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Why You Should Consider a Gas Pickup Truck

Buying decisions are crucial now because of depressed commodity prices. Every investment must be examined including the engine choice for vehicles.

This begs the question: Are diesel engines for your pickups, utility vehicles, and other uses (such as an irrigation pump) the best way to go? 

The first drawback to diesels is their up-front costs. Order a diesel pickup and you add around $8,600 to the price compared with a gas truck. You do receive a huge amount of torque with a diesel over a gas engine. Torque is what moves the load. We all buy horsepower but drive torque. The diesel’s combustion process allows its cylinder pressure to remain more constant than that of a spark-ignited engine. Plus, pickup diesels are turbocharged. This fills the cylinders with more air. Between the combustion characteristics and the forced air induction, the diesel is a torque monster. 

Today’s gas power plants have become more powerful compared with earlier diesels, and they’ll last just as long. Here is a comparison of horsepower and torque (listed in foot-pounds) by make of truck in the last 20 years:

truck-gas-diesel

All diesels produce peak torque and horsepower at a lower engine speed than the new gas engines. With torque converters and transmission technology today, gas engines are able to outperform the diesels built only a few years back. Admittedly, gas engines don’t match the performance of the latest diesels. 

Unless you are using a premium diesel fuel that has higher cetane, added lubricity, gelling inhibitors, and other essential characteristics, you will need to treat your diesel fuel. The cost to use a good additive is not much, but the reality is most farmers do not dose their fuel when buying it on the road or in town.

Today, diesel fuel costs around 40¢ to 50¢ more per gallon than gas. Diesel fuel has more energy per gallon than gas (134,000 Btu’s for diesel compared with 117,000 Btu’s for gas). With its higher compression ratio, diesels are more thermally efficient. The argument can be made that the higher price of diesel fuel is negated due to its improved efficiency.

Yet, the issue not often considered – and diesels’ second drawback – is that the maintenance expense for a modern diesel is very high. Diesel engines hold almost double the crankcase oil and employ more filters than gas engines. Also, their emission control systems are much more complex. The use of diesel exhaust fluid (in newer engines), an oxidation catalyst, and particulate filter can make for a very costly repair if these systems fail.

Diesel controllers and fuel injectors are also extremely expensive compared with a gas engine, but they’re more prone to issues. Serviceability of the engine is poor. This adds to labor costs and impacts the quality of the repair. A diesel takes longer to build engine heat in the oil and is a very poor choice for short trips or many cold starts. In this case, diesel oil becomes quickly polluted with moisture and fuel, creating acids and sludge.

Over the life of the engine, a diesel will cost you much more to own than a gas engine. Will it get you up the hill quicker with a gooseneck trailer loaded with fertilizer? There is no denying that. You probably towed loads years back with less powerful engines than the modern gas offerings. So why do you need 900 foot-pounds of torque provided by diesel engines today?

On my farm, I run gas and put the savings toward fertility, genetics, or something else that will give me a return on investment. 

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