Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Saving the planet, one gallon at a time

The green machine has gone green. Finally got around to converting my Jetta TDI to biodiesel the other day.

Filled the tank with some golden natural goodness, courtesy of our local supplier, Quality Auto Service. They apparently don't have a web site, but if you drive a diesel and live on the island or commute via the ferry, they are conveniently located. If you have any questions, give 'em a call @ 206-780-8088.

If you live somewhere else, check out this nifty biodiesel mashup with Google maps to find a location near you.

So what was involved with conversion? Well, I pulled up to the station, the friendly attendant opened the fuel cap, and stuck in the nozzle. Voila! And full service, no less.

The cost was $3.40/gal which is a bit more than the going price of regular diesel on the island, but seems like a small price to pay for decoupling my car from the war for oil, investing in our country's own economy, and helping to keep the air and water cleaner because biodiesel has lower emissions. And since the Jetta gets about 40 city and 45 freeway, and I drive very little, the hit to the wallet should be marginal.

I haven't driven much since the 'conversion,' but so far I haven't noticed any decrease in power and I swear the engine runs more quietly.

I spoke to my own mechanic and several owners who have made the switch before making the conversion, which I would definitely recommend. Also check with your auto manufacturer, especially if your car is still under warranty. For example, Volkswagen officially approves a B5 grade (5% biodiesel) for TDI engines and it might void your warranty if you use anything with a higher percentage. My car is past its warranty, so that wasn't a concern.

It's likely that I will have to change the fuel filter (and prefilter if there is one) after a couple of tanks; since biodiesel runs much cleaner than regular diesel, there will be lots of dislodged crud. A buddy of mine who has also made the switch with his Mercedes told me that in a couple of years, I might need to replace the fuel lines.

For more info, check out GreaseWorks and NBB.

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