What Should You Know About Owning a Diesel Passenger Car?

German auto manufacturers love the reliability and performance of a diesel engine, and you have to look no farther than the two most popular German auto brands to see this love in action.

If you've recently purchased your first diesel passenger vehicle, you may be wondering what makes your vehicle so different from a gasoline or hybrid. While diesels can offer increased fuel economy (and often, lower per-gallon prices) and decades of reliability, there are a few things you'll need to do and avoid to keep your engine in good running condition.

 Read on to learn more about the maintenance and proper care of the diesel engines you'll find in several new German models. 

What makes a diesel engine in a passenger car unique?

In today's market, diesel engines are generally reserved for heavy-duty or high-performance trucks. These engines are structured to provide more torque than gasoline engines and are able to tow heavier loads than similar-sized vehicles.

However, diesel engines in passenger vehicles are also making a comeback. These engines are able to provide more power than similar gasoline engines, which is why they're often found in station wagons or heavier vehicles. Diesels are also reliable; because this fuel is "cleaner" than gasoline, engines are less prone to build-up of harmful deposits. You'll never be hit with a hefty sparkplug repair or replacement bill, as your diesel engine doesn't have sparkplugs. 

What maintenance should you perform on a diesel passenger engine? 

Manufacturers of gasoline vehicles recommend a number of different services at various mileage markers. Diesel manufacturers have a similar maintenance schedule, although you'll find that you won't be making these appointments as frequently.

Your first scheduled appointment will be for an oil change when you've hit 10,000 miles (and every 10,000 miles thereafter). While it is possible to perform these oil changes yourself, you may need some specific tools to gain access to the filter, and if you have to purchase these tools, it's unlikely your DIY oil change will actually save money. 

You'll then need a fuel filter replacement (and several other inspections) at the 20,000 mile mark and a brake fluid change at the 30,000 mile mark. You shouldn't need to have your diesel particulate filter (DPF) serviced until you've hit around 100,000 miles. This service can consist of either the cleaning or the replacement of the device that filters harmful particulates out of your engine's exhaust.

During a DPF cleaning, the filter is heated to ultra-high temperatures so that the build-up inside is incinerated into ash which can be blown away. Replacement of the DPF is slightly more expensive, but can get you a brand-new filter with another 100,000 miles of life remaining.

What else should you know about your diesel vehicle?

If you live in a temperate climate with cold winters, or park your car outside, it's important to engage in the proper diesel starting procedure to avoid causing unnecessary strain on your engine. Trying to start a cold engine can be harmful, as cold diesel fuel forms a solid, almost gelatinous shape and can't pass through the engine. You'll need to take steps to keep your engine from freezing (or to warm it up) to avoid damage when starting. An engine heater can be purchased relatively cheaply and plugged into an outdoor outlet to help your engine and battery stay warm all night.

If you own a diesel vehicle and a gasoline vehicle, and only use a single garage stall, it's usually preferable to have the diesel parked inside. Driving a cold gasoline engine isn't ideal, but won't cause the same long-term problems as driving a cold diesel engine. Click here for more information on your options.