Reader Question: Red Diesel?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Mike asks: Is it ok to run “red” diesel in my pickup? It’s a lot cheaper than the regular pump diesel but I’m worried about the effect on my engine.

My reply: Using “red” – or off-road – diesel probably won’t hurt your truck’s engine  . . . unless it’s one of the newer ones that requires Ultra Low Sulfur – ULSD – pump gas to avoid bollixing up the emissions control system. But it could hurt the owner of the station where you buy it – if Uncle finds out about it.

Possibly, you as well.

It’s illegal (and cause for a Hut! Hut! Hutting!) to pump “red” diesel – the red is dye to give Uncle a way to identify it, visually – into on-road vehicles. “Red” diesel is supposed to be used only in tractors and other off-road vehicles/equipment. This is why the pumps which dispense it are usually off to the side somewhere – and why the guy inside will stop you if he sees you pumping it into an obviously on-road vehicle like a pick-up with street tags, etc.

It’s a shame, of course, that we’re denied lower-cost and more efficient diesel – the “red” diesel – and forced to buy the more expensive/less efficient ULSD for our on-road vehicles.

Thank Uncle for this.

. . .

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  1. A lot of homes up here have oil heat, which is #2 oil, same as diesel; some years back a buddy of mine bought a diesel pickup and put a T connection on his oil tank with a small pump to fill the truck. Worked great and saved him some serious money, also back then you could buy oil cheaply for cash from a lot of different guys so he’d use different dealers so no one would wonder why all of a sudden he was using so much more oil.

  2. Get a slip tank. Nobody even notices a person filling a slip tank at the ‘marked’ gas island.

    Also, put a little ATF3 in the diesel every fourth or fifth tank. About a 1 liter for every 100 of diesel. Cleans injectors and lubes mechanical pumps nicely.

    • Anon, I always called ATF Tune=up in a bottle. I used to buy # 1 fuel when I could find it. Never understood why it was so rare in Texas and common in other states.

  3. I have never heard of this before, definitely peaked my interest despite no intentions of getting a coal roller anytime soon

    Of course, if I ever get stupid $$$$ and build a 1st Gen Diesel Taco, then I’m keeping an eye out for it, Uncle and AGW’s be damned

    • Hi Zane,

      Yup! Also, I am pretty sure the “red” off-road diesel has greater lubricity (sulfur content) and thus is better for your diesel engine… on or off-road.

      • So real question is, how does an AGW check it anyway and what tips them off?

        I mean, how can they tell in the first place if no one saw it or reported it?

      • When the low sulfur fuel came out it had a warning for older diesels, never mind there was no sulfur fuel available. I was just glad to be using Amsoil. I’m not above using red diesel. I consider it a life-saver for older engines.

          • I got a deal many years ago on a 250 overhead fuel tank. It’s great to use……when you can afford to fill it. Living on SS, it’s not so conducive to filling fuel tanks.

            Got a hell of a buy at an auction on a 1,000 gallon fuel tank but fuel was really expensive at the time so I have been using it for water troughs. Cut 5 feet off, split it and weld that together makes a damn good trough.


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