Friday, December 28, 2007

2006 Journal Archive

2006 Journal Archive

2002 Jetta TDI Sedan

Purchased on ebay w/126k for the conversion

Flipped the switch on June 14th 2006 @ 126,800 miles

December 28th 2006
It's been rather cold here in So Cal - staying in the 50's during the day - so I haven't been switching over as much. With the Vormax in the trunk and the veggie lines lines only partially insulated by HOH, my system is not very robust. It takes longer for the engine to get to temp and since most of my trips are short it isn't worth it as I would shut down shortly after the switch.

I have noticed though with my temp gauge that in this mild winter the car still takes about 10-15 minutes to show the oil at 160º after I switch depending on ambient temp, day/night, etc. With the Vormax in the trunk I know that the VegTherm is doing all the work initially and as the temp gauge indicates it's not enough. I also feel that initially the IP is most likely acting like a heatsink removing heat from the oil as it circulates through it unil it absorb some heat from the block.

A reader emailed me the delima of another Plantdrive owner in So Cal and was wondering why I haven't had any problems. His piston rings are shot and he has had a multitude of problems with his Passat conversion. Again I can only stress that I have only 3000 miles on my conversion, almost exclusively short miles - probably not good for my engine. The reality is I need to use the car & can only do so much to protect it. I also change my oil every 3000 miles since I drive so little. If I were to do it again I would do it differently by building my own more robust system. My car had 126k miles on it and was out of warranty and as the Passat owner said we are fully aware of the consequences of our actions.

I am by no means an expert but early switch over, (see the 11/4/05 entry) as discussed on the forums , will result in "coking" of the pistons rings and other head components. It's very tempting to switch over to soon and enjoy the feeling of driving w/o support from the petrol industry. I for one have been guilty of this. The best way around this is to have an automated system and/or drive a long distance regularly. If you drive alot you'll be more patient about switching over knowing that you have a long drive ahead of you.

November 24th(129,965)
I started to inspect the car this holiday weekend. Since it was several months since the install it was time to go underneath and check the lines and do somemore insulating. I had previously thought I would be supplimenting the system but I don't have the time now nor do I know what to do. I could install and additional FPHE but this may be too much in the summer months. I also thought about a circulating loop as discussed here, as it is more controlable. I figured I would at least add more insulation over the aluminum lines. I'm hoping to update my YouTube video

I'm glad I started the inspection because I found that the Vegtherm was not turning on. After tracking the flow of electricity with a volt meter I found that one of my connections was faulty. I had twisted the wires together and secured it with a electrical cap - the kind that is generally used in home wiring. Somehow the the wire came loose, probably because it wasn't twisted very well.

The last time I checked the Vegtherm was when it was reinstalled on the injectors. I have noticed that the Vegtherm has been inconsistant with it's heating times and the loose wire would explain this. I'll have a better idea now of my heat up times in these cooler winter months

October 14th
I stalled on Veggie

October 7th (129,134)
I moved the Vegtherm back onto the injectors

September 25th
I've decided to put the vegtherm back on top of the injectors - at least I hope to next weekend. With the the temperature gauge I can now monitor the temp and turn off the vegtherm once the oil reaches 160º, as the Vormax seems to be able to maintain the oil's temp in this mild SoCal climate.

One of the reasons I wanted to move it initially off the injectors was because I didn't want the heat from the engine to heat the diesel fuel when the vegtherm was off, as it might transfer some heat from the engine to the vegtherm (this is great when on veggie) . The reality is that with the IP attached to the engine the fuel is getting hot anyway once the engine is at operating temperature. If I feel the return diesel fuel line it is hot from going through the IP.

Another thing I've noticed since switching to the 1/2" tee from the 3/8" for the temp sender is that the gauge takes much longer to register the change in temperature. The gauge may only register 100º but if I feel the hose going to the IP, it feels much hotter. The same for temperature drop when purging.

It is also getting into fall/winter here and getting a little cooler now so any added heat to the system (vegtherm accross injectors) will help. When I first ran the system we were at the start of a record breaking heat wave so I felt I could be getting the oil too hot but now with the temperature gauge as a reference I can turn off the Vegtherm.

