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Appalapagus 01-15-2015 06:48 AM

Is WVO cost effective versus conventional diesel?
Hello and a warm greetings to you all from Florida! :D

I am currently in the market for a diesel skoolie with ideas of RV style conversion and utilizing WVO as main fuel source. I've read extensively, however not all inclusively, regarding the pros and cons of WVO. However my biggest kick in the arse came from a conversation I carried with a 30+ year diesel mechanic based out of Tampa, FL...

He claimed that WVO wasn't worth it! Here are some of the reasons why:

1a. The cost of proper filtration and preparation. He focused mostly on the cost of adding a lubricant to the WVO so that it wont gunk up fuel pumps...(true or false?)

1b. If WVO isn't proper prepared your fuel pump will not be repairable due to an excessive amount of gunk (sludge, buildup, etc.) and a new pump (+$3000) will have to be purchased.

2. Unless you have extensive diesel mechanic knowledge, be prepared to pay $1000 - $2000 for each breakdown (this b/c I plan, and hence mentioned, living on the road).

How legitimate are these concerns regarding the fuel pump and necessary lube additives? I am going to look at a 1990 Bluebird with 1st Cummins 5.9 soon; these concerns apply?

*Side note what engine is best to circumvent these concerns?

Thanks everyone!

cowlitzcoach 01-15-2015 08:38 AM

WVO is a nice idea but it has some serious pitfalls.

First, the supplies of free or next to free WVO is becoming fewer and farther between. One company in the Portland, OR area is now leasing fryer oil to companies--the users pay a fee to use the oil and any shrinkage. The company then picks up all of the used oil to be reused by their fleet of trucks. Remember, it is one thing to go to a McDonald's with your 5-gallon bucket to get enough WVO to run your VW Rabbit or Mercedes-Benz 300D and showing up with a 100-gallon tank. Your bus will use more WVO in 500 miles than a Rabbit will use in 2500 miles.

Second, you will need to plumb in a second fuel tank to hold the WVO complete with shut off valves and heaters. Most WVO will turn to a solid or the next thing to it at a much lower temperature than diesel. One study showed that palm oil starts to cloud up at 60*. You will need to have some sort of shut off valve that will allow you to run on diesel before you shut down so that when you go to start the next time you are starting on diesel instead of WVO.

Third, however you plumb the WVO system in you will need to have some sort of filtration system to filter out the pieces of fries and leftover McNuggets that sink to the bottom. Eventually you will need to filter down to less than 10 microns to get the WVO clean enough to not clog up pumps and injectors.

Fourth, your Cummins will not like WVO. A Detroit Diesel 2-cycle will run on just about anything if you can get it to fire. The pump and injectors can handle other fuels besides diesel #1 or #2. Most other diesel engines, particularly 4-cycle diesel engines, don't like WVO.

There can be some confusion in conversations when discussing WVO and biodiesel. They are similar and can contain some of the same stuff. The big difference between the two is biodiesel has the bio part already mixed into the fuel. The chemical that keeps the bio mixed into the diesel is hydroscopic and keeps the water mixed in rather than letting the water settle out into the bottom of the tank--hence the reason why so many water seperators look like they are full of mocha instead of fuel with water at the bottom. If you don't use a fuel conditioner to seperate out the water and add lubricity back in when you use biodiesel you will be having pump and injection problems. I know of one school district in OR that was losing at least five pumps or injector problems every year until they started using a fuel conditioner. That particular district is being required to run 20% biodiesel.

WVO doesn't have all of the same lubricity issues that biodiesel has but using a fuel conditioner to keep it from gelling in cold weather (cold defined as anything less than 60*) will help to keep things running.

I was all hot to trot and was just minutes away from starting the process to install a WVO system on a bus that was on a daily route running 200 miles per day. That is I was until I did the math.

