A lot of people are excited about the ever-expanding availability of diesel engines in passenger cars and SUV’s. With these alternative engines come alternative preventative maintenance requirements. Diesel engines have long been used in Europe and Asia. In fact, in some markets, there are almost as many diesel powered passenger cars as there are gasoline.
Why, you may be wondering, has it taken so long to get to North America? There are many reasons like fuel tax policies, but the largest hurdle was the higher sulfur content present in North American diesel fuel—too high for the latest generation of highly refined diesel engines.
Diesel engines are very popular worldwide because they get up to 30% better fuel economy than gasoline engines—and they last a lot longer. It may also help that modern diesel engines are smooth, refined, quiet and very powerful. There is none of the black smoke that we used to associate with diesel engines.
Some people may think that diesels create more pollution, but the diesel engine has changed significantly. Environmental pollution standards for diesel cars and light trucks are scheduled to be as strict as they are for gasoline vehicles. A modern diesel engine is as clean as a gas engine. There aren’t a lot of tradeoffs with diesel as far as performance. A modern passenger diesel is very smooth, quiet and quick. For people who haul heavy loads or pull trailers, diesel would be an improvement.
Because diesel engines are heavy duty, they cost more than gas engines. In return, they get better fuel economy, so the break-even point is largely dependent on the difference between gas and diesel prices at the pump and how many miles you drive. Another plus: vehicles with diesel engines have a higher resale value.
As far as maintenance is concerned, diesel engines require very clean fuel, air, and oil. These diesel engine filters have to be able to handle much higher capacities, so they’re going to cost more. The engine air filter needs to be changed more frequently as well.
Repair costs between a diesel and a gasoline car are very similar. As with gasoline engines, proper maintenance is the key to long engine life and avoiding costly repairs. Regular maintenance will include: coolant system service, transmission service, power brakes, power steering, differential, filters, fuel system and so on. So if you’re a person who likes your vehicle to last a long time—take good care of your diesel and it will drive for hundreds of thousands of miles. Proper maintenance will payoff in the end!