Staying Mobile in a Collapse Situation by Matt Conner
I have seen countless disaster movies set 30+ years after the collapse of society where, somehow, people still have gasoline and diesel fuel to run their vehicles. I am a professional diesel mechanic, operating two vehicles retrofitted from their original gasoline engines to run on older mechanical diesel engines. I feel I could stay mobile longer because I would not be dependent on service stations to provide me fuel, and I could make my own. I would like to share my methods here with fellow like-minded readers. The concept I will be detailing is burning used engine oil for fuel in older mechanical diesel engines. The first of the two engines I run is a 1991.5 Cummins 6bta, commonly referred to as the “12 valve”, installed in a 1998 Ford F150. This engine was commonly found in the 1988-1996 Dodge ¾ and one ton trucks but is very popular to swap into other vehicles. The engine has many benefits and the only negative aspect I have found so far is that it is loud. The key feature here is it will run on used oil. The second engine is a Mercedes Benz OM617– the 5 cylinder diesel found in various cars from the mid-1970s to late ’80s. This engine has been installed in my girlfriend’s 1996 Jeep Cherokee. Both the OM617 and Cummins are 100% EMP-proof, which means it will run without a battery and no alternator and will also run on used oil.
Under normal operation (not the end of the world), I collect used engine oil and fuel from changed filters off Peterbilt trucks I service (roughly 120 trucks). I filter and blend this used oil with a setup at my house that I will detail later. However, in a SHTF scenario, the theory would be collecting the engine oil and automatic transmission fluid or even power steering fluid from abandoned vehicles, which will have run out of fuel on the road, to make a custom blend of usable emergency fuel for your diesel.
W85 blend is what oil burners call a blend of 85% WMO (waste motor oil) and 15% RUG (regular unleaded gasoline). Since the viscosity of oil is higher than diesel fuel, the gasoline is used to lower it to something similar to diesel by thinning it out. Now in our SHTF scenario, we would shoot for making w85 in 5-gallon batches; we would collect all the crank case oil and ATF and power steering fluid (do not use brake fluid) from a derelict vehicle, which should yield about five to six quarts engine oil and about six to eight quarts of ATF and power steering fluid. Then we would collect the remaining gasoline from the fuel tank, because most vehicles still have a considerable amount of fuel in the tank even after they “run out”. This would be done simply by puncturing the fuel tank with a screwdriver or ice pick and a hammer. If you could get ¾ gallons of RUG that would cover your needed 15%, and the rest would be your WMO.
Water separation and filtration is the key. My fuel filtration set up is gravity fed and constructed of almost entirely “junk”. It consists of two 55-gallon drums, some plumbing pipe, some filter heads, and spin-on CIMTEK filters. Search “up-flow processor WMO” to see detailed info on how they work.
The basic concept is described here. The first drum is the settling tank. The 55-gallon drum has a 2-inch opening and a ¾-inch opening. The 2-inch bung has a 4-inch pipe nipple threaded into it, and inside the pipe nipple there is a 2-inch diameter exhaust pipe section welded to it that extends down into the barrel close to the bottom. The top of the pipe nipple has a smaller 16-gallon drum with a 2-inch bung in its center, threaded onto it with the top of it cut off to act as a funnel. On the opposite side, at the ¾ bung, is a 90-degree street elbow that has two filter heads with CIMTEK water separator filters at 15 and 5 microns. The concept is as follows. The WMO/RUG mix is poured into the funnel at the top of the barrel; the weight of the oil forces it down the down tube to the bottom of the barrel where any large solids and water will settle. Then once the barrel is full, the settled oil will be forced out the top through the ¾ bung, through the filters, and out as finished product. On my set-up I have it go into another 55-gallon drum, used as a storage tank that has a 12 volt pump that runs on a battery and pumps the product through a final third filter, but this is not necessary. A smaller version of this filter concept could be constructed for portability and maybe even mounted in the truck, but the basic concept is the same.
The proper vehicle to run this fuel would be one with a mechanically-injected older diesel engine, pre-1997 would be safest. All older IDI Fords, 6.9 l and pre-powerstroke 7.3 l engines do well on it.
The pre- common rail Cummins engines in Dodges, like I run, love it; all your Mercedes 300 series cars and many others run well on it as well. One important thing is to stock up on fuel filters for your vehicle. This will save you hassle later down the road, as trying to go to Auto Zone in the end times might not be a good idea.
I have been running this blended fuel for several years in my Cummins-powered Ford F150 with no issues, and the Mercedes-powered Jeep has run for several months now as well. Still, as always, do your research, and know what you are doing before you start. I hope this will inspire others to look into making their own emergency fuel and having the survival advantage when it counts.