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Summary
  • A diesel engine works similar to a gasoline engine. The main difference is that diesel engines use extreme pressure (compression) to ignite fuel instead of a spark.
  • Diesel engines in light-duty applications can last up to 300,000 miles.
  • The diesel engines’ compression-ignition system is better in terms of fuel efficiency. High temperatures generated by compression heat have more energy payoff relative to fuel consumption.

Diesel engines are found in big utility vehicles and hefty farm equipment. They’re also used in some passenger vehicles because of their impressive torque output and durability.

Why do diesel engines last longer? What makes them appealing? Here are some diesel engine facts to help answer your questions:

How Does a Diesel Engine Work?

Both diesel and gas engines use internal combustion to make a vehicle run. They basically combine air and fuel, which are compressed inside the engine’s cylinders. In a gas-powered engine, spark plugs are used to ignite the air-fuel mixture. But in a diesel engine, extreme pressure (compression) causes the fuel to spontaneously ignite when injected into the cylinder. The engine’s combustion causes other parts in the vehicle to move, prompting the wheels to turn and so on. The engine also expels gas produced by the whole process, which exits the vehicle through its exhaust system. The whole procedure restarts and cycles up to thousands of times per minute as you drive.

diesel engined car
Diesel engines are used in some passenger vehicles because of their impressive torque output and durability.

As mentioned, a gas engine has spark plugs to set fire to the fuel injected into the engine, but a diesel engine doesn’t have spark plugs. Instead, it relies on compression heat created inside the engine. Its fuel-injection system then sprays just the right quantity of fuel into the diesel engine’s cylinders to instantly initiate combustion.

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How Long Do Diesel Engines Last?

Many drivers have asked, “How many miles does a diesel engine last?” With recent innovations in diesel engine technology, these engines have become known for incredible longevity and performance. However, your vehicle’s engine life may greatly depend on your car care and maintenance habits. In general, gas engines may require major restoration work at around 200,000 miles. On the other hand, diesel engines in light-duty applications (e.g., pickup trucks) often get close to the 300,000-mile mark.

Diesel engines in heavy-duty trucks (aka big rigs) may reach up to 1 million miles or more before they need any major engine repairs. They’re known to last up to 30 years if they receive proper care and maintenance. This is all thanks to their durable design that’s built to withstand the stress of higher compression.

Another factor that contributes to lasting diesel engine life is that they generally operate at lower RPM than gasoline engines. Since they do fewer revolutions, some of their parts don’t wear out as fast as their gas counterparts, which helps extend engine life and performance.

gas and diesel nozzles
Gas engines have been viewed as superior for a long time, but opinions may shift because of how modern technology is refining diesel engine machinery.

Diesel vs. Gas Engines

Many enthusiasts have argued over which type of engine is better, diesel or gas. Gas engines have been viewed as superior for a long time, but opinions may shift because of how modern technology is refining diesel engine machinery. Here are some areas where diesel engines have the advantage:

Fuel Efficiency

The diesel engines’ compression-ignition system is better in terms of fuel efficiency. High temperatures generated by compression heat have more energy payoff relative to fuel consumption. Less fuel used means less frequent stops at gas stations and more fuel savings.

Torque Output

Diesel engines have been used in utility vehicles and equipment because they provide more torque, which is ideal for heavy labor. They can also sustain their performance for long durations, which makes them perfect for applications that require them to run for long periods of time.

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diesel fuel tank
A diesel engine may still be a more fuel-efficient and long-lasting option than a gas engine, making it worth the price that you need to spend extra upfront.

Are Diesel Engines Better?

If you’re trying to decide whether diesel or gas engines are better, you may need to take a closer look at your actual driving needs. Your vehicle requirements may be different from another driver’s needs.

While diesel engines have many benefits, they also have disadvantages that may become deal-breakers, depending on your requirements. Since diesel engines are built for heavy-duty applications, the purchase price of vehicles with these engines tends to be higher than vehicles with gas engines. Diesel engines are also known to have problems when the weather’s too cold. They may be difficult to start if the air in the engine isn’t hot enough for combustion.

However, a diesel engine’s benefits may outweigh its disadvantages. It may still be a more fuel-efficient and long-lasting option than gas engines, making it worth the price that you need to spend extra upfront.

diesel fuel
Diesel technology is moving forward by evolving to detach itself from its unsustainable characteristics and becoming a greener option for drivers across the globe.

What is the Future of Diesel Engines?

Considering the negative environmental impact of diesel engines, you may think that they’ll soon fade amid the electronic vehicle wave. However, diesel technology is moving forward by evolving to detach itself from its unsustainable characteristics and becoming a greener option for drivers across the globe. Here are four steps being taken by automotive industry leaders, innovators, and government officials to make diesel engine technology more future-proof:

Cleaner diesel fuel and improved engine technology for less emissions while consuming less fuel.
Rolling out energy-efficient modern diesel engines to more drivers, namely in the commercial sector.

Advancing biodiesel and renewable diesel development for more sustainable transportation.
Integrating hybrid systems in diesel vehicles that will benefit most from them.

With all these efforts, diesel engines may not become a thing of the past. Government and industry leaders are developing sustainable and renewable ways to enhance modern diesel engine vehicles, because they’ve become essential to different industries across the globe.

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Diesel-engine vehicles are also widely used in the commercial sector. With so much intensive labor heavily reliant on diesel engines, the future of diesel engine technology is limitless. As the world keeps moving forward, environmentally-friendly diesel vehicles may become the best option for a sustainable daily driver that’s strong, efficient, and extremely durable.

How to Get Quality Replacement Parts For Your Diesel Engine

Diesel engines are made up of a variety of different parts, most of which are often under great amounts of stress due to how engines function. As a result, many of these parts will wear out over time as you use your engine. Should any of your engine parts fail or start to break down, not replacing them can easily lead to more damage to your diesel engine over time. Thankfully, CarParts.com is here to help.

At CarParts.com, we offer a wide range of quality aftermarket parts at different price points from many trusted brands. Our easy-to-navigate website allows you to browse our catalog with ease. If you want to guarantee that the parts you order fit your diesel engine, use our built-in vehicle selector. Our friendly and helpful customer service team is also on standby if you need assistance. We’re available around the clock to answer any questions you might have.

Order a new crankshaft or other diesel engine parts on CarParts.com today.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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