That particular bus got about 7 MPG. Which translates into almost 30 gallons per day or over 200 gallons per week. In order to supply the bus with enough WVO I would have had to purchase a truck with a tank and a pump to go out and get enough WVO to keep things going. I would then have had to build a filtration "plant" to process the WVO before I could pump it into the bus tanks. All told my initial investment to keep one bus running on WVO was going to be well in excess of $20,000.00 (and that was using used, surplus, or scrap materials). And as a commercial operator not only would I still be liable for all of the road taxes but they would find a way to collect them. As a private operator the odds of the tax man catching up with you would be slim to none.

I am not purposely trying to rain on any person's parade. I think utilizing a waste product to produce something is a great idea. But I think using WVO in a bus is a fool's errand.

Just my two cents worth.

Good luck and happy trails.

jazty 01-15-2015 09:12 AM


Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach (Post 97713)
Fourth, your Cummins will not like WVO. A Detroit Diesel 2-cycle will run on just about anything if you can get it to fire. The pump and injectors can handle other fuels besides diesel #1 or #2. Most other diesel engines, particularly 4-cycle diesel engines, don't like WVO.

The 7.3l T444e (also known as a PowerStroke when placed in a Ford) works great with WVO. I'd be surprised if you'd notice a power difference between a stock 5.9l Cummins and a stock 7.3l, though the Cummins are easier to work on, I've heard.
Here's a chat about that:
and running WVO in them:

From that last article:
"The Ford Powerstroke Super Duty 7.3L (built by International / Navistar) has some unique advantages that set it apart for alternative fuel usage. First is the fuel injection system. These engines do not contain an injection pump. Instead they have an injector at each cylinder that uses high pressure engine oil to pressurize the fuel for injection. The injectors are fed by a fuel rail that is cast directly into the head of the engine. This is an advantage because this fuel rail acts as an extremely good final heat exchanger. This design also allows a configuration of check-valve's to control which fuel you are using. It also enables the use of an extra valve to purge the vegetable oil from the head at shutdown, reducing the purge process to only a few seconds instead of the 10-15 minutes or more required by some engines."

jazty 01-15-2015 09:17 AM

It should be noted, though, that both the T444e and 5.9l Cummins are small engines for a bus. They'll get you around, but you won't be squacking the tires..

Appalapagus 01-17-2015 11:10 AM

Thank you to all of you who've responded thus far!

@jazty Good warning on that note; I've been informed that the Cummins 5.9 is a sort of generalist motor housed in many different types of vehicles with multiple purposes...Truth may be that the motor won't pull a bus plus 4-6 ppl and the additional weight from interior modifications well. I'm going to top out the 5.9 Cummins on highway today and see how much juice the ol' girls got left in her.

@cowlitzcoach What can I say, so much information to decipher; thank you. I will chew on that for some time.

Rayzer69 01-26-2015 05:09 AM

So... how did the drive go?

Appalapagus 01-29-2015 04:48 PM

@Rayzer69 Thanks for asking. The bus was awesome! Was the first time I'd actually driven a large school bus so was tons of fun. My spidey sense did fire when I popped the engine hood to find little rat treats hanging out on the Cummins...The bus started up great cold, drove excellently, and everything seemed to work well...but then I got under the bus...

Found diesel oil leaking like a motha. also noticed the air brakes continued making a hissing noise couple times a minute while parked (no using brake). And the engine had tons of exterior rust; though nothing beyond cosmetic but either way. also found a fresh tranny leak at the bottom, though it appeared to shift beautifully...

So at $5000 I felt like this might not be the bus for us; after networking with this mechanic Dave who claims "I was just like you when I was younger" I've learned that work on diesel engines cost $$$$$. Not the same as the Civic I just rehauled for under 2Gs. But hey, the test drive and experience were close to free and worth tons!