Last but not least I decided to order a infrared temperature gauge after talking with a couple of fellow veggie oil users. I bought this one - cheap. The idea being to measure the temperature to compare it to what the gauge in the car says

September 16th
I had a recent air issue in the fuel line. After installing the temp gauge & sender I realized that I shouldn't have use galvanized pipe in the system as this will eventually damage the engine.

Usually I work on the car on weekends when needed. Since I had already installed the temp sender and would simply be swaping the galvanized tee out for another I felt I would be OK doing it midweek. I wanted to remove the galvanized piece ASAP because I didn't now if it was disolving the coating or what. When I did remove it it looked fine. I think this is one of the many things in this conversion that cause problems but over an extended period.

Since I was doing this midweek, I went to Home Depot for the new tee. I had to upsize the tee to 1/2" from 3/8" because I couldn't find a 3/8" black iron tee. No big deal though it's more metal to be heated and I have to upsize the fittings. I remembered from before that they had some brass fittings. I wasn't able to find a 1/2" to 3/8 hose barb but I did find a 1/2" to 3/8" thread adapter. I went ahead and changed out the tee using the new thread adapters in the process.

I took the car out that night and it ran fine. Started fine the next day to go to work. When I left work it started after a beat or so. I went to the auto parts store to get a new switch for the vegtherm - the light on the original switched burned out - strange???.

Got back in the car and it wouldn't start. It sounded like there was no chance it was going to start either. No almost starting, no putter putter, etc. Nothing. I was still on oil because I planned on only being in the store for about 5 minutes. Still being on oil was going to be a problem if I couldn't get it started. I went back in the store to use the restroom & get a razor blade to remove the zipties that were holding on the insulation around the tee(thinking of my options in the process). I came back out and cut the zip ties. I kept trying to start it in 10-15 second s tries as not to overheat the starter. After about 10 minutes of sporatic starting attempts it started. I was just about to give up. I drove the 2 miles to get it home.

When I got home I noticed that the insulation that I removed from the tee was moist - AN AIR LEAK. My mistake was that I didn't put pipe grease on the new brass thread adapter fittings. For some reason I had this crazy idea that brass on brass didn't require pipe dope. Anyhow, I was EXTREMELY relieved to find the cause. Having learned my lesson I simply replaced the tee with a single piece of hose thereby elimenating the extra connections. Car ran fine for the rest of the week.

I ordered the 1/2" NPT to 3/8" barb from and installed the new tee this weekend. The car starts and runs fine.

September 3rd
I decided to move the Vegtherm off the injectors, install a temp gauge, and an on/off switch for the Vegtherm. More here.

I also got a wheel alignment and new OEM Michelin tires. The tires on the car a on their way out and bigger then they needed to be. I relaced them with the stock size (195/65HR15 vs 205/60Hr15) and the car feels nimbler, quieter, and easier to turn

August 31st
I think I have figured out the mysterious & rare starting problem . . . low fuel in the diesel tank. Up until this week the car would every once and a while take a few more turns to start then normal. This week the car was having the starting issue all the time when starting cold. It only lasted a few days before I figured it out but I was concerned I would be spending my weekend looking for air leaks.

Previously I had gone 2 weeks without checking the doughnut tank and when I did it had plenty of diesel in it so I assumed that this would be a my mode of operation as I'm still trying to get a grasp of when to check it. After I checked it and discovered it was low I realized that I had driven more on diesel since the last fill up. I made several short errands and even forgot to switch back to veggie on one several mile trip.

So this is good because the doughnut tank does not have a fuel gauge and I drove almost 3 days and didn't run out of gas. I still switched to veggie as I usually do but the car started after a few extra seconds of cranking. Once warm the car would start no problem. The tank still had at least a gallon of diesel in it so i wasn't in danger of running out. This way I get an indication of when I'm running low but can still start the car and get to a station.

Another Plantdrive customer said something to this effect in a conversation I had with him.

July 30th
I've returned to work and started collecting fuel again. Last week I was able to procure about 6 gallons. It's soybean oil and only used once maybe twice. I don't need that much and they don't generate that much. I have a feeling this should work out quite well. The amount will not be the same every week but I hope it will average out to my needs.

