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Go Back   TDIClub Forums > VW TDI Discussion Areas > Alternative Diesel Fuels (Biodiesel, WVO, SVO, BTL, GTL etc)

Alternative Diesel Fuels (Biodiesel, WVO, SVO, BTL, GTL etc) Discussions about alternative fuels for use in our TDI's. This includes biodiesel WVO (Waste Vegetable Oil), SVO (Straight Vegetable Oil), BTL (Biomass to Liquid), GTL (Gas to Liquids) etc. Please note the Fuel Disclaimer.

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Old April 22nd, 2011, 15:05   #1
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Exclamation My Pumpe Duse WVO System Experiment - A Cautionary Tale

I alluded to creating this thread over a month ago in another alt fuel thread on this forum. Life is what happens while we were making other plans and I set it aside for awhile, here it finally is. This is a basic summary of my experience in developing and using a two-tank WVO fuel system in my 2006 Jetta TDI with a BRM Pumpe Duse engine.

Warning! This is not a short tale but I will try to keep it concise. I have decided to discontinue WVO use in my car for the reasons I will show. I don’t care if you agree or not with my methods or conclusions. My only wish is to share my experience and hopefully contribute to the ‘pool of knowledge’. So, if you are interested enough to spend the time - crack open a beer, sit back and off we go.

Some Background

I’ll start by qualifying myself. I grew up in the workshop working on automotive projects and the racing motorcycles on which I competed. I have built and modified all kinds of gasser engines two and four stroke. Professionally I have had several distinct careers in my life: R&D project engineering in two different industries, owned an auto repair shop where I earned ASE Master Tech certification and now in $ales management for an industrial/institutional chemical manufacturer. With my considerable experience in spark ignition engines, this TDI is my first foray in to the wonderful world of diesel.

I chose a TDI because of the classic reasons. I drive a tremendous number of miles for work and was interested in maintaining comfort while reducing expense. I am quite sustainably minded, thinking of myself as a pragmatic environmentalist. That said, I had my eye on WVO fuel when I bought the car used with 15K miles on the clock (I assume it was a lease return).

I started my WVO hobby by doing research on the interwebs. I read everything I could find for literally months. I saw everything from the horror stories to the testimony of the true believers to the vendor sites and forums. I formed the opinion that the folks pursuing WVO were typically long on ideals and short on technical ability. The failures usually appeared the direct result of obvious (to me anyway) negligence.

My average commute each day is around 100 miles each way, perfect for VO use. With my driving needs, technical/development background and need for a hobby at that time, I decided to go for it. I felt I had the issues covered or could solve them along the way.

System Design and Development

The search for a “kit” that would satisfy my design requirements resulted in a dead end. The kits were all lacking something key. True, I could buy one anyway and make all the needed changes, but in the end I decided to start from scratch. The first iteration of my system included:
  • 14.5 Gal aluminum fuel tank from RCI with Hotfox pick-up and an ISS fuel sender the tank/filter/pump was mounted in the trunk on the driver side to still have the 60% side of the rear seat operable. It was held in place by a spiffy wooden tray covered with speaker carpet (looked nearly OEM nice). With careful tank placement and tray construction I maintained access to the spare tire.
  • Ramco coolant heated fuel filter from Plantdrive, 2-3 micron filtering
  • Walboro diaphragm fuel pump mounted near the tank and pulling WVO through the filter.
  • HOH assembly using aluminum line from Summit Racing and 5/8 heater hose. This was insulated and run underneath the car to the engine bay.
  • FPHE from Plantdrive then on to a two solenoid valve system to allow delayed switching to minimize fuel mixing. This was all mounted under the hood to minimize distance to the tandem pump.

  • Control came from a VO Controller wired per the diagrams provided. The goal was to make it as automatic as possible but protect the engine from ‘improper’ WVO use.

  • VO was plumbed to return to its tank similar to OEM system.
Initially all seemed good, the system functioned well and automatically, could not tell which fuel type the car was running on from performance of the car. My switching strategy was controlled by the VO Controller and looked at coolant temp to go aver 160F before switchover. When the car was shut down the delayed switchover would prevent much fuel type mixing and automatically run the car for 45 seconds before engine off. First issue I quickly realized was the OEM fuel temp sensor readings on VO was retarding injection due to elevated temps. Fix was simple, I just relocated the OEM fuel temp sensor out of the WVO fuel path to near the OEM fuel filter. Next issue was smell. The WVO tank was vented into the trunk and during a drive the fuel in the tank was getting really hot and stinking. I don’t even like fried foods, much less smelling like fried food. I already had a petcock and drain line from the filter body to outside the car. This was for draining the inverted mount filter before changing. I simply T-ed the tank vent to this drain line and was now vented outside the car, much better.