Veganvegabond 02-01-2015 02:06 PM

So, anyone have any experience converting a DT466 for running on WVO?

brianernstmusic 03-02-2015 08:35 PM

Hey There.
My wife and I converted a DT360 a few years ago.
We ran it around the country pretty hard. Did about 57,000 miles on it before I had to do an engine overhaul. We just bought a 1994 Thomas Vista with a DT466 in it. I'm going to be converting the bus myself in Ohio the first week of April.

I rekon it is very similar to the DT360. I took pictures and video of myself installing and removing the WVO components off the DT360. When we convert in April, I plan on doing pictures and video of the process.

When are you trying to convert?


Brian Ernst Music - Home

Outcast 03-03-2015 05:12 AM


Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach (Post 97713)
WVO is a nice idea but it has some serious pitfalls.

First, the supplies of free or next to free WVO is becoming fewer and farther between. One company in the Portland, OR area is now leasing fryer oil to companies--

Here in the south east, which would include the northern parts of Florida, there is a company called "Carolina Biodiesel" that has contracted almost all of the chain restaurants as well as the mom & pop shops so you will find it hard to get ANY free or cheap WVO for your bus. I was halfway into building a personal setup for making biodiesel when I started checking my local "supplies" and found out that I wouldn't be able to get enough oil to make it worth the time and trouble. Once again, big money squeezing out the little guy, and making it sound like they are doing us all a favor in the process!

EastCoastCB 03-03-2015 06:04 AM

I worked at a mom and pop burger joint when I was in high school. Even back then a company was buying ALL the wvo in the area. I'd imagine its even harder to get now.

sdwarf36 03-03-2015 06:24 AM

Yea-its gotten next to impossible to find free oil anymore. Same deal here in Ct. A big bio-d company came in + aggresivly scooped up every drop by promising the world. Now that diesel and fuel oil has come down, I'm sure they aren't making the same money. So they may not be so into picking up and paying what they promised.
But then again, with diesel being cheaper, it also makes tipping point of the cost of conversion farther from worth it.
It works for me-I have a steady locked in source and a 2 years supply stashed-and all my trips are a tankfull out + back-but the days of traveling the country and expecting everyone happy to give you free oil are 10 years past.

EastCoastCB 03-03-2015 06:30 AM

At LEAST ten years.

brianernstmusic 03-12-2015 08:00 PM

I'm really surprised at the negative outlook on running WVO with a school bus.
My wife and I are full time touring musicians. We have been running WVO in our DT360 for almost 5 years now. We drive roughly 1000 miles/week, running over 95% veggie oil. We've had really no problems with the WVO and saved over $30,000... Call me a fool, but I rekon I would be foolish to not be running on veggie oil.

Almost converting a bus to run on veggie oil is not quite running on veggie oil. I couldn't find anyone on this thread who actually did it and could give an honest opinion about it.

First off, It's a real simple process. We have two 55 gallon barrels in the back of our bus. One has three 10 micron filter bags on top. We pump out WVO using a 12volt pump. (Which has a screen on the end of the hose preventing french fries and chicken mcnuggets from even entering the collection). Then we dump the grease through our filter bags and pump it into our other 55 gallon tank.

This other tank is the tank that sends the veggie oil to the engine. It is a steel drum with a hotfox heater. This is more or less a steel tube that goes down into the tank that not only sucks the fuel out, but also has engine coolant going through it to heat up the tank.

The basic concept is this, you start your bus on diesel and then once it gets to normal operating temperature you know the WVO in your tank is hot, you simply hit a switch you install yourself (while you're driving) and then you immediately start running on WVO. You can drive around on veggie all day but before you stop for the night, say 4 or 5 miles before you reach your destination (sometimes longer depending on the temp outside) you switch it back to diesel so that the veggie gets flushed out of your lines and injectors so when you do a cold start the next day, diesel is all in the lines, and boom you start right up and start the process all over again. Simple as that.

I've only been doing it for 5 years and I have yet to have any problems with injectors, clogging or slow performance...

