Letter Re: Can I Burn Home Heating Oil or Kerosene in a Diesel Engine?

Hello Jim,
This is in response to the gentleman’s question about using kerosene in diesel engines. Yes, it can be done. I had two 55 gallon drums of kerosene that were reaching the end of their storage life. I also have an old Mercedes diesel car and ran the kerosene with some added lubrication in the vehicle and it worked very well. You are correct that kerosene doesn’t have the same lubrication values of diesel but that is solved by simply adding vegetable oil or biodiesel to to the fuel. I used a 10-to-1 ratio as recommended by another poster on the blog. As far as kerosene burning hotter, it has fewer BTUs per gallon than diesel so I doubt this is a problem.

This discussion brings up another advantage of diesel engines and it’s a big one. That is the variety of fuels they can run on including kerosene, home heating oil and vegetable oil-new and used. Some people over at Mercedesshop.com have even used automatic transmission fluid and lightweight motor oil in their cars as well. I would only do that for a short period of time and if I were truly desperate. Several caveats apply here also. Used vegetable oil must be filtered very well or you will have serious problems. To run 100% vegetable oil (“straight vegetable oil”) in cars it must have a two-tank system that heats the oil first and flushes the fuel lines with diesel when shut off or the oil will solidify in the fuel lines the car won’t restart. However I would not hesitate to use 50% diesel/kerosene with 50% new vegetable oil in warm weather. All this gives you have several options if you need them. Scenario 1: There is a major fuel shortage with low supplies and long lines at the pump. With a diesel engine you can simply go to the kerosene pump and fill your cans up while everybody else waits in line. Scenario 2: You are evacuating from a [Hurricane] Katrina-like situation and begin to run low on fuel. Simply go to any grocery store and pick up several gallons of vegetable oil and dump it in. Then go to the auto parts store and grab a few quarts of ATF and motor oil and dump it in if your really low.

Again some of this I would not do unless I was truly hard pressed, but desperate times call for thinking outside the box. FYI, the drums of kerosene mentioned above are nine years old and were not stabilized (I didn’t know any better at the time. However, it was in very good condition and ran well in my car. I hope that this helps someone. – Jeff in Ohio