Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tip of the Month: Always Buy Towing Insurance

Make sure you buy towing insurance. It only costs about $10 / year, and it will save you a lot of money. In fact, I can't figure out how insurance companies can afford to offer this kind of insurance at all.

Last week, I was driving home from the coast when I lost power - the sort of feeling you get when a filter clogs or you run out of fuel - and switching back to the diesel system didn't solve the problem. The truck ended up spending the rest of the weekend in someone's driveway, until I could figure out what my towing insurance covered.

It turns out, that for a measly $5 / 6 months, SafeCo. Insurance will tow you to the nearest towing facility and pick up the bill. I decided to have the truck towed to my house (worked out to be the nearest facility for my repairs) to see if I could solve the problem without incurring additional mechanical expenses. The last thing you want to do is let a auto shop get a hold of your vehicle.

The towing bill came out to be a whopping $123.20. All I had to do was fax them the bill, and I had a reimbursement check within 3 days.

This is the second time I've had a major towing incident with old diesels (the last one cost me $90). Don't go out without towing insurance.

Question of the Day

I received this question today from Shawn on Facebook:

Is there any local group/info for biodiesel and/or veg oil conversion?
I don't really have the option now, with a gas car, but hoping that my next will be a diesel.

Good questions.

There is one group on campus, the OSU Biodiesel Initiative.
About a year ago I worked with them quite a bit. We built a biodiesel reactor in the basement of Gleeson hall, and would have used it for converting cafeteria grease, but the local fire marshal shut us down.

The initiative's ultimate goal is to build a small-scale reactor facility and education center on campus. Join the listserv on the website to find out about meetings.

As far as veg oil, there are two companies in Corvallis: Enviofuel and Greaseworks. They sell conversion kits and work full-time converting vehicles. Nate at Enviofuel is typically more accessible for questions than Justin at Greaseworks, but both are a wealth of information. By the way - Greaseworks was one of the original biodiesel/SVO groups in the country as far as I know.

Beyond that, a few of us have batted the idea of a grease coop around, but I doubt that's going to happen anytime soon. It seems like there's plenty of oil to go around though, and I have a bit of a stockpile at the moment. If you need help with the process of getting a diesel or converting it, let me know. I'm trying to compile that type of information on my blog, and I've also written some things on, like the Biodiesel Mythbuster.

Let me know if you have more questions.


Friday, October 19, 2007

VegTruck Has a New Look!

That's right folks, the VegTruck has been upgraded. While saying farewell to the old Datsun will be a bittersweet affair, I have to make room for something new: a 1987 Toyota Diesel Toyota Xtra Cab 4x4 with Greasecar SVO conversion.

You may be thinking:
"Where, for the love of God, did you find a Toyota Diesel?"
And I would have to reply: "Canada eh!"

Well, indirectly. I found the truck on the Toyota Madness Forum, which is obviously a good place to look for Toyota Diesels of Canadian Origin (Toyota made very few diesels for the U.S. market). This truck happened to be located in Bozeman, MT, imported to the U.S. by the previous owner. So I took a weekend trip to Bozeman and picked it up. The whole thing was a risky proposition, but the trip turned out to be a total success. Todd (the seller) was extremely helpful and hospitable, and it became evident that just about everyone in Montana had the same disposition. The local grease coop filled us up with 50 gallons of filtered, dewatered veg. oil, and we drove the more than 1,000 miles home all on SVO. I would at some point like to post some pictures of the *extensive* grease filtering operation they had there.

The upshot for the VegTruck Blog will be new posts on a different vehicle. I plan to run a few tests on the Greasecar system, especially system operating temperature (they don't come with temp. gauges).

This also means that the original VegTruck - of which, sadly, I haven't posted more about (yet), is for sale. It's a 1982 Datsun 720 Diesel King Cab with top-of-the-line Enviofuel SVO system installed, including a 36 gallon tank that gives it a range of 1000 miles. Let me know if you're interested.