Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Truck that Works for a Living

I own one of the 1994 -7.3 liter turbo indirect injection diesel 4X4 Ford F 250 pickup trucks with the extended cab. Yeah, there's probably thousands of them on the road, but I've got one. It had to be that year too, and the early part of the year at that. Later in '94 Ford introduced the Powerstroke engine. While it made some gains in efficiency and power, it did so at the cost of much greater complexity. Many parts that were fairly inexpensive on earlier diesels became darn pricey.

My main concern, however, was that the pre-Powerstroke engine was much easier to convert to waste vegetable oil. I would never had bought such a huge beast of a pickup of I had any intention of paying for the bulk of my fuel. 90 - 95% of the time the truck burns waste vegetable oil. The oil is almost free. It does cost a bit to filter it. Last time I did the calculations it was somewhere between 10 and 17 cents/gallon, depending on the quality of waste veggie. The rest of the cost is my labor, plus some oil stained clothes that are unfit for public viewing.

Between the truck and my car, an old diesel Benz, I burn something like 125 gallons of waste veggie/month. That's instead of burning diesel. Some months I burn considerably more veggie, like when I go on long trips.

The truck had to be converted to run on veggie. There are kits out there costing thousands of dollars. Pay a mechanic to install it, and it's hundreds more. My conversion cost about $100 in parts -most of which came from the local hardware store.

The truck works for a living. Of course, I use it to haul all that waste veggie. It also hauls most of my firewood. Between the waste veggie oil and the firewood, the truck more than pays for itself. When any of my family or friends need a big pickup, I'm more than happy to lend it out. We've done everything from move 7 tons of gravel and ledge pack for a walkway project, to bales of hay used to cover a garden. I once drove over 300 miles in a snowstorm to pick up a used truck transmission for a friend.

The truck is also a portable power plant. I've installed a 2000 watt inverter with a 4000 watt surge. Very useful for power tools on a job site. It's powerful enough to run a 3.5 hp electric chainsaw. I use it to gather firewood on nearby National Forest land. Yup, I don't even burn gas to run a chainsaw. In effect, my chainsaw runs on waste vegetable oil.

I can load enough vegetable jugs in the back of the truck to take me over 3000 miles. How's that for range?

The truck isn't pretty. It's a mish mash of parts from a whole assortment of Fords. I painted it flat black using foam brushes. The beauty of this truck is that it is possible to keep it going with salvaged parts. A good friend of mine has been driving old Fords for years and has acquired quite a selection of parts, plus the knowledge needed to do repairs.

Occasionally, I do employ the services of a professional mechanic. Sometimes us shade tree mechanics lack the proper tools. I am glad that when I do spend money on a vehicle, it stays in the local community.

The high ground clearance and the 4X4 capability are darn useful here in snow country. It is a comfort to know that we are not snowbound if we don't want to be.

So, the truck's been extremely useful to me. When it dies, however, I won't replace it with new one. First, I'm allergic to car payments. Second, a truck has got to pay for itself and I don't see how an expensive new one would be able to . Finally, my vehicles have to be extremely cheap to run. For now, diesels running WVO do the trick. I'll most likely replace my truck with something similar. However, when that day arrives, I'll have to run the numbers, assess my situation, and only then make my decision. No telling what the future may bring.



  1. Does the WVO ever gum up in the cold weather? Do you have to use a engine heater?

  2. The WVO tank is heated by a copper coil dropped into the tank. Coolant runs through the coil and heats the veggie. The fuel line is snuggled between the coolant hoses and wrapped in insulation. I often burn WVO in below 0 F temperatures. Often the WVO starts the day as a solid block of grease, kinda like Crisco.

    The truck starts in diesel and shuts down in diesel.

    It does have a block heater, but only use it during below zero temps. The truck has good glow plugs and big twin Interstate batteries. I use the block heater as little as possible.

  3. I've got a 1988 F250 extended cab, long bed . It's not pretty either, but it's a workhorse and trusty as they come. I just burn regular diesel in it, though.