All Hail the Mighty Starter Fluid

Starter Fluid...A veggie car's best friend in the winter.

Well it’s that time of the year again where I have to cross my fingers every morning and say a quick prayer when I turn the key. Will she start? Please start.

I’ve discovered that my car will not budge if the temperature drops below 7 degrees. Come to think about it, I don’t operate too well at that temp either. Fortunately (for the car anyway), I have discovered the wonders of starter fluid. Spiked with a healthy dose of pure ether, this stuff, when spayed into the air intake thing, makes for flawless winter starts–even down to -5.

Starter fluid is crazy flammable, so please, don’t smoke while spraying this or you will likely pull a “Richard Pryor” (circa 1980).

40,000 Miles in a Greasecar. Suck that OPEC!

When I started driving veggie-powered cars back in 2008, I really expected it to last about a year…maybe two.  At that time, I was mostly just happy that there was still a legal way (ok, maybe legal) to stick it to the man. My plan was to do said sticking for a while and then look for a new hybrid or fully electrical car (EV).

Plans change. Since 2008, I’ve owned two waste vegetable oil (WVO) powered vehicles–my original 1983 Mercedes 240D, and a 1995 Mercedes E300D. While both were fine cars, and worked well with grease, the 240D is the only one I’ve kept and still serves as my daily driver (100 miles + daily).  I’ve found that the older the car is, the easier it is to convert to WVO. Also, routine maintenance (and there is a fair amount) is much easier on the older models.

So as we plow our way into to 2012, here is my list of “Top Three Things I’ve Learned About Veggie Cars Since 2008”:

1) Line up your grease supply before you take the plunge. Everybody knows somebody with buddy in the bar or restaurant business. Get to know these people before buying or converting your first grease car. Ask them if it’s cool to take their weekly waste oil off their hands. They will likely be happy to be rid of it for free, if you live on the East Coast where it still costs money to have it hauled away. If you are out West, where people actually care about the planet, restaurants actually get paid for their waste fryer oil.

It wouldn’t hurt to buy your supplier a drink from time to time or throw them a plug in your blog.

2. You will burn some diesel. There have been many times, when for a number of reasons, my supply of veggie oil has run low, or completely out. I used to stress out about it. Now I accept that at least 30% of the miles I’m going to drive will be on dyno diesel. In fact, from December through March, I run an approximate 50/50 grease/diesel mix. This assures that I will be able to start the car on winter mornings. I tried running only WVO a few winters back. If the temperature dropped below seven degrees, the bitch wouldn’t start. Apparently seven is the magic number.

3. It will stop being cool. Yes, I must admit, when I started the WVO adventure, I was lured by the cool factor of having a car that did not rely on conventional fuel. Certainly, it made for good party conversation. But eventually (about 20,000 miles into it) the cool wore off and was overshadowed by the fact that it does take some work to run your car on WVO. What you have is a trade off. The question you will have to ask yourself is whether it’s worth your time to save the money at the pump. Everyone puts a value (or should) on their time. My attorney certainly does. You should too. I’m fortunate that I’ve got my weekly fuel routine down to about one hour and that includes procuring, filtering, and pumping. Also, my wife has an eagle eye for five gallon containers of oil sitting outside restaurants. She’s responsible for picking up at least half my supply. Thanks honey.

Soon I will pass the mighty 240D on to my son, who has recently turned 16. I figure 77 horsepower is not enough to get him in serious trouble. Also, while it might not have the safety features of modern cars, he’ll be surrounded by a damned big hunk of steel. Until then, please feel free to email me with your questions and comments. If I can, I’ll be happy to  help you stick it to the man.

For additional help, visit my articles at Gas2.0.

BullsEye Johnny Now Contributing to Gas 2.0

Apparently I’m one of few WVO/SVO guys out there who write about the subject from a non-technical point of view. This of course comes quite naturally to me as I haven’t the slightest idea of how diesel engines work. Well, the good folks at Green Options have asked me to write for Gas 2.0.  For a PR guy, being on the other side of the editorial fence should be somewhat enlightening. Check out my first post at Gas 2.0 and let me know what you think. Hope it helps.