I'm currently trying to write the directions for the Plantdrive install. Work & Family keep me busy. I hope to have something in about a month (or 2)

July 18th
Car is starting fine, so I don't know what it is. I'm not really worried about because it isn't the taking 30 seconds to start thing, which indicates an air leak. It also is not consistant and has only happened 3 times so far in a month.

One thing that does concern me is still how much diesel I'm using with this small tank. This car is EPA rated @ 42 city/49 highway. As best I can guess I'm only getting low 30's (VO mileage is equivalent to diesel). Most TDI owners are in the high 30's / low 40's. Granted most of my driving has been city but I thought it would be higher. I'm back to my regualr driving pattern so the constistancy will give me a better idea of the refills needed with diesel

I may have been a little cavalier with the new 4.5 gallon tank thinking that I would get substantially more distance out of it. I did do a few short drives on diesel , never switching over to VO, thinking that it wouldn't be a problem.

July 14th
Again the car is running fine, with one exception on 2 occasions yesterday the car didn't start on the first starter crank. It started within 5 seconds and the engine was warm but not on VO yet. It has only done this once before and I think that was because the dounut tank was low. The only variable is that I changed from the 2 gallon tank to the 4.5 gallon. For various reasons I changed out the fuel p/u tube in the dounut tank. The tube I used was a little short so I had to improvise by adding a piece of rubber fuel line to extend it. The problem is that the tank was full when I did it so I was guessing at it's length. Maybe the tube is kinked (too long). The fact that the problem isn't consistant leads myself & Craig at Plantdrive to believe that it isn't an air leak issue.

Today the car started several time with no problems. The issue is only when on diesel.

I return to work on Monday and that is when the car will see consistant daily use. I only drive about 8 miles each way but it will be consistant. I'm hoping to do about 80% of my drive on VO. Sometimes I will drive further to adifferent location but I'm hoping to figure out how long the dounut tank will last when I go back to my regular routine.

I've reduced the purge to about a minute because I finally realized that the IP (injection pump) circulates oil past the injectors and the injectors only pull what they need from the flow. The excess is returned to the tank (although my system uses a looped return while on VO). So when returning to diesel it only takes about 30 seconds to replace the VO with diesel in the loop. I've been told it takes about another 30seconds (at idle) to burn the oil that is in the injectors. I've been doing this for a couple days now and the car has been starting fine

July 1st
Car is running w/o any problems. Since the last post I took it out to LAX to Palmdale and back to Burbank. Total driving was 180 miles. Car ran perfectly.

It usually takes about 5-7 minutes of driving for the water temp to get to 190ºF. It's been extremely hot here is Southern California so the car is getting to temp quickly. We'll see how it does in the cooler months.

The learning curve is how to make this set up work with short drives, with a 2 gallon diesel tank w/o a guage. Generally speaking I've always tried consolidated my trips to lessen polution. The only way to get the most out of this is not to purge when stopping for short periods. Right now, if on VO, I won't purge if I'm away from the car for no more then 30 minutes. I find that the car holds it heat because as soon as I restart it the water temp returns to 190º. The car has not problems starting on VO.

One problem is that I did not install the forgot-to-purge buzzer. I'm having some problems wiring it correctly but as the name implies it buzzes if you turn off the car and did not purge. My problem is that if I forget to throw the swicth it leaves the vegtherm on and it will drain the battery if left on for an extended period. I've left it on twice so far!

As mentioned above right now it is very hot here so we'll see how things will change as it gets cooler

June 26th

I drove into Hollywwod today while running some errands (about 25 miles roundtrip)to show a friend of mine who helped inspire me to start this project with his talk of the the hydrogen economy a couple years ago.

I flipped the switch after about 6 minutes(190ºF) of driving. When I arrived I didn't purge as I didn't plan on staying long. I DID FORGET TO TURN OF THE VEGTHERM for about 5 minutes. The Vegtherm will drain the battery if left on with the way it is wired. I was supposed to install a buzzer to prevent this but it took so long to install the kit that I just wanted to get my car running. Anyway my buddy was very happy for me and impressed with the car. He peppered me with questions. Over the course of our conversation he called 5 of his neighbors over and I held little info sessions. (If you are thinking about going veggie get ready to be an educator).

