Differences between petrol and diesel: All the information at a glance

by Johannes

Everyone knows that you should not confuse petrol with diesel at the petrol station. The differences between the fuels are huge – the consequences of confusing them are often expensive. But why is that? Read here about the differences between the two fuels.

Differences between petrol and diesel: What you should know

Both petrol and diesel are made from petroleum. It is a mixture of different hydrocarbons. But both fuels differ significantly:

  • Diesel is heavier than petrol. This is because petrol is derived from the light fractions of crude oil. Diesel, on the other hand, comes from the heavy oil components.
  • But probably the most significant difference is that petrol, unlike diesel, is very flammable. Diesel, on the other hand, only burns when exposed to high heat – it therefore has a high flashpoint.
  • This is one reason why diesel and petrol engines work differently. Petrol is highly flammable and is ignited in the engine by spark plugs. The pressure generated drives the engine.
  • In a diesel engine, on the other hand, there are no spark plugs. The air is highly compressed in the cylinder of the engine. This creates a high heat of up to 600 degrees. The diesel is then added. Because of the intense heat, there is a kind of explosion that powers the engine.
  • Diesel engines convert fuel better, which is why they are usually more economical than petrol engines and you have to fill up less often. On the other hand, the exhaust gases produced by diesel engines have fallen into disrepute, at the latest since the discussion about the high levels of nitrogen pollution.

    Difference between diesel and petrol: Filling up wrong?

    If you have filled up with the wrong fuel, it is generally not good for the engine. As a rule, you cannot avoid having the tank sucked out without first starting the engine.

    • Diesel engines cannot tolerate petrol at all. Even the smallest amounts of petrol can lead to total engine damage.
    • In contrast, many petrol engines can cope quite well with small amounts of diesel. However, damage cannot be ruled out here either.
    • Filling up with the wrong fuel is unfortunately not that rare. What you need to do in such a case is explained in the linked practical tip.

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