At this point I started wondering about keeping the VO tank so hot. Much more research led me to learning about VO polymerization and the contributing factors. I learned that combining heat, oxygen and a catalyst like copper or ferric metals would make poly in short order. I had strategically passed on the Greasecar system with its copper coil in-tank heat exchanger (what I refer to as a “poly-generator”). My tank had nothing but stainless and aluminum in it, but I decided to reduce the tank heat anyway. I did this first by using a manual 3-way fuel selector valve mounted near the tank to allow two selectable fuel return modes, either back to the tank (for bleeding air after a filter change) or a running mode that looped the return back to the VO lift pump inlet. This reduced heat in the tank to only that supplied by the Hotfox. I then decided it was still way more heat than I needed and located a universal heater control valve on eBay that would allow me to meter coolant to the Hotfox while bypassing any unneeded coolant straight back to the engine. I quickly learned that in the summer, the tank needed no heat at all.

For more safety margin I increased my coolant temp trigger for switching to 180F and increased shutdown run time to 1:45. Even with that I got in the habit of manually triggering purge a few miles from my destination. I typically was seeing VO temps out of the tandem pump of 195-225F. UOAs were showing a little elevation of Fe but no sign of any VO.

All seemed well for a long time until a mysterious oil leak developed under the car. I took the HOH down and found the leak to be a pin-hole in the aluminum line, strange. I fixed it with a compression coupler fitting and put it back together thinking it a fluke. A month later the leak was back. This time it was a number of pinholes, ***? My theory is that over time the oil, which is mildly acidic, ate through the thin annealed aluminum fuel line. At this point I made a new HOH assembly using PEX for both the fuel and coolant lines under the car, insulated them and solved the leaks. Noticing that the flexible VO lines were getting spongy I found the biofuel compatible “superfuel” hose and updated all the hoses in the system. I also ditched the worm gear type hose clamps in favor of spring clamps on the coolant hoses and “fuel injection” hose clamps for the fuel lines.

Even though my WVO filters were lasting about 10K miles each, I didn’t like waiting for the filter to plug to change it. I installed an absolute pressure transducer from VO Control Systems in the fuel filter outlet but before the pump. Wired into the VO Controller, fuel suction vacuum is monitored and will shut the VO system down when it hit a preset value. No more waiting for power loss to know the filter needs changed.

I didn’t like how air had to pass through the tandem pump and cylinder head before being purged to the VO tank. In developing a different strategy for purging air I also saw a way to pre-heat the VO in the system before switchover. I added a 3rd solenoid fuel valve in the engine bay that had a normal mode of bypassing the usual supply side solenoid. By wiring it to switch with the supply solenoid and taking VO lift pump control away from the VO Controller (to a manual switch on the dash) the system would circulate fuel through the lift pump/HOH/FPHE during the car warm up, pre-heating the fuel. To protect the VO lift pump, I added a temp switch to the coolant line that would not turn on the VO pump until coolant reached 150F (this detail was likely overkill). Now, to purge air after a filter change I would simply switch the manual 3-way valve in the trunk and the pre-heat loop would purge all the air directly to the VO tank prior to switchover. Before the next start-up I would then switch it back to the looped return (run) mode position and have a nice coolant heated VO fuel preheat system that raised initial VO temps about 20F prior to switchover.

When I initially mounted my tank I thought I could keep it clean enough that spill would not be an issue. Even as careful as I am always am, sh!te happens and I had spilled oil a few times. With my tank tray construction materials and design it was impossible to completely clean it up and I eventually got sick of the residual smell. To solve the problem I built a custom steel secondary containment tray.



The tray would hold the filter assembly, the VO lift pump and the tank on rubber mounts about ¾” above the bottom with a drain tube to outside the car. Any spills would be contained (or if big enough) drained to the ground. Clean-up would also be easy and complete. Of course in the months since this was made I have not spilled a drop.
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 15:06   #2
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Real problems begin

At 105K miles (about 50K WVO miles) the car began to run poorly and smoke like a freight train. With the help of this forum and some investigation I found my EGR valve was completely fouled and not sealing. I cleaned the valve and the car was back to normal but I knew the fouling would be back again due to the VO fuel. More research and study led me to the conclusion that the EGR system had to go if I were to continue using WVO. On my car the only way to effectively delete that system without a CEL is with a tune. I had the car tuned to a level that would not require any significant hardware upgrades and blocked off the EGR system. Whoa! Could not believe how much more fun the car was to drive! All that power and the fuel economy actually increased. I liked the linear and strong torque of the diesel before but this was truly amazing. Loss of economy is just part of the deal with performance modification of gassers. I loved the idea that diesel performance mods would allow you to have your cake and eat it too.

