Here’s What Happens When You Try Running An Old Diesel Van On Fake WD-40, Brake Fluid, Transmission Fluid And More

I’m currently in the throes of a hardcore wrench-a-thon with a 1994 diesel manual Chrysler Voyager minivan. It should therefore come as no surprise that I’m intrigued by this video featuring a diesel Toyota TownAce van running on (faux) WD-40, automatic transmission fluid, and various other liquids that aren’t diesel. It seems the possibilities are endless!

Most of you have probably heard about diesel vehicles that have been converted to run on used cooking oil, and many have likely heard about “multifuel” engines like those found in military M35 “Deuce-And-A-Half” trucks (these engines could run on diesel, gas, jet fuel, kerosene, and much more).

So while this concept of running a diesel on, well, not-diesel, isn’t new, it’s still exciting to see which liquids will, when atomized and injected into the high-temperature and high pressure environment of a diesel engine’s combustion chamber, yield ignition.

YouTube channel Garage 54 put imitation WD-40, brake fluid, and automatic transmission fluid to the test in an old Toyota van engine, and the results were fun and definitely worthy of me writing up into a blog that will help me fill my quota so that I can go back to wrenching on my van:

Notice how much care the team puts into keeping the injection pump free of air bubbles. This is a big deal; I managed to buy my diesel van for only 500 Euros because it wasn’t running due to a leaky hose that allowed air into the diesel pump. Once such a mechanical pump has become aerated, the only way to get the motor firing is to bleed the system — a job that, in my case, involved a self-described “farm kid” named Loyal filling his lungs with diesel vapour.

But I digress. You came here to discuss using WD-40, automatic transmission fluid, and various other not-diesel-fuels in an old Toyota TownAce.

You won’t be surprised to learn that sunflower seed cooking oil not only smelled great coming from the exhaust, but it ran the engine nicely, and allowed for some decent torque generation, per the host, Vlad. Kerosene also got the job done, as did automatic transmission fluid, though it apparently didn’t let the engine make much torque. Plus, the ATF yielded lots of smoke from the exhaust.

As shown in the video (which was apparently shot over a year ago), the Russian geniuses at Garage 54 also tried DOT 4 brake fluid, predicting that it should work, since diesel owners often pour DOT 4 into their tanks to prevent their fuel from freezing. Indeed, the Toyota van’s motor fired up on pure brake fluid, though it the torque output was as unimpressive as it was when running on ATF.

Unfortunately, Vlad and his crew couldn’t get the motor running properly on the fake-brand WD-40, since the lubricant kept foaming up in the injection pump, making precise diesel injection difficult (remember, you don’t want air in that pump).

Still, it’s cool to see that transmission fluid and brake fluid got the job done. This knowledge could come in handy for me as I begin my European road trip.