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Can any car be converted into a grease car?

Owning a Greaser
French fries on wheels, or an environmentally sound fuel option?
French fries on wheels, or an environmentally sound fuel option?
Photo courtesy of California State Parks

Being a grease-car owner isn't quite like being the owner of a regular car. For one thing, you're going to be driving a car that smells like french fries. For another, you can't just drive up to a gas station to fill your tank. You become your own gas station, which requires some equipment.

First, you need some proper containers to transport the oil from the restaurant to your house and then store it at home. Since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hasn't approved vegetable oil as a fuel source, you'll have to do some research to find out the best way to handle the stuff. Ask around to find out what other "greasers" use, consult some green-car experts, or find yourself a knowledgeable eco-mechanic to help you safely handle your new fuel source.

The other thing you need is a filtering system. The waste vegetable oil (WVO) from the restaurant has some food particles in it that need to be filtered out before you can gas up with it. You can take the oil to a shop that'll filter it for you, set up your own filtering system using strainers, heaters and oils drums, or buy one for about $700. Once you filter WVO, it becomes SVO, or straight vegetable oil. This is what the car actually runs on.

With your grease-car set-up all ready to go, you'll be driving around on used fryer grease in no time -- and filling up at the gas station almost never. People who average about 13,000 miles (20,921 kilometers) a year have to fill up with diesel only about six times annually, and the car gets about the same mileage it did as a diesel [source: Lloyd]. And while some people warn about extra engine wear because the engine wasn't initially built to run on vegetable oil, most people say they haven't seen any additional wear and tear at all. They just have to do regular maintenance like with any other car, except now they have to change the vegetable oil filter, too.

But will you have to worry about being turned in to the EPA when you go to do that maintenance at the shop? According to experts, there's not much to worry about in that regard. The EPA has yet to fine anyone for driving a greaser -- although you could get nabbed by the state for nonpayment of fuel taxes, so get yourself a fuel license if you go grease.

For more information on grease cars and related topics, look over the links on the next page.