At 155K miles I inspected my cam and found the cursed PD cam wear. #4 exhaust lobe was half way to flat and the follower was dished and close to popping a hole though. I had heard mention of Colt cams on this forum and called Geoff at Colt. I soon had a stage II cam on the way. I decided to pull the head to investigate while doing the cam and TB job. First thing I found was the nasty fouling of the intake manifold left over from the EGR issue. When I got the head off the fouling had extended into the intake ports and valves but the exhaust side looked OK.





It was pretty bad, choking much of the intake tract off. Knowing what had caused it and that it had been stopped, I resolved myself to the clean-up work. While I had the head apart I did some very light clean-up work of the ports, what I would refer to as a “bowl blend” porting job, while respecting the swirl inducing features. During this repair the piston tops were simply wiped off with a rag and they were pretty clean.



What I failed to notice is the strange burn pattern starting on the piston tops, guess I didn’t really understand what I was looking for (more on this later). Engine went back together and ran stronger than ever.
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 15:07   #3
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Need for Speed

About 40K mile later the performance mod bug had really bit me. I wanted more and knew what it was going to take, more turbo and more fuel. After much research I settled on the now popular GTB series turbo and decided a 2056 would be plenty stressful on my stock bottom end but might allow it to live for awhile. I chose a tuner and consulted with him on my hardware plan settling on ARL PDEs with Bosio R783 nozzles and getting agreement on my turbo choice for my power goals of 400 ft/lbs torque with a wide curve. In anticipation of the go fast parts I wanted to freshen up the car and decided to install a stronger clutch and an LSD that will help plant that power to the pavement. When I had the head off before I was not happy with the valve guide wear but had put back together with new seals and hoped for the best. Well, it was using some oil so I decided to send the head to Franko6 for a full rebuild and his cam oiling modifications.

When I got the head off things were not pretty, the strange but light burn patterns had darkened and extended to the cylinder walls. Things were a bit of a gummy mess.



I bit the bullet and dropped the pan and pulled the pistons. The rings were completely gummed up and some were almost seized in their grooves.



I soaked the pistons in carb cleaner for two days and still spent 6-8 hours to get them cleaned up. The pistons and cylinders still measured on the tight end of the spec so I flex-honed the cylinders and put them back together with new OEM rings and rod bolts.
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 15:08   #4
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Failure Analysis

Why did this happen? UOAs all showed no VO in the crank case whatsoever. The head and pan were clean as a whistle too. I had believed that if the VO was not making its way to the crank case that meant it was not washing past the rings in any significant amount. I think now that I was wrong. It appears to me that the injector spray pattern degraded over time and eventually fuel was spraying everywhere enough so to foul the rings.

Since this fail I have been looking harder at the PD elements. With no apparent performance differences between D2 and WVO I had been unconcerned about the warning about injector fouling. Hell, I had nearly 150K WVO miles on a PD and my injectors never looked anything like the posted horror shots I had seen. I thought that they must have been doing something wrong with their oil collection/processing to create those issues. Now I am not so sure. When I have pulled my PDEs there has always been some varnish formed on the nozzles that scrapped off pretty easy.



There have been no other outward signs of alt fuel use. Now I am thinking that the build-up inside is likely there alright. It seems that the bodies are laser drilled with hundreds of tiny holes that are the fuel return path, would not take much to plug those up. A recent post by JSRmonster described a running issue that can be created when those hole become restricted, I had started to experience the issue he mentioned. PDE varnish build-up aside, Drivebiwire has stated before that the OEM Bosch nozzles wear out at about 100K miles. Mine have nearly twice that on them. I think in the end I had a two-fold failure: worn out nozzles and internally varnished PD elements. Really, it is amazing how well the PD fuel system compensates while the PDEs are on their way to hell in a hand basket.