On Repair and Maintenance of Your Veggie-Powered Car

Most people that experiment with WVO/SVO-powered cars fall into two categories–“the exceedingly handy” or “the hopelessly inept”. Sadly, I fall into the latter group. However, I have noticed that what my group lacks in natural “handy talent”, it more than makes up for with the willingness to try just about any repair remedy, even if it sounds ridiculous.  That would bring us to my most recent DYI tip for your WVO-powered Mercedes 240 D or similar rig–THE LEAKY FUEL INJECTOR.


First bit of advice–get yourself a shop manual. I use one published by Haynes (#63012). Mine cost about $10 and it was money well spent. Don’t read it too thoroughly. Much like reading music, this can only get you into trouble. Best to just stick to the highlights. 

A few months back, I noticed that I was leaving big pools of vegetable oil all over the place. I also noticed I was ripping through fuel at an incredible rate (18 mpg, down from almost 36 mpg). After a lot of crawling underneath the car (something I don’t recommend), I discovered the leak was not coming from below, but rather from one of the fuel injectors. For the fellow neophytes, this is one of four gizmos located on top of the engine that shoots the fuel into the cylinders (read the manual, it will make sense). Well, grease was shooting out of this sucker. After consulting with my good friend Pete, a savvy motorcycle mechanic who has never worked on cars, we decided on the only logical course of action–Mighty Putty!


Yes, that’s right, the same stuff that Billy Mays shouts at you about on TV. Why is he always shouting I used to wonder. Now I know. He shouts because this shit really works. Also, he is apparently in league with Satan.

Now you handy guys would probably just say I should have replaced the defective fuel injector or seal.  Yeah right…

Take a small lump of the Mighty Putty, knead it in your hands like Play Dough for about 2 minutes, and pack it all around the leaky injector. Wait 30 minutes and drive. Done.

Greasebenz Update: 11,600 miles, $62 gallons in dyno-diesel. The rest comes courtesy of Rockland County’s finest restaurants. 

Let me know if you have questions.

The WVO Blending Debate–Just Do It!

As winter rears its ugly head here in New York’s Hudson Valley, I have begun reading up on how to prepare the Greasebenz for the cold season.  There is a LOT out there on the web regarding the proper blending of WVO, diesel, kerosene, etc. After several days of reading several hundred blog and forum posts, here is what I’ve deduced: Nobody really knows. 

And here’s what else I’ve deduced…it really doesn’t matter.  I’ve put every conceivable combination into my single-tank 240D. With the exception of a slight increase in power when using a higher ratio of dyno-diesel, there is no difference in performance or MPG.  

I plan to run a 75/25 (WVO/Dyno) mix during the winter months. However, in all likelihood, this plan will get abandoned quickly and I’ll put whatever fuel ends up being the most convenient to acqure into the tank. And isn’t that really what this is all about. It’s a giant experiment with only good outcomes. The car has already paid for itself in fuel savings (6 months/8,000 miles/$40 at the pump).

I speak to would-be WVO converts every day. Most, will never take the leap, preferring rather to research the thing to death. Hours wasted trying to decide what blend to use when the temperature drops below 50 F. Here’s my advice. Just do it you pussy. If it’s not for you, go back to your old car. At least you can say you tried. And you’ll have good grease stories to relate at happy hour.

If you have any questions, I’m here to help. Pussy.

All Grease is Not Created Equal

A quick word on different kinds of grease. They are not all alike. Or rather, by the time you get them, they have not all be “used” the same. So far, in my 5,000 miles of WVO (waste vegetable oil) experience, here’s what I’ve deduced:

Asian Food Restaurants–seem to have the cleanest grease. It’s usually still sort of pale golden and doesn’t have a lot of shit floating in it. If you can get your WVO from a Chinese joint, I highly recommend it as there will be less filtering/settling time involved in your whole process. And yes…your car will smell like the back alley of a Chinese restaurant.