As I'm doing this I'm trying to tell people that this is not for everyone. For the people that take the time to listen further I tell them that the system is not great for short commutes becuase you have to wait for the engine to get to temp switch then switch back when your done with the car. I do not have a gas gage on my 2 gallon mini tank so if you run on the diesel alot you drain it very fast. Again I'm learning

I ordered a 3 port valve and some Viton injection return fuel lines from to add to my system. The 3 port valve will be added (keeping the Pollak 6 port valve). My Kit has a "Looped" return and there are different camps concerning whether to loop or not. 1 problem with a loop return - IMHO - is that during the purge process the unused oil is sent to the diesel tank and I have a small tank so if purging alot . . . you are contaminating your diesel fuel with every purge. .. .you see how it works.

The 3 port will solve this by letting me have a looped return or a return to tank option. The Viton hose is replace the little fuel line return hoses that connect the injectors. These can degrade with the use of Biodiesl ove a few years.

June 25th

I moved the Racor 2 micron filter slightly today and disconnected a hose in the process, so I took the car out to double check everything when I was done. The TDI has a 12v port in the trunk and I want the option of using that for a 12v pump to get fuel into the tank - the Racor was blocking it. It was in the high 90's today and it took the car about 6 minutes to get to 190ºF. The Vormax was hot to the touch but not up to full heat as it is usually very hot when at operating tempature.

Now the question becomes when to purge. My instincts tell me to purge every time but that doesn't seem practical (I'd have to plan an impulse coffee from 7/11?). My system takes at least a minute to purge and probabley long becasue of where I've placed the Pollak (i'm thinking of moving it). If the engine is at temp I think it is fine to shut down on Veggie for a short period. I have noticed that the engine seems to maintain it's heat for a fairly long period.

June 24th

I've come to conclusion for the way that I will flip the switch, at least for now. I'll wait till the water temp gets to operating tempature - 190ºf/about 5 minutes, maybe throw in a couple minutes more for good luck. Since I live in a mild climate - Southern California - the VeggieTherm is supposed to get the oil to 160º from room tempature (the Voramax will have been working at this point too to heat the oil). Since the oil is at temp (160º before the injection pump) and the engine is at temp it should reduce the chances of polymerization.

My hope is that the oil will not lose much of the tempature as I have placed the Vegtherm on the injectors

June 23rd

Took it out for it's maiden journey, at least any kind of distance. I drove about 60 miles today on SVO up into the Angeles Crest Forest, above Glendale. Curvy and uphill. Every thing worked normally, no problems. I switched after about 10 minutes - 5 minutes for water temp to get to 190F and another 5 minutes added for good measure.

June 22nd
I went out today to run a short errands but did not throw the switch. It was only a couple - 3 miles away so by the time the engine gets hot enough I have to turn it off. This is going to be interesting. Until I install a temp gauge I'm also just guessing, so I'm being a little conservative.

June 21st
Replaced the serpentine tensioner as I damaged it while test driving the Vormax when first installed. The windshield washer pump was loose and got caught in the tensioner and damaged it. Pay Attention! $108 mistake

June 14th
Started the car for the first time on Veggie. Took me 8 days to install. Running on new unused soy oil from Costco

June 6th
Car was given a clean bill of health by TDI mechanic.

June 1. 2006

I'm still tring to work out with the kit manufacturer the appropriate connections. The instructions and kits are written & made in very broad general terms. I've decided after talking with them to run Aluminum under the car. A flare tool was suppose to be delivered today but did not arrive.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Bad news

Oct 11th 2007
I came across this post while googling "WVO TDI Jetta". I can not stress enough that one should weigh the advantages and disadvantages to using SVO in a modern diesel. Here is a followup thread from

I had previously spoken with the owner of the above mentioned car, I was referred to him by Plantdrive since he also had a Jetta TDI and their TDI kit. He had been running his for about 2 years before I installed mine and was located in Atlanta. I spoke to him over the phone because I just wanted a users feedback and he I had a couple questions. 2 things come to mind when I compare my situation with his and the gentleman running the 2005 Passat who has had similar problems and a stock Plantdrive kit.

