This is a male dominated field. It is far better to ask for a few references from prior female customers (with contact info) and ask those customers how they felt they were treated than to find out after you pay for and receive your kit. Converting a diesel to VO is hard enough without having to put up with a heavy dose of chauvinism. 


 As soon as possible after your kit arrives lay out its individual components to make sure that you have received everything that is supposed to be included with the kit.  If there are any missing parts it is very important to notify the vendor of this fact as quickly as possible so you do not get partly into the conversion and have to stop to wait for parts. Some vendors have been known to take up to six months to supply missing components and it is very difficult to return a kit that has been partly installed.   If your kit arrives with obvious damage to the box insist that the shipper note this on your shipping invoice and have the delivery person sign that note. If it is obvious that there is damage to the contents insist that the shipper give you time to contact the vendor about this before you consider accepting the delivery even with a signed note of damage. You will be doing yourself and the vendor a favor.

It is possible to assemble your own fairly sophisticated conversion kit for about the price of what very primitive pre-assembled kits cost. And comparable pre-assembled kits will probably cost three to four times as much as one you assemble/fabricate yourself. 

If you are assembling your own kit or decide that you need to purchase additional components to upgrade/complete a kit from a vendor get firm prices on each component including shipping..which can add a substantial amount to the total. (Link to list of component vendors) Shop for the best deal whether you are buying a kit or assembling your own. (Link to "best prices on components" discussion) Once your list is complete with all the costs/prices determine if it is still affordable and if so..order them or go pick them up. (Link to best prices on components)
If you have decided to assemble your own VO conversion kit here are some helpful hints:

1. Find someone who already has a conversion kit installed for over a year. If it is someone in your area and they are willing to lend a hand you are very lucky. Don't blow it by pestering them to death with questions. Learn as much as you can on-line AND THEN if you still have questions ask them. You do not want to make them sorry they know you BEFORE you install your conversion. If they are completely happy with their conversion copy it as much as possible. If they are not completely satisfied ask what they would have done differently and incorporate those changes in YOUR conversion. 

2. Find a mechanic in your area that has interest in VO conversion. This is especially true if you have very limited mechanical experience. A mechanic that is trained to work on diesel engines is best..but even one that is not is a great asset when it comes to solving some of the installation challenges that you may run into.  If you can find a REPUTABLE VO conversion shop in your area  it may be worth asking what they charge for installation help. If they are actual mechanics and have experience in VO conversion they are a major asset. Beware however that there are more and more "conversion shops" operated by those who may not have any more concept of what they are doing than you do.  Check references and quiz them based on what you know to determine if they are worth what they charge to help you.

3. If you cannot find a local "conversion mentor" try to find someone on-line willing to help you that has a vehicle/engine similar to yours AND lives in a similar climate. The same rules apply to not wearing out their patience before you need their help the most as listed above for a local mentor.

4. Don't begin converting until you assembled together ALL of the components you need to complete the conversion.




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Reply with quote  #9 
Step 8.
Install your veg oil conversion.

 
If you a purchased  kit get out the instructions and read them until you understand them fully. If a schematic of the conversion was not furnished with the kit or if you have not made one yet for your DIY kit draw one out now.
In order to keep errors to a minimum during final assembly I recommend checking each component to make certain it will fit where you plan on installing it and then pre-assembling the components in the order shown in the schematic. Don’t cut hoses or wires yet..just lay them out and mark which goes where. I always use a bit of colored tape to mark each hose connection on the hose AND the component it will be hooked up to but a few wraps of masking tape and a magic marker will work just as well. This avoids the problem of trying to read the "inlet/outlet" markings on pumps and solenoids once they are installed.  Test pumps and solenoid valves before you install them if possible. Better to find a faulty one now than later when it is installed and full of VO.

I usually prefer to start by installing the tank and working my way forward. If you can get the use of a lift at a garage it speeds everything up considerably...but otherwise just use common sense when jacking. Rent jack stands if you don't have them and jack and brace on a hard surface so they cannot shift when you are under the vehicle running the fuel lines. NEVER crawl under a vehicle just held up by a jack.. and Don’t use cinder blocks to support the jack or car.. they can crush unexpectedly...and so can you.

Make sure that you have a "trouble light" and a flashlight. You need to be able to see what you are doing to do it well. If you are not on a clean smooth floor lay out a tarp to help you find any small bits you may drop. Trying to find a small nut or bolt in a lawn or gravel driveway is a true PITA and having to waste an hour looking for a lost part or driving (walking?) to the hardware store to find a replacement is a double PITA.

Besides the individual components and normal tools you may also need:
Lots of Zip ties of various sizes. 100 is a nice number.
A few more hose clamps than you think you will need, Get the proper size for them to work properly and don't use the cheap hardware store variety.
At least 30' of steel wire..for fishing hoses through and under the car and temporarily securing stuff.
A few pencil stubs (for temporarily plugging fuel lines full of diesel)
Two needle nose vice grips (for "pinching off" heater hoses before you cut them)
A drain pan (for catching the splashes of fuel and coolant that leak out anyway)
Lots of rags.