Burger n’ Fry Restaurants–I get a good deal of my grease from the wonderful folks at O’Donahue’s Pub in Nyack, NY. They are extremely diligent about changing out their fryer grease and keep it extremely clean. However, with any grease that has been used to cook potatoes, you need to be prepared to wait a few extra days for the H2O to settle out. Remember, water is heavier than oil, so it will eventually drop down to the bottom of your barrel. That being said, I’ve never waited more than a week after filtering before I pump the crap into my car. I know you’ve read that you should filter down to .000002 microns and wait three months for settling. Bollocks! 5 microns and two days is my average. Who’s got time for all that work and waiting. I haven’t had any issues yet. Maybe I’ll eat my words in the next post.

Chicken, fish or anything with a lot of batter–This stuff is liquid death. I’ve recently obtained access to a huge supply of grease from a busy Italian restaurant that makes the best fried calamari around. All that flour is good on the calamari but bad for your grease. I usually can’t get more than 10 gallons filtered before I have to clean out my 5 micron sock filter. And the stuff that it leaves behind is evil. Sort of the consistency of thick apple butter. Very nasty stuff. Also, you will most certainly leave a trail of fish-smoke wherever you drive.

So in summary:

Chinese- best
French Fry- good, but let the water settle a few days
Fish and Chicken (floured or battered)–God help you

Four Months and 4,000 Miles in the Greasebenz!

Driving a car that runs on waste vegetable oil takes a little getting used to. Especially when you are used to driving really nice, new rigs. It’s sort of like the car-version of the grieving process. I am now at “acceptance”. Acceptance that I am now on a never ending quest for grease that requires about 2 hours a week of my time. Acceptance that I will destroy a certain amount of shoes and pants by spilling nasty grease on them. Acceptance that my 67 hp car probably gets more like 50 hp (the power of a small tractor).

But then I remember…I haven’t paid for fuel in four months. 17 gallons a week X 16 weeks X $4.00 per gallon = $1,112.00 that I didn’t pay to the scum sucking thieves that have ruined our economy. Does it make a big difference in changing the world? I don’t know. Actually, I’m not even sure if I care. I just got tired of it.

Regarding Home Fueling Stations For Your Grease Car

OK, we’ve discussed how to acquire your grease, but we haven’t yet broached the subject of what you do with it after that. And we really need to talk about how to get it from storage to gas tank.

The acquiring, as I’ve shared, is not all that hard. Just be nice to people with grease. They will usually give it to you for free, as long as you don’t make a mess of their garbage/dumpster area. 

But what do you do once you have 10 or 20 five gallon jugs of dirty french fry oil in your garage? The first thing is to get a big 50 gallon drum with two vent holes on the top.  I got this one from ULINE.

And then you need to filter that stuff. Right now, in its unfiltered form, its concentrated evil and will kill your engine. I use a five micron sock filter. It has a wire hoop at the end and easily fits into one of the two holes at the top of your spiffy, new 55 gallon drum. Here’s the filter I use. This filter will last forever. When it gets too gunky to pour your oil through, rinse it out with standard dish detergent. Or, if you are a true tree hugger, I guess you could use that hippy peppermint oil or Simple Green.


heres a good filter

here's a good filter

Now stick a funnel into the filter and pour your nasty grease into the big barrel. Depending on the quality of your stuff, you’ll probably get about half way through before you need to rinse out your filter. When the whole thing is full, let it sit for a week or so. Everyone tells me this is important. It allows all the really bad shit to settle. And it helps separate the water, which is not known for its burning properties, from the oil.

Once your grease has been filtered and rested, you can pump it out. Here’s the hand pump I currently use. So far, I’m not a big fan of this device. It’s a little too rustic and farm-like for my tastes (no disrespect to you farmers). I think I’ll probably spring for an electric pump with a gallons meter on it. The tubing that runs from the pump to the car was standard Home Depot food-grade, 1/4″ rubber tubing. Basically the same stuff on a restaurant soda system. This seems to be working fine.