In both situations I believe they switched over to vegetable oil to soon, not giving the engine time to get hot enough. The Passat owner mentions in his earlier blog postings that he would switch over a few minutes after starting the engine. The other gentleman mentioned when I spoke with him that he switched over as soon as the water temp gauge started moving, as this indicated that the thermostat had opened up for flow to the heater core. IMHO, this does not mean that the engine is at operating temperature. I am also running additional heaters on my car.

There are 2 problems that I am aware of with vegetable oil, one is viscosity and the other is proper burning of the oil in the combustion chamber - the atomization of the fuel if you will. If the fuel doesn't burn right - and it's arguable that it ever does - the excess oil cokes (gunks up) the piston rings allowing engine oil to mix with crankcase oil and it destroys the lubricancy of the motor oil. This leads to scoring of the piston wall, the gunking of the valves and damage to other parts of the engine due to friction.

Second, if the veggie oil is heated it reduces viscosity, reducing strain on the IP and providing a better spray pattern for the injectors. A hot engine will burn the oil fully by helping to vaporize the oil in the chamber. Frybrid has a good analogy on their site along with other great resources -

"Imagine placing a pan on the stove, pouring a small amount of vegetable oil in the pan, and turning the heat to high. The pan will begin to heat up and as it does it will heat the oil, around 300F the oil will start to smoke, then turn black, stick to the pan. . . . . (get a new pan and) turn the heat on high again. When the pan gets to about 600F throw a tablespoon of oil in the pan, just before it bursts into flame singeing whatever is left of your eyebrows, you will notice that the oil is skittering around the pan on a layer of vapor, none of the oil is sticking to the pan and none of it is turning to carbon.

This is what happens in your engine.

Anther thing I remember about my conversation with the gentleman in Atlanta was he told me that he would drive to work and not purge, leaving the car for several hours before restarting it on oil. This is a major error never do anything along those lines. Sure I don't purge for 20 minutes pit stops if it's a summer day, but anything longer or colder then that I purge.

The other thing both drivers did not do is dewater the their oil. I'm not really sure of what water does exactly other then I heard that is will damage the IP and pit the combustion chamber. As with everything else I say - take it with a grain of salt and make your own conclusions

I purchased a car with 126,ooo miles on it and I'm willing to see how far I get. I happen to change my oil roughly every 3ooo miles just because I don't drive that much and I always did it with my gasoline vehicles. I use soy oil which is the worst offender for contaminating the engine oil because of it's chemical make up but it is the most readily available.

- Pick a high mileage car & a car out of warranty
- Make sure the engine is hot before switching over and the oil is as hot as is practically possible
- purge the oil back to the oil tank and don't mix it with the diesel tank - especially if the tank is small
- Dewater and filter your oil down to at least 5 microns
- Change oil in 1000 to 3000 mile increments

Realize that:
- Over a period of time you may be damaging the engine
- Driving longer distances is better as the engine is hot and it will burn the oil better
- You are a beta tester and may be ruining your car in the process.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Overhaul of Waste Vegetable oil system on '02 Jetta TDI

Just some notes about this overhaul, most of which I have probabley mentioned before. The car initially had a stock Plantdrive TDI kit installed . Getting a better understanding of things, or at least my opinions about them led me to change and add some things.

What I don't like:

  • My car has no hose over hose(HOH) or hose in hose(HIH) on the fuel lines. Nor do I have a heated fuel tank. If I were to do it again would added the heated fuel lines. But I am in a realatively mild climate and it was a son of a gun to run those aluminum lines under the car . Most of my oil run under the car is uninsulated aluminum tubing - this I would not do again
  • The Vormax (FPHE) is in the trunk. This to me does not seem like a good idea as there is heat loss on the way up to the engine bay & a section of oil is unheated before the Vegtherm for the initial switchover.
  • The 2 micron Racor filter attached to the back of the Vormax is unheated. Again if I was to do things again I would use something else, perhaps a Frybrid TDI filter or the new Vegmax thast Plandrive sells. I would not go through the hassle of wrapping the Racor. I only did it because I had some leftover tubing around.
It's been about a month now and car is running good. As for the air leak, I found a line with a slit in it near one of the hose clamps.

