5 Most Common Tractor Fuel Types
It is crucial to know the different types of tractor fuel available. Most tractors will come with labels to show the compatible fuel types.
The common types of fuels used in tractors include:
- LP Gas
In this article, we’ll look at the different tractor fuels and how they affect the consumption and efficiency of a tractor.
Diesel as a source of fuel in tractors was introduced in the 1930s. The early diesel engines could not live up to the hype and wouldn’t be commercially viable until the 1950s.
One of the major issues about the first diesel engines was the difficulty to start, particularly in cold months.
Manufacturers were keen to solve this issue and had a few implementations, such as adding spark ignition, gasoline starters, etc. By 1960, diesel engines had greatly improved and were used in almost all farm tractors.
Diesel was a favorite among farmers because it had better efficiency and was heavier/oilier than gasoline.
Brands like John Deere and Caterpillar made the first diesel tractors and improved them until they became efficient enough to run large farm projects.
Today, diesel is still a common source of fuel for tractors, and it is the preferred alternative for full-sized tractors.
Kerosene sprung as a tractor fuel in the early 20th century, and within a year, it was among the widely used fuels in farm tractors. It had a higher thermal value and was considered to use less fuel than gasoline engines.
Perhaps the reason kerosene was popular was due to its precise requirements for combustion.
It needed a delicate mixture of air, water, and fuel to burn and a better viscosity coefficient than gasoline.
Kerosene did not last as a pillar fuel and diminished at the onset of the Second World War when people needed cheaper gasoline. The introduction of diesel also made kerosene engines irrelevant as they were more powerful and efficient in agriculture tractors.
Liquified Propane Gas (LPG) was popularly used as early as the 1940s. LPG was a cheaper alternative, and farmers rushed to convert their gasoline engines to LP gas.
Manufacturers soon reacted to this and made LPG versions of farm tractors.
LPG was a sustainable fuel option, but diesel quickly replaced it in the 1970s. Recently, LPG is slowly crawling back into the markets after the rise of environmental-conscious citizens. Close to 40% of American farms use propane as the primary energy source, and it is no surprise why.
Propane is considered “green energy” for its low carbon output and lesser emissions. It is also reliable, affordable, and does not harm your crops.
Studies show that propane tractors can save up to 10% of fuel compared to diesel.
Propane is slowly becoming a staple source of fuel around the world, including in Poland. Its efficiency makes it a better consideration for modern farming activities.
Gasoline is the oldest type of fuel introduced to tractors. The first gasoline-powered tractor was created by John Froelich in 1892. The tractors helped farmers during the harvest and planting of seeds.
Gasoline tractors thrived in World War II and were the main source of fuel at that time.
Diesel engines were introduced to farm tractors, and it was a big hit, costing gasoline’s popularity. Today, gasoline is still a source of fuel for tractors but is rarely used in large farms.
Distillate or tractor-fuel is a liquid fuel produced from the distillation process of crude oil. They’re versatile and compatible with engines with mechanical or electric transmissions.
Distillate fuels were introduced to farm tractors in 1925 and were in use until the early 1950s when all-fuel tractors were phased out.
Due to their compression ratio, the distillate was only used in multi-fuel tractors operating on diesel and distillate. The tractors had the main TVO tank and a smaller gasoline tank for warming up the engine.
Tractor fuel had a popular refined version known as Power Fuel. Since it did not fall under automobile fuels, it was free from road taxes, and farmers loved it.
Power fuel had a higher grade than kerosene or distillate, but was still lower than gasoline.
It eventually disappeared due to several factors, including the onset of Diesel engines.
How To Tell a Tractor’s Fuel Type
Before heading to the gas station, it is important to make sure you’re injecting the proper fuel. Any wrong fuel inserted in a tractor’s engine can easily damage the pistons and cause an engine knock.
There are five simple ways to know if your tractor uses gasoline, kerosene, LPG, or distillate.
1. Check For Labels Near The Fuel Cap
The fuel cap contains images or symbols that indicate a few things including the type of fuel to be used. Most traditional models have a “Diesel Fuel Only” or “Unleaded Gasoline Only” wording.
Some tractors may only contain the symbol and a letter representing the type of fuel to be used.
Our best guess would be the letters to represent the names of the fuels; G for Gasoline, D for Diesel, and so on.
Used tractors may not have this sticker since it peels off with time. If your tractor doesn’t have it, you might want to consider the next steps.
3. Read The Tractor’s Manual
It is time to find the abandoned owners manual and turn to the fluids and specifications section.
Look for a place where it tells you which type of fuel to use. If there is no such section, try looking for topics under “engine” or “vehicle build model.”
Such titles will lead you to know what type of fuel is recommended.
If you have bought a second-hand tractor with no such documentation or got lost somewhere, there are still ways to know what type of engine you have.
3. Check on The Display Screen
Most modern tractors have a display screen like vehicles that show the mileage, fuel capacity, and fuel type. Browse through to see where it indicates the fuel type and if you can’t see it, try placing it in a parked position.
If you still can’t find anything on the display screen, check around the driver’s area. Tractors contain multiple gears and levers and the fuel type could be displayed in the most unexpected areas.
Older tractors may not have such displays on the screen especially if the manufacturer had only one source of fuel for their tractors.
So, if you can’t locate the fuel type anywhere inside the tractor, you might want to consider the next step.
4. Contact the Manufacturer For Tractor Info
This is probably the safest option to know what fuel your tractor uses. You can search the internet for the manufacturer’s customer care line and contact their support staff. The owner’s manual should also have the customer support number.
Before contacting the manufacturer, ensure you have the right model number of your tractor and sometimes the engine number. It makes it easier for the staff to identify your tractor and its fuel type.
Big corporations receive hundreds of calls in a day, and you may find yourself waiting in line before talking to support staff.
If you feel the time is too long, there is one last option, and it doesn’t involve calling the manufacturer.
5. Research Your Tractor Online
This is probably the quickest way to check fuel type and you may be here because it was your first instinct. Searching online is easy when you know what to look for.
You can go to the manufacturer’s website and search for your specific tractor. If there is no search bar, you can browse through the products and look for your tractor. Find the one you have and look for the specific descriptions.
Sometimes the manufacturer’s website is too technical and you may need to search elsewhere. Use your tractor’s name and model to search for details on multiple websites and search engines such as Google.
You will find your tractor model in online vendors, review companies, or other companies that may have this information. It is a sure way and works almost all the time.
Finally, if there is scanty information on the internet about your tractor, it is time to locate the online owner’s manual.
The manual should be available and will have everything you need to know about fuelling your tractor.
Recap: 5 Tractor Fuel Types You Should Know
Tractors are heavy but efficient equipment used since the Agricultural revolution. We see different types of fuel being used as a way to cut operating costs and increase efficiency with technology.
From Diesel to LPG, tractors need sustainable fuel, and the type you choose depends on your farm’s demands.
Although some fuel types disappeared in the early 20th century, people are slowly finding alternative fuel types with better efficiency and less environmental damage. Turbo-diesel fuels may be the future of farm tractors but we can only wait and see.
We hope this guide has enough insight into tractor fuel types and how to identify which one is compatible with your model.