Useful Car Tips

Gasoline vs. Diesel: What to Know

October 19, 2018
We live in a time where the past and future of the automotive world coincide. The old debate between gasoline and diesel engines seems overshadowed by the electric and self-driving car technology that dominates the industry today. However, there are a ton of gasoline and diesel engines still on the road. Many people can’t afford the latest-and-greatest, so they’re stuck choosing between good-old gas and dependable diesel. If you’re curious to know more about the differences between these 2 fuel types, you’ve found the perfect article! We’ll cover basic characteristics of each and then compare and contrast gas and diesel in a variety of scenarios. By the end of it all, you’ll be able to show off your newfound knowledge by chiming in on those vehicular debates.

Powertrain Differences

Gasoline engines can range from very small displacement numbers to upwards of 6 liters. Diesel engines that come to most people’s minds hover around the 5-7-liter range, but there are smaller-displacement diesel engines as well. Infamously known for its connection to the diesel world, Volkswagen’s TDI lineup is smaller than anything you’d find in a bedded 4x4, but that doesn’t make it any less of a diesel. Beyond displacement, gasoline and diesel engines vary in how they fire as well. Gasoline engines are most often your typical internal combustion engine, with a spark plug igniting the air-fuel mixture to create horsepower. However, diesel engines ignite only the hot, compressed air with a spray of atomized fuel. Whereas gasoline engines control the spark timing, diesel engines control timing with the fuel injectors. Because of this need for higher air temperatures, diesels typically have a harder time starting during cold temperatures. However, block heaters and glow plugs make quick work of generating any necessary heat.

Insurance Coverage

Oftentimes, people equate diesel engines with semi trucks that spend their lives hauling materials across country. You might think that insurance agents think this way as well, for the premium they charge you if you own a diesel-powered car. However, it’s not just the towing package they’re considering; it’s the cost of owning a diesel in and of itself. You see, diesel engines cost more to repair. That means if an insurance company has to cover the cost of your repairs if/when you’re in an accident, they want to make sure their costs are covered by your premium. Hence the higher monthly insurance payments.

Emissions and Fuel Efficiency

Too many people see black smoke dumping out of a diesel truck’s tailpipe and assume that said driver is polluting the environment like crazy. Really, diesel engines are as clean, if not cleaner, than their gasoline counterparts. In fact, dispelled this myth, noting many diesels these days have “aftertreatment devices” that clean the exhaust before it enters the atmosphere. The efficiency of an engine depends on how well the unit is able to take advantage of the generated explosion. For this reason, a higher compression ratio means higher efficiency, and because diesel engines inject fuel into the compressed air, they are typically more efficient with higher compression ratios. Diesel fuel can be higher-priced in some areas, but if you’re able to get more out of diesel than you are straight-up gasoline, the numbers tend to even out across the board.

Long-Term Value

There are many trade-offs when it comes to owning either a gasoline- or a diesel-powered vehicle. However, both engines can cost relatively the same over a certain period of time. What really sets the 2 apart is how much of your initial investment they maintain. Generally speaking, either engine will live long if given the proper care and treatment. All the same, diesel engines will maintain themselves long after gasoline engines have quit. Because diesel engines can vary in their timing so much, any misfires aren’t necessarily going to do catastrophic damage to the internal components. Sure, you’re going to spend more to rebuild a diesel engine because parts are so strong and durable, but it might be worth it in the end if you’re looking at the bigger picture. These are just some of the differences you’ll find between gas and diesel engines. Each camp has their own followers, but it’s better to be informed than ignorant. Which fuel type do you prefer?
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