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Exclusive Article

Talk of the Town:
Diesel Vs. Gasoline

Another great discussion from the Tractor Talk Discussion Forum.

The discussion started out with the following post:

" I am in the market for an older tractor (to be read... cheap). I have been told a diesel holds up better than a gasoline engine as far a wear, tear, neglect and abuse. Since I am looking at older tractors that have probably been through it all, is it better to buy diesel? I do expect to have to do a good bit of work on whatever I buy. "

What followed are some interesting replies:

" Don't expect to do a lot of work on the injector pump and injectors yourself unless you're an experience diesel technician. The older diesels can be problems that a shade tree mechanic isn't going to come close to fixing. I wouldn't buy an older (pre late-1970's) diesel unless I was happy with the way it's running when I buy it. (Learned this the hard way). "


" Amen brother! Gas engines are easier for shade tree mechanics to repair, second hand parts are cheaper and more available. "

" A diesel engine is very hard to start in cold weather sometimes. You have to use starter fluid to start it every time. We have a diesel and a gas and I prefer a gas. "

" Diesel in cold weather is no fun [sic]! You need #1 diesel in winter (kerosene) and can use #2 diesel in summer (fuel oil). Can't find the right grade diesel? BUY A GASSER. Many times we had to pull the diesel tractors 4020, 3020, and even the 4440 with the 520 (gas) to get then started before we could feed cattle (then the flights in the Kelly Ryan feed wagon were frozen to the floor and THEY broke). Want it to start on a cold morning? These guys are right about the longevity of diesel because of the simplicity of function, BUT they are MUCH more expensive if you DO need repairs. Also agreed that if you have one, plug it in immediately after shutting down (don't wait till you need) unless you have a circulating block heater. We plug ours in at night after supper, so they'll be ready in the AM and then sometimes still have to pull start. Want to save on electricity? Bring it up to the house and plug it in by the back door if you need to get closer to electricity. What to do if you live in town, and there's no elctricity out were the tractor'sa at? And remember, pull start is a TWO man job, what are you cgonna do if you NEED thsat tractor, and you are by yourself, or you don't have anything to pull start it with? Again, BUY A GASSER! "

" If it doesn't get too cold (like much below +30F) and if you've wrenched diesels before then go for it. Otherwise, I think that you'll find your typical tractor carb to be whole bunch simpler and cheaper to rebuild than your basic vintage fuel injection system. There are a variety of stories about trying to get diesels to fire when they're cold. One of them involves people heating the intake manifold with cutting torches or the like to get the inlet air warm enough to compress at a temperature high enough to get fuel to light off. Others have mentioned kerosene or #1 fuel oil. As far as I know there are still manufactureres who make add-on ether kits so all you have to do is pull a cable to help loosen your head bolts. Another thing: if a cold diesel gets started, the lube requirements are still pretty much what they would be if it was warm out. So unless you go synthetic, that crankcase oil is gonna be nice and thick and may not flow all that great into the pump, at least at first. Going to 5W-30 probably is not an option, at least with conventional oil. Better have a real big battery and a real healthy starter. I like diesels, I really do, but for the part timer I say gas makes more sense. "

" I really like diesels, but it rarely get down to 10+ degrees here, and I have seen enough costly damage that I respect the manufacturers maintenance schedule. You mentioned neglect. If a diesel is run with water in fuel system you sieze the injection pump. Since it's mechanicaly driven something will break. Most pump shops would, with water in fuel pump, or anytime pump has a problem, recommend checking or replacing injectors too. Fuel system Cost, if it's only a 4 cylinder $1,000-$2,000 or more, not including R&R. This can happen every year if the fuel filter isn't changed on schedule. How long does it take to change that fuel filter? Diesel engines develop more heat, and also combustion vibrations eventually with the water in coolant, will eat a hole in the cylinder liners or engine block. Neglect the cooling system and you'll pay $$$ again. That heat is also damaging the engine oil along with the combustion deposits from diesel engine. You must change oil and filter on schedule or pay $$$. Some neglect this and live with a motor thats only wore excessively, thats one reason why ether is so popular. I really prefer diesels most of the time, they thrive on steady/hard work, and are usually fiddle free, if scheduled maintenance is performed ON TIME. If you don't pay attention to your tractor until it quits running you will be much happier with a gas motor. Every motor is has a different requirement when using ether if needed at all. I agree with Bill from Ontario, and use as little as possible to make it kick. Ether and glow plugs used together can really hurt your motor. Just my 4 cents worth. "

" Something that has not been mentioned yet is a safety concern. If you don't have fuel delivered to your place and will need to drive your truck/car to the gas station (as many hobby farmers do), you will have a bomb in your vehicle if you have gasoline! True, diesel will burn but it won't explode and wreck your day if you are in an accident. Diesels will usually require less fuel than a gas tractor also. "

" How about an LP? Then you can have all the hard starting characteristics of a diesel plus the pain of keeping up the ignition system on a gasser! All seriousness aside, you can usually pick up an LP model a lot cheaper than the other two because not everyone is set up to fuel them. If you heat your camp with LP, assuming you have heat, you can easily have your tank set up to fuel your tractor. No trips to town for fuel. Also, no road tax on LP. You will have to use some of the tricks given below to start on very cold days and you have been given some pretty good ones. That's the downside. The bottom line is that there are pros and cons to whatever fuel you use. That's why you have a choice, just use the one that best suits your situation. "

" DIESEL, I've had only one for sixteen years, it's a 1960 MF 35 with a 3 cyl Perkins. Always works, if you're way up north use a tank heater, plug it in after you've shut down. The biggest factor is how it's been maintained, and how well you maintain it after you've bought it. "

" Through the years I have gone to diesel on everything I own, tractors, pick ups, and bigger trucks because we use them hard everyday. If I owned a car it would be a diesel too. If you will be using the tractor a great deal I would vote for the diesel. If you maintain the diesel right it will be considerably more dependable than a gas. Given the fact that both are in the same mechanical condition to start. As far as repairs and parts I think the diesel is easier and more simple to work on than any gas. The diesel will not cost more to maintain, in fact in the long run the diesel will cost less to maintain than any comparable gas engine, and on parts there will not be enough difference on price to tell a difference. In the years where we had a choice and farmed with both gas and diesel it soon became evident that the diesel was the way to go. They're easier to maintain, and will keep running and working when they are completely worn out. The diesel is harder to crank in cold weather, but you can put block and oil heaters on it and it will crank, and it won't drowned out on rainy days. It won't get moody and have good and bad days like gas engines. The gas engines would drowned out and quit running in the rain, and they would skip and miss on foggy mornings and spit and sputter til they burn out the moisture. Or on the bad side you pulled the mag or distributer cap and dry it out in the house by the heater or in the oven. That always made mama real happy, and you won't be happy with the new smell in the house or new taste of your bisquits and pies. "

This information was gathered at the Tractor Talk Discussion Board.

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