Now even the neatest of people should expect to get some oil on them or spill some oil on the floor or driveway. Take the time to lay a trail of cardboard between your drum and your car. Trust me, YOU WILL SPILL OIL. I learned this the hard way and now my garage and driveway looks like it was paid a visit by the Exxon Valdese. Oh and get one of these #mce_temp_url#barrel dolly things. The stuff is heavy–like 300lbs or more when full.

Let me know if anyone has a better way to get started spewing grease.

Oh…and don’t wear a suit when you are fueling. Do it at night when you can dress like a shiftless hobo and nobody will see. I, um, did not do this once. Maybe.

Beware the “Salvage Title”

A few words to the wise.  I’ve bought many cars. I mean lots of the them. Every time I try to remember how many cars I’ve owned, I remember a new one. Like that silver Datsun I had for six months or so back in 1994. Or the white something or other that my wife swears I drove for a whole year. You get the point.

My beloved Greasebenz came with an unexpected twist that I was, even with my extensive car buying history, unfamiliar with–a salvage title. Apparently they issue salvage titles to cars that have been wrecked, flood damaged, or in the case of Greasebenz, just sitting around for a really long time.  When I went to the DMV in Haverstraw, NY to register the car, the guy at the counter sent me packing on an elaborate journey to obtaining a new, “clean” title.

First, I had to send the old title, with a new application, to Albany, with $200 (shakedown fee). Then, I had to wait three weeks to receive a salvage inspection from one of six certified DMV inspection centers in the state. Fortunately, one of these was only 15 miles or so from my house, in Elmsford, NY. 

My temporary tags had long since expired, so I had to arrange a tow from my mechanic while I went ahead in my partner Chuck’s car, which he was nice enough to lend me for the day.  I drove to what looked like a row of crack houses in Elmsford (an otherwise quaint little town) to a warehouse district that housed what appeared to be a series of no-name body shops.  In fact, it looked like one giant block of body shops, all operating as one entity. I pulled into the DMV section, still waiting for the tow truck to find it’s way to the inspection bay, and asked one of the inspectors where I could park. He waved me around to a side lot, where I parked Chuck’s car and made my way back to the inspection bay.

After a two hour wait, I was told Greasebenz had passed with flying colors (should have–I had just had my mechanic give it a total saftey upgrade), BUT I’d have to wait another three weeks for the new title to come in the mail. No title, no registration, no driving.

As I made my way back to Chuck’s car, I was greeted by a booted tire and a sticker on the window telling me I was illegally parked in the lot designated for an auto body shop. IF YOU ARE EVER ON RIVER ST. IN ELMSFORD, BEWARE THIS EVIL PRICK.




I tried to reason with the guy at the body shop, telling him that DMV told me to park there. Suddenly I realized that I was no doubt just another sucker in a decades-long scam to extract funds from unsuspecting visitors to the DMV inspection place. $75 later (another shakedown fee), I got Chuck’s car back. I guess I’ll just build that into the “master Greasebenz budget”. 

Lesson of the day–get a car with a clean title when you take the greasy plunge!


Chuck\'s car booted by Satan

A Few Words Regarding Selecting the Right Car For Grease Conversion…

burning guy

One thing for sure, If you are in a hurry, the greasecar is probably NOT for you. My particular model, the 240 D, was woefully underpowered the day it rolled off the the lot in 1983. This no doubt led to its demise, paving the way for the slightly more spry 300 D and ultra peppy 300 TD. Couple my 67 hp engine with the naturally low octane of waste vegetable oil and you’ve got zero to 60 mph sometime before lunch. However, the upside of the 240D is that the engine is so basic, that even I can fix some of the broken stuff. There’s no pesky computers or other gadgetry to get in the way.

If you want something with a little more gusto, I suggest you look into the VW Jetta Diesel. Looks like a lot of people are converting them.