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Filling Up with the Correct Fuel: Diesel vs. Gasoline

No matter where you go, road trips always result in a visit to a gas station. It does, however, become a tricky situation when you arrive at a fuel pump in the “middle of nowhere.” The confusion generates from the fuel nozzles, their coloration, and a lack of signage. Back at your local station, black identifies gasoline and green identifies diesel. It could be anyone’s guess here, so what would happen if you put the wrong fuel in your vehicle? Read on to learn why you shouldn’t use diesel in a gasoline engine or vice versa.

The Difference Between Diesel and Gasoline

Diesel and gasoline are both products of refined crude oil, but each has their own distinctions. Diesel is mainly used in larger commercial vehicles like trucks, buses, or trains, and it is a denser fuel that has a higher flash point. This means that it will create more energy per gallon. Gasoline, however, combusts almost effortlessly under a lower amount of pressure while producing less energy. Most personal vehicles throughout the U.S. run on unleaded.

How Gasoline and Diesel Engines Operate

Engines that operate on gasoline or diesel have similar approaches to combusting. There are four strokes that take place internally including:

  • An intake stroke that lowers an engine’s pistons and allows air to flow inside,
  • A compression stroke that raises the pistons while compressing any air,
  • A combustion stroke forcing the pistons down from an internal explosion,
  • And an exhaust stroke to release the fumes resulting from combustion.

Why Gasoline Engines Cannot Run Properly on Diesel

In order for a gasoline engine to function, its fuel system must continuously combine air with gasoline to create an explosive mixture for combustion. This is then distributed throughout the engine and ignited by spark plugs. Essentially, because of the difference between the two fuels described above, a diesel and air mixture will not ignite in the same manner as gasoline and air will when compressed.

Why Diesel Engines Cannot Run Properly on Gasoline

Diesel engines are able to run when fuel is injected directly into a combustion chamber. Instead of air being mixed with the fuel, the chamber already contains air that has been compressed and heated. The engine uses a fuel injector to combine the diesel with the air and combustion occurs. Instead of requiring a spark to ignite, diesel depends completely on compression.

What To Do When Using the Wrong Fuel

When you accidentally use the wrong fuel, the best thing to do is to have a professional drain your vehicle’s tank and engine. Have it towed instead of attempting to drive. Already on the road? Pull over and call for roadside assistance. While your vehicle might run at first, you will soon see the dreaded engine light appear. Pay close attention whenever and wherever you are fueling up to avoid this entire situation. If you ever are unsure, just ask the gas station’s operator for assistance.

Home Service Oil’s Fuel Expertise

Home Service Oil has been in the oil business for 90 years and counting! We consistently provide our customers with the fuel they need at competitive prices through bulk delivery. Visit us online at for more information.




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