Now it is just a matter of installing each component one by one until all of the parts you had layed out are securely installed in your vehicle where the belong.  If you have a configuration with electric pumps you should be able to prime the fuel lines by running them for short periods until  fuel appears at the filter head and purges air from the filters if you loosen the fuel lines at the point where they join prior to the IP.

If you do not have a configuration that uses electric pumps before you hook up the vegoil fuel hoses have someone blow through the VO tank fill tube to slightly pressurize the VO tank and make sure you feel a good flow of air out of the vegoil fuel line. Even if you marked well it you want to make sure you don't have any kinks in it or have connected the wrong line. While they are regaining their breath add a few quarts of filtered liquid vegoil to the tank then have them lightly pressurize the tank again forcing the vegoil through the line. When vegoil appears at the end of the line have them stop. Then progressively hook up each in-line component forcing vegoil through each one as you do. It may be too hard to force vegoil through the filter so instead fill the filter element with clean (off the shelf fresh) vegoil before assembling it.

Purging air from the vo fuel system as you assemble it will save you lots of frustration in the next step since it should shorten the time it takes to purge air from the system during your initial test drive. Only a small amount should be present once everything is connected and after a few initial peremptory purges any air present will indicate an air leak in the system with little doubt. If you have correctly tightened all of your connections this should not be a problem at all. If not it will be time to recheck all of your connections if you experience more than a few hiccups during your initial test drive.

If you were careful to prevent much diesel fuel from leaking out of the fuel lines you may be able to start the engine up (on diesel fuel) without any problem at all. If there was a lot of diesel drained from near the IP you may find the engine dies for lack of fuel shortly after it is started.  If it does not start and run after a few tries I suggest purging any air in the diesel lines and bleeding the injector lines so the engine will start. The procedure to do this is outlines in your shop manual. (You bought one as I suggested right?)

Before your test drive:
Check that all electrical connections are working the way they should. Test the remote fuel (solenoid) valve(s) and/or electric fuel pumps before you start the engine for your test drive by having a friend listen for the click or buzz sound they make when you hit the switch that turns them on and off.

Turn on any 12v heaters just long enough to determine if they are getting warm. 

Check your antifreeze level..you may have lost a bit during the conversion process. It is best to bring a gallon of 50/50 antifreeze mix along on the test drive just in case you need it.

Don't forget to add a few gallons of vegoil to the tank.  You don't need unused SVO for that..you can use some of the perfiltered and dewatered wvo you have been collecting and processing in anticipation of this day.

No is also a good time to load up any tools you may need to fix problems that show up on the test drive...and take along  some rags..and hand cleaner..just in case. A clean tarp or old blanket to lay on the ground so you don't have to may also come in handy.

Now....
Warm up the engine to operating temp at idle (on diesel) checking under the car for leaks of any kind every few minutes.  Rev the engine a bit from time to time to circulate the coolant so any trapped air bubbles can circulate out of the system.

Feel any heated fuel lines, coolant/fuel heat exchangers, etc to make sure they are getting warmer as the engine warms up. If they are not you may need to purge air bubbles from the coolant system before the road test by increasing the circulation in the new coolant filled lines and components you just added. (Link to purging air bubbles in coolant line tutorial) Once you are satisfied that everything is working properly and no obvious leaks are present shut off the engine and allow it to cool down enough so you can check for low coolant level in the radiator and/or coolant overflow tank.

Clean up before your test drive
 If possible  have a friend with a car on hand to follow you (and honk if they see anything unusual as they follow behind). 

And try to leave at least a few hours of daylight for the next step so if anything DOES go wrong you don't have to try to fix it in the dark.




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Reply with quote  #10 
Step 9.
Test your veg oil conversion.

 
Before you start your engine check your engine oil and coolant levels. If the level in the radiator or coolant overflow tank is low top it up with 50/50 antifreeze mix.

Start your engine as you normally would. Make sure that your vegoil switch is in the diesel position so you don't mistakenly start on vegoil.  Find an area where you can legally drive at 50mph+ but with little to no other traffic so you can pull over without incident if the engine quits unexpectedly. You want to be traveling at highway speeds since if the fuel supply is temporarily cut due to air bubble your momentum may allow you to quickly switch over to diesel and purge most or all of the air in the injector lines before all your momentum is lost.

As you are cruising smoothly down this road switch to vegoil for 5 seconds...then back to diesel for a full minute. Any engine hiccups? If so repeat until you no longer feel any difference after your short switch over. If you feel no engine power loss or sudden acceleration due to air being purged through the injectors try switching over for 10 seconds. Still no hiccups? Try for 20 seconds. Then 30 seconds...breath normally. If you can switch for 30 seconds with no "hiccups" there is probably no air left int he fuel system.  Now take a deep breath and let it out and switch to VO and leave it.  

Usually the test drive is pretty anticlimactic but if you suddenly lose power switch to diesel fuel as quickly as you can and put the accelerator to the floor until the engine starts running on diesel fuel again. If the engine does not start running before the momentum is gone just pull over to the side of the road as far as possible. You may have to purge the injector lines before you get it started but if there is a manual prime lever on your pump you may be able to re-prime and start the engine without doing that procedure. It is worth one or two tries..but don't drain the battery or you will have lose the option of purging the injector lines and restarting the engine without a tow or a "jump".