Regarding the cost of filters. The filters I use on the 55 gallon tank are less that $10. If you get crap crease than these filters will go quickly. If you're snobby about it and only collect the good grease (from the top of the barrel) then they can last for months. I think we filter somewhere between 500-1000 gallons of veggie oil per filter. The next cost is the filters that (look like diesel filters) again depending on the grease you get, you should be able to easily get 1000 miles out of one of these filters. They cost about $8. Not too bad..

I think the whole bus conversion cost me about $3000. Half of which was labor, which I was able to be part of. So, I know how to do this myself. I am converting a DT466 the first week of April, so I will gladly post on here how it's going.

Just in case you are wondering, we always ask for the veggie oil. I don't bother going to McDonalds or any other fast food joint (except Dairy Queen) they, for some reason have amazing grease! Before we go and ask, we go behind the building and look in it and see if it's good grease (no point asking if it's going to clog your filters). Once we feel it's good we go around and ask.

We simply say, "Hello, my name is Brian, my wife Katie and I are full time touring artists and we have a bus that runs on waste veggie oil. Do you ind if we collect some grease from your waste container in the back? "We also say "We have our own pumps and buckets and don't make a mess."Most of the time we're told sure. Sometimes we're told no, but we've been running over 95% veggie oil for 5 years, so we get told yes a lot more times than no.

Once we collect, we have a log book of all the places we collected. We put the date, restaurant, city/state, who we asked, how much we collected and what the cost of diesel is. (Therefor we know how much we're saving). If diesel if $4/gallon and we just collected 100 gallons we just saved $400. Simple.

I've heard many people say that running on veggie oil is a terrible idea and it doesn't work... blah blah blah. These are usually people who haven't done it. Sure, it doesn't make sense for some people. Sure, if you are in a place like NYC, Portland, Denver, or any other big city (or the northeast in general) it might be more difficult to get. But we have our best luck in smaller towns. Florida, Georgia, and the Carolina's are huge for us. We collect heaps of grease down there. Places like the Oregon coast, we were there just last year and had no trouble. Don't waste your time with big restaurant chains. (Except Dairy Queen). Small mom and pop places are super cool and indian, thai and mexican places are super keen too.

The most difficult places we've found to collect would be (the big cities) and Arizona. For some reason AZ has WVO on lockdown. Boise, ID is tough too.

I hope this encourages those of you who are wanting to run WVO. The time is now to convert. Because we won't be able to do it forever (all mechanical engines are becoming more and more obsolete).

Here is a short video I made about collecting WVO in our bus.

I have other info and videos on my website: Brian Ernst Music - Home

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Outcast 03-13-2015 05:14 AM


Nice to hear, and I'm glad you're doing so good on WVO. It make me want to give it another shot. After the travesty I dealt with 10 years ago trying to get it I pretty much gave up on even pursuing the endeavor at all. And as I live in the area you said was the best for getting WVO maybe the big collection/conversion businesses have stopped using the small mom and pop shops. Thanks for posting, I'm looking forward to putting this back on my to-do list!I have one of the last DT466 engines that were made all mechanical, just in case I ever decided to go back this route.

nat_ster 03-13-2015 10:18 AM

Thx for posting brianernstmusic.

More folks with REAL experience need to post here. It's great to read real life experiences.

Here in and around Edmonton Alberta Canada there is still plenty of waste oil to be collected. Veggie, engine, trans, and hydraulic oils.

I'm stock piling fuel and energy of every source I can. I have two 1000 gal tanks of propane, twenty five 45 gallon drums of oil, a few tons of coal, ect.

All sources of energy will only increase in cost over time.


brianernstmusic 03-13-2015 02:52 PM

Thanks guys. My experience is just one of thousands. It's been a great experience for me, but I can also understand how it could also be negative for others. For people like us, who travel a lot it works out pretty good. We're not in the same city, asking the same people over and over again. If that was the case then I would have to compete with these big bio-fuel companies. (Which honestly, I don't think it would be that hard) given they only pay these restaurants no more than 50 cents/gallon (but it's a lot closer to 10 or 15 cents/gallon).

