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Espresso Express CLOSED

We are sad to announce that after 27 years of business Espresso Express, the host of our Biodiesel station at 6500 15h Ave NE, has closed.  The good news however is that there is a new opportunity for someone to host our station and be a part of the solution to our energy and environmental crisis!  If you are interested in helping the sustainable fuel movement and have a location that could support our fuel station, please contact us. 

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Saving Local Biodiesel: The Death of Inland Empire Oilseeds.

The machinations of an ineffective national and global economy has claimed yet another so-called “Green Energy” business, as Odessa, WA based Inland Empire Oilseeds looks to have closed down its production for good.  The ultimate fate of the remnants of the company are now left to the determination of the bankruptcy courts, as the company’s creditors have filed for an involuntary Chapter 11, while the company management have asked to have it switched to Chapter 7 liquidation.

This is not the first time that I.E.O. has shut down operations.  It commenced operations in 2008 as a cooperative venture of, among other entities, the Odessa Union Warehouse Cooperative, Reardan Grain Growers, and individual investors.  I.E.O. had hoped to develop an Eastern Washington canola market by urging farmers to grow canola in rotation with wheat.  During this time, I.E.O became the primary source of fuel for Dr. Dan’s Biodiesel, providing a high-quality canola biodiesel with superb cold-weather properties.  But the company was forced to cease production in the summer of 2010 due to a lack of capital, spurred by the lapse of a national biodiesel blender’s tax credit and an inadequate RINs (renewable energy credits for fuel) market.

The tax credit was eventually re-installed (retroactive to all of 2010 as well as 2011) during the Congressional budget negotiations in December of 2010.  But the credit would once again lapse for 2012.  In the summer of 2011, I.E.O. came under new management, by a group calling themselves 1138 LLC, and finally resumed large-scale production and was then able to step up as a major supplier to Dr. Dan’s.

The tax credit was once again renewed (and again retroactively for 2012) this January, but the end affect was that major producers were forced to operate without profit margins during the periods the credit was not in place, placing producers under unnecessary financial duress.  The tax credit has not necessarily resulted in decreased end-user pump prices for biodiesel consumers mainly due to biodiesel producer’s efforts to keep market prices as stable as possible.

Meanwhile, in July of 2012 1138, LLC took control of 75% ownership of the company, the remaining 25% remaining in the hands of the original investment group.  There were plans at the time to significantly increase production, but by then the original model had become somewhat distorted; with most of the feedstock coming from Canada, high wheat prices affecting farmer’s willingness to grow canola, and unstable commodity markets severely compromising price controls for canola oil.

At the end of the day, Inland Empire Oilseeds represents yet another