In most cases people wonder if they hooked up the electrics correctly and if they are still running on diesel at about this point. After a few more minutes of smooth running pull over and smell the exhaust...if it smells like a barbecue..your conversion is done.

If your engine hiccups no matter how often you repeat the process it is time to go home and look for air leaks. Are all the connections tight? Did you tape all the threaded connection on components? 


*If you have chosen to use a tank previously used for diesel fuel as your vegoil tank you should be aware that waxy deposits accumulate in them and tend to be loosened by warm vegoil. To avoid the possibility of these deposits clogging your main filter after a few hundred miles of problem free vegoil travel you can:
A. Steam clean the tank before use...thoroughly drying it afterward.
or
B. Stick a small clear plastic outer shell disposable fuel filter in the vegoil line prior to the main filter..and keep a few spares in your trunk...along with a few rags. It is easy to see if these are clogging with the dark tank crud and nearly as easy to swap a clean one for a clogged one.

Welcome to the world of responsible and inexpensive non-petroleum fuel use.

(Links to common "bugs" and fixes)


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Reply with quote  #11 
Step 10.
Maintain your vegoil conversion.

 
Diesel engines have the potential to last a lot longer than most gasoline engines UNLESS you neglect regular maintenance OR operate them in a sloppy manner.

The most important single thing you can do to make certain that your converted diesel engine lasts as long as possible is change your lube oil at least as often as the manufacturer suggests. In fact use that oil change interval as a MAXIMUM. Whenever you change lube oil replace the filter and test a small sample for polymerization. BOTH of these suggestions are cheap insurance.

To test for crankcase oil polymerization:
1.Retain about a cup of the used lube oil in a small jar.
2.Seal it up and refrigerate overnight.
3.Tilt the jar to see if the oil flows at all. Since refrigerators typically are set at between 37-45*F it may flow like molasses or tar...but it should still flow.

If it appears at all jello-like it indicates polymerization is occurring in your lube oil and that you should increase the frequency of your oil changes. If it remains jello-like after warming to room temp you may have advanced ring coking and should immediately determine if this is severe using compression tests before major engine damage occurs.

If you wish to have samples tested by an oil testing lab/service (I recommend Blackstone Labs) you should let them know that you are using VO fuel or their analysis may not be accurate. But don't expect them to test for polymerization. Currently none do.

Have your injectors tested regularly using the interval suggested by the manufacturer as a MAXIMUM. Injectors wear out faster if you are sloppy about removing suspended water from your VO fuel and lead to accelerated combustion chamber coking problems. Ignoring this maintenance item can lead to very expensive engine damage so the savings you might gain by not having injectors regularly checked can easily be gobbled up by the cost of a ring job or replacement engine. Also..if for any reason your injectors need replacement (instead of just adjustment) DO NOT buy the cheapest replacement injectors available. This too is a false economy since they will almost certainly not last as long as good or best quality injectors will. And in some cases really cheaply made replacement injectors have been so poorly made that they are as bad as the worn out injectors they are replacing.

Replace your air filter regularly. A clogged air filter will not only limit available power but may cause your engine to run too "rich". This will not only create more pollution due to poor combustion. It will also create conditions where combustion chamber coking can occur at an accelerated rate.

Those are the bare minimum basics IMO...but there are more.

Do not add "performance" chips or other "power" mods to your engine. These are designed with diesel fuel use in mind and are not well suited to VO fuel use. They tend to add more fuel to the combustion chamber and so hasten ring/land/groove coking.


Do not switch to VO fuel until your engine is at normal operating temperature. The cooler the combustion chamber (piston,head,walls) are the faster ring/land/groove coking progresses.


Make certain that VO fuel is as hot as possible (200°F to 275°F) at the injector inlet. This is too hot to hang onto comfortably. If you discover that you can open your hood after a 10 minute run on the highway and hang onto the injection lines you should consider adding injector line insulation or injector line heaters (or both) to your conversion.

Make certain that your purge cycles are long enough to completely purge VO from your injection lines and injectors. Starting a cold engine on cold VO will hasten ring/land/groove coking even in an engine with no other issues.

Do not ignore any symptoms (hard starting, increase in crankcase oil consumption, excessive smoking upon start-up,etc) which might indicate that the engine is not running optimally.

Make certain that your purge (diesel) tank cannot become too heavily contaminated with VO due to VO being "returned" to the diesel tank during purge cycles. Starting on a high percentage VO "blend" probably contributes to accelerated ring coking much as cold starting on VO does.

If you plan to stop using your diesel engine/vehicle for any extended period of time (over a month in warm weather..3 in VERY cold weather) drain the VO tank completely and add several gallons of diesel fuel to it. Run the engine on the VO cycle long enough for this diesel fuel to replace ALL of the VO in the fuel system and then purge the system as you normally would. This will help prevent the possibility that when you want to use the vehicle later the VO in the tank and lines has polymerized enough to cause fuel filters to quickly clog.






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