We get back into the country in a few weeks and I start my conversion of a DT466. I'll probably make a new thread with pictures and videos and all that on how to do it. Keep a heads up, I would love everybody feedback (good and bad).

Love is a verb,

sdwarf36 03-13-2015 09:09 PM

I am so glad that someone out there is still doing the traveling thing sucessfully. I used to know a bunch. There used to be website-fillupforfree--it was sort of the underground railway of grease. I was a known stop-near a couple of major hiways 1/2 way between NY + Boston. I sold or gave away plenty. (Including a traveling musician with a Ford van with a 150 (!) gallon tank built in. He'd call in advance when he was touring the east coast+ I'd make him up a big batch.)
So I'm in my 10th year of greasing-the counter on the pump in my settling tank just turned 8000 gallons-I 've put 200k on veg in my VW Jetta+ 20k on my bus (which was bought SO I could grease it). The Jetta has a Greasecar kit (I'm buds with the owner) and the bus conversion I did from scratch. I hope I can be considered "experienced".
If you got 5 years on your set up, it obviously well works for you. Thats the most experience I've heard of on a DT motor. Do you have your tanks mounted in the front or back? How much room does your whole set up take? With a wild guess of 10? mpg--and a 1000 miles a week, means you have to collect 100 gallons a week-every week. How many resturants you have to go to a month to keep up? Do you eat at these places or just ask for oil? A tip ( that was true years ago-I hope so now)since it sounds like you a based down south--Chick-fil-a were known to be greaser friendly.

brianernstmusic 03-13-2015 09:29 PM

@sdwarf36: That is awesome brother. That is a ton of grease. Thanks for contributing and helping others make it happen. I ran my DT360 for three years and before that I had a Ford e350 (7.3 litre) cargo van that ran on WVO for two years. We still did the same amount of miles. (Sorry if that was confusing).

On the DT360 we got about 10mpg. Unless we were completely filled up with grease. We could hold up to 200 gallons (which is 1400lbs). We noticed our gas mileage went down closer to 7mpg when we were carrying that kind of weight.
We had two 55 gallon barrels, two 15 gallon containers (we used for collection) and another 10-20 cubies (which held about 3 gallons each). In total the back of our bus was eight feet by eight feet.

I made the stupid mistake of building my two 55 gallon tanks on the starboard side of the bus, as opposed to evenly distributing the weight between the the two sides.

When we convert our new DT466 next month I won't make the same mistake twice. At least that mistake. 8)

We didn't usually eat at the places. Unless we were eyeballing a 100 or 200 gallon pickup. 8) Or if it was an indian food restaurant (we can't resist indian food). We tried to go for the big pick ups. I don't have my veggie log in front of me so I can't tell you right now how many places a month we would go too, but we tried to only collect from a place if we could get at least 30 gallons.

We always tried to go for ones where we would collect 100 gallons or so, then we would be good for a week or so.

That fillupforfree website sounds sweet. It is tougher now-a-days with the competition getting so fierce. But, I believe running on WVO is a great thing and the time to do it is now, before all the mechanical engines become obsolete.

Take care. Talk to you soon,

charles_m 03-14-2015 04:06 AM

Let me know how your DT466 conversion goes.. i did mine a couple years ago and it ran flawlessly! Fully mechanical setup with manual 3 port valves and an aluminum 150 gallon tank off a semi under the bus. Got my oil to 180 easily, even in the dead of winter without using electric supplemental heat. Toured in it with my band and it was great. Pretty much.... Im curious what your diagram looks like. Mine was super flexible, and I could opt to purge my veg filters with diesel if I wanted or also run veg through my diesel filters in a pinch. Looped return. All the valves were mounted on my doghouse, right by my right leg. Simple, mechanical, and effective! My 466 was much quieter and smoother on veg.

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