Pete, if you read this and your offer to inspect for free still stands, I would be willing to ship you my WVO PDEs for investigation once I am ready to install my R783s in a couple weeks. I have no faith that they can be saved at this point but it might be helpful to know more about their failure mode. I would definitely count myself as someone that did WVO “right” (or as right as can be done in a PD). Knowing more about what happened inside my PDEs might just add something to the pool of knowledge.
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 15:23   #5
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Parting Thoughts

As I said in the beginning, I am done with WVO as a car fuel. My performance mods would not get along with the stuff anyway. I do have a few parting thoughts for those still with me. The VO Conversion industry is in a seriously compromised position IMO. Aside from all the obvious issues that come with the territory when one endeavors to use VO as a fuel, I don’t believe VO fuel will ever be compatible with EGR systems found on most modern diesels, let alone DPFs on the really new ones. EGR must be defeated or failure will be sooner than later. Of course defeating EGR is illegal. All free individuals can be selective with their law abiding until they are caught, but the WVO conversion industry is in a catch-22. If they build their systems to succeed, they must systematically break the law. If they deny the EGR issue to save legal face, they are defrauding their customers. I would not wish to earn my living under such terms.

Another major issue I have with the VO industry is that they do a poor job of qualifying (or warning) their customers regarding the use of their cars. WVO is pathetic in the city for short commutes. Unfortunately, these are the typical customers. Most suburbanites rarely drive more than a handful of miles each day and their cars never see reasonable conditions for VO fuel. They become motivated to use their system and switch too early rapidly accelerating the soon-to-come fail.

Though I will not continue on VO in my PD, it could be done IMO depending on one’s definition of success. If PDEs were replaced every 70-80K miles (to the tune of $1500, rebuilt used bodies) I think one could prevent the loss of injection integrity and subsequent ring fouling. Or if one EDMed out the tiny fuel return holes in the bodies and replaced their nozzles more often, perhaps that would buy some time too. Alas, those are projects for someone other than me. I have some connecting rods I plan to make beg for mercy.
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 15:41   #6
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Excellent writeup, and thanks for your candor.
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 16:54   #7
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Thank you. Nice writeup, and interesting. I would not have set it up the way you did, and I might have been a bit more cautious on temps and purges, but I think you basicaly had a sound system. Still, a few questions:

Did you ever figure out why the aluminum hose was leaking? So many vehicles have run for years (every Frybird) without that problem.

How often were you driving on straight diesel? I wonder, if almost all your driving was WVO, if that made a difference.

10K is very short filter life. Were they clogging? What was your filtering proccess? Also, what kind of oil were you using and where did it come from?
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 17:08   #8
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Excellent write up. Finally some hard facts and pictures.
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 17:10   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by philngrayce View Post
Thank you. Nice writeup, and interesting. I would not have set it up the way you did, and I might have been a bit more cautious on temps and purges, but I think you basicaly had a sound system. Still, a few questions:

...How often were you driving on straight diesel? I wonder, if almost all your driving was WVO, if that made a difference.
If I were to continue at this point I would discontinue all VO use except at highway speed and low load driving. However, I did not use it in stop and go or in heavy city traffic.

My driving is 90+% 4-6 lane with cruise control on, and I was always on VO during those conditions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by philngrayce View Post
Did you ever figure out why the aluminum hose was leaking? So many vehicles have run for years (every Frybird) without that problem.
Aluminum qualities vary widely.. They make lots of different things from it. Perhaps Frybrid has a different grade of alloy for their lines. PEX worked great for a long time, no need to figure that one out.

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10K is very short filter life. Were they clogging? What was your filtering proccess? Also, what kind of oil were you using and where did it come from?
D2 filters often clog in 15-20K, 10K on waste fryer oil is not short if you ask me. My oil was pure canola from a fish restaurant collected in my personal water tight barrels, settled for 3-4 weeks and filtered through a 100/35/5 micron bag filter array before a 2 micron polishing filter.



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Old April 22nd, 2011, 18:18   #10
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Man, you won't find a nicer or more honest and fully disclosed VO/WVO write-up than this. Thank you.
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 19:49   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by philngrayce View Post

10K is very short filter life. Were they clogging? What was your filtering proccess? Also, what kind of oil were you using and where did it come from?
I called Grease Car when I had a system and they suggested changing the fuel filters every 3K and when I told them I was averaging 8K on them they seemed very surprised and asked what special precautions I was taking during the filtering process.
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 19:52   #12
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Excellent write up. This should be a sticky.
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 20:02   #13
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Good job thanks for your candor. Ya it should be a sticky.
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 20:25   #14
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Sticky hat trick.
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Old April 22nd, 2011, 22:44   #15
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thank you for passing along your hard earned wisdom...and insight..


with pictures for doods like me...
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