Week after week we talk about horse trailers, horse vans, horse riding and horse racing among other things. With all this horse talk going on we couldn’t believe it when we realized we had completely missed one of the most important “horse” items.
It doesn’t matter how snazzy your enclosed trailer, toy hauler or RV may be, you’re not going anywhere without horsePOWER. And where do you find horsepower if not in a horse? The internal combustion engine of course.
From weed-whackers and lawn tractors to motorcycles and everyday automobiles internal combustion engines are everywhere. But what exactly happens inside that hunk of steel and which is better…diesel or gasoline?
At the core, all internal combustion engines are the same. Dating back to 1876 when Nikolaus August Otto invented and patented a machine that converted chemical energy to kinetic energy through a contained explosion that drove a piston connected to a crank-shaft to create rotary motion. This rotary motion is then transferred to the moving parts of the machine and voila.
We don’t really need another history lesson so for the sake of this article let’s focus on the massive four-stroke powerhouses found in full size pick-up trucks, SUVs and in the case of the Phoenix Sprinter…2 horse vans.
Diesel and gasoline engines are about as similar as they are different and at this point we will describe these differences and highlight the benefits and the potential short comings of each.
Gasoline engines function using a four-stroke combustion cycle that includes an intake stroke, a compression stroke, a combustion stroke and an exhaust stroke. Automobile engines contain 4, 6 or 8 cylinders that draw fuel and air from a carburetor or fuel injector that is premixed and ignited by a spark-plug at the end of the compression stroke. Gasoline engines are more common and in many ways simpler and require less maintenance (or at least the maintenance is less complex).
Rudolf Diesel discovered that higher compression resulted in higher efficiency and more power (a gasoline engine compresses at a ratio of 8:1 to 12:1 while a diesel engine compresses at a ratio of 12:1 to as high as 25:1). Diesel fuel also has a much higher energy density than gasoline and as a result is much more efficient and packs a bigger punch per gallon (1 gallon of diesel contains approximately 155×106 joules equaling 147,000 BTU whereas 1 gallon of gasoline contains 132×106 joules equaling125,000 BTU). Diesel also contains more carbon atoms in longer chains making it easier to refine which is why it used to be cheaper than gasoline. But increased demand for diesel fuel has forced an increase in price.
Diesel engines use the same four-stroke combustion cycles (intake, compression, combustion and exhaust) however there are slight modifications. As stated above, it’s really a matter of compression. Gasoline engines have compression limits due to the risk of air being compressed too much and creating “knocking” within the engine. With diesel engines, the fuel is injected directly into the cylinder and combusts as a result of the massive compression exerted on it.
Both gasoline and diesel engines can be fine-tuned and modified to increase overall horsepower and efficiency using a variety of methods such as cold-air intakes, super chargers, aftermarket exhaust systems and turbo chargers (we may elaborate on these modifications at a later date).
This is all great to know but the question in the minds of many is which one is better?
The truth is it’s a preference thing. Just like Coke and Pepsi, McDonalds and Burger King or Ford and Chevy…people like what they like for a number of reasons.
Diesel engines may be more powerful and fuel efficient but they tend to be more expensive to buy and maintain. The cost of fuel is also significantly higher. Diesel engines do not emit nearly as much carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide as their gas guzzling buddies and in the age of the global warming and ozone deterioration these are things worth considering.
Whichever you prefer, both are excellent sources of the kind of power you need when you decide to hitch-up and hit the road. Now when it comes to what frame, body and manufacturer you choose…that’s something we’d rather not get into as the Ford, Chevy and Dodge lovers of the world tend to get a little heated in that debate. Not to mention the slew of other auto-makers that have thrown their lot into the ring of contention (Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hummer, etc.).
We hope that you found this article helpful or at the very least interesting. Though we do not dabble in engine repair, we pretty much do everything else here at Phoenix Coach Works and if your ‘everything else’ needs a little attention please don’t hesitate to contact us.