Is diesel still relevant or are gasoline engines the go-to choice?
Before choosing between diesel or gas, it's useful to understand how each power plant works. While there is a difference between gas and diesel engines, both do the job of converting chemical energy into useful mechanical energy via internal combustion. This involves incoming air mixing with fuel. This mixture is ignited after it is compressed by the cylinders, with the ensuing combustion forcing the movement of the piston and crankshaft, ultimately getting the vehicle to move. This continuous process concludes when the piston returns to its initial position and releases gas via the exhaust system.
It's the igniting of the mixture that differs between a diesel engine and a gas one. Gas-powered power plants utilize spark plugs that create a burst of electricity, thereby igniting the mixture. So, how does a diesel engine work to do this differently? Well, they don't use spark plugs. Instead, they use more extreme compression and something called a glow plug to result in what is known as compression ignition. In simpler terms, diesels compress the mixture to such an extent that combustion occurs on its own.
So, are diesel cars better or not? It all depends on your specific needs.
In the diesel vs gas engine battle, the latter option is more common, but there are also a few downsides that you should know about before buying your next ride.
While diesel-powered pickups are still quite common, it's more challenging to find compact hatchbacks or luxury sedans with the same kind of powertrain. So, what is in diesel engines' favor and what isn't? We've summarized the key points.
Is diesel better than gas? It all depends on your individual needs. If you travel vast distances, are purchasing a second-hand model with higher mileage, or need a pickup for pulling heavy rigs, then diesel is a logical choice. However, if you are looking to pay less for a new set of wheels, want a high-performance sports car, or prioritize refinement, then a petrol vehicle may be a better bet. Gas is also far more common; in fact, diesel-powered sedans are virtually dead in the USA. Finally, the higher cost of diesel fuel can't be ignored.
Diesels make the most sense when equipped to a hard-working truck, but there are a few other applications for them. Here are five examples for sale in the US, including some of the best diesel trucks on the market:
As you can tell, these options are mostly pickups and larger SUVs. Compacts with smaller 4 cylinder diesels are more popular outside of North America.
Our advice is simple: avoid this at all costs. However, if the worst does happen, the thicker diesel fuel will immediately begin to do battle with the gas vehicle's fuel system. The fuel pump will initially have trouble moving the denser liquid - mixed with leftover gas - through the system.
The fluid that does reach the engine will likely block up the injectors, which will inevitably lead to seizing. While your vehicle can briefly run on a mixture of the two fuels, you won't get very far. Even worse, putting gasoline in a diesel engine car will cause tremendous damage since gas ignites more quickly.
A higher-compression motor with increased cylinder pressures, diesels are engineered with stronger components. They also generally have bigger crankshafts and camshafts. This allows for superior lubrication of major components. Finally, the absence of spark plugs and the lower revolutions lead to enhanced longevity.
These power plants have an outdated reputation for being noisy, contributing more to pollution levels and, in more recent times, suffered a major reputational blow following the Volkswagen emissions debacle. While they are still less refined than petrol equivalents in some instances, modern iterations are noticeably more hushed in their operation. Diesels are more expensive to buy initially, which has also contributed to their decline.
Running on much lower revolutions per minute, diesels actually encourage a more relaxed driving style. They produce their maximum torque without much strain, too, which means that they don't need to be revved that hard for decent progress. These characteristics are ideal for truck owners who may often be hauling heavy loads, but it could be viewed as a negative in a sportier model.