I have noticed a quick change in temperature when I do the initial switch over but after that the change is not as great as I had hoped. In other word when I switch over the oil will go to 100º rather quickly but after that it take time more time then I would like for it to reach 160º.
I'm thinking that the heater coil around the Racor is more of a passive heater. The quanity of oil it is heating is more then is needed and it can not heat that amount of oil quickly.

To fix this I bought the Frybrid Heated filter. I have yet to receive it but I will replace the racor filter and homemade heater coil with this. My thinking is that the new heater will be using the same amount of heat to heat a smaller quanity of oil because it passes through the heater exchange on it's way to the IP.

I still have to insulate the lines and do a little replumbing. I will install the Frybrid heater at that time. Perhaps by the end of the month

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thoughts on future mods

Upcoming mods
I've debated on how to improve the system but the more I think about it I would rather start from scratch on another car - perhaps a Jetta wagon. Currently the car works and there does not seems to be any problems. I do not have the time to modify this one too heavily - the original convertion took me a week. After the install I kept tweaking it the more I learned about how it works. If I were to do another install I think I could do it in 2 days - barring any waiting on parts.

This summer I hope to achieve a few things that are easier to do and will help both my winter and summer driving. When I initally installed the kit we were in the midst of record breaking heat wave that lasted over a month with temps consistently over 100º. There were points when the temp of the oil may have been getting too hot for the IP. This is one reason I don't know if I should insatll a FPHE in addition to the Vormax in the trunk

Install additioanl 3 way valve
This will serve 2 purposes:
- It will let me return the oil (and some diesel) back into the veggie tank from the looped return when purging. This will reduce or eliminate veggie in the diesel tank. The downside of this is that while purging I will be pulling diesel out of an already small 5 gallon tank that is not returned to the tank, this means more fuel ups of diesel.

- The other benefit, and it relates to hot weather use, is I can eliminate the looped return while running on veggie and return the hot oil back to the veggie tank rather then putting it back directly into the fuel loop. How effective this is to heat reduction is questionable but I don't think it will hurt.

Install a coolant shut off valve
- Another item is a shutoff ball valve to prevent coolant from going to the Vormax , if I choose, so that I can go back to diesel in the stock full tank if I ever want to. Because of the 4.5G doughnut diesel tank I can not drive along distance on diesel. With my current commute I have to fill up with diesel once every other week. This frequency would really never change because once the car is running on Veggie I could go hundreds of miles and still use the same amount of diesel because I have to start on diesel and stop on diesel so the amount I drive on veggie - barring any long stopping periods (the engine cools off) is irrelavant.

Running strictly on diesel is something I could do during the winter months and never switch over to veggie. I would simply shutoff the coolant to the Vormax, refill the empty stock tank with diesel. The fuel going through the Vormax is not heated. My veggie lines under the car are not very insulated so they can go back to carrying diesel with very little heat gain . . .at least I think so.

Another benefit of shutting off coolant to the Vormax wold be on hot

Move the 2 microm Racor filter to the engine bay and wrap in coolant jacket

Plantdrive adds a 2 micron racor filter to their TDI kit. I don't understand why because the stock filter for the diesel fuel is 10 micron. Frybrid sells a heated TDI filter housing and it uses a stock VW filter. I guess there's no harm in filtering more then is needed.

Currently in my installation the the Racor is attached to the back of the Vormax housing in the trunk. I've noticed though that the racor does not get hot, at least not very quickly. This just seems to be something that should be heated to lessen stress on the IP. My plan is to move the racor to the engine bay and wrap it in a coolant jacket, similar to the one that Dana Linscott offers plans for on his website. This hopefully will lessen the viscoscity of the oil in the filter and also provide heated oil to the engine at swicthover to VO.

With the Vormax is in the trunk, the section of veggie line between the vormax and IP contains unheated oil at switchover (my lines are not heated). If I wrap the racor in aheated jacket and place it in the engine bay the initial section of oil to reach the IP will be somewhat warmed up.

I haven't decided on whether to use rubber or aluminum tubing as the heater element. Dana Linscott recommends rubber because of the amount of contact it provides to the item you want to heat. I have some left over aluminum tubing from the initial install so I think I may use that and wrap it in insulation. At the same time I will try and heat a portion of the veggie line that I can access with a HOH application. This coupled with the looped return, I hope,will increase the temp of the oil that is intially injected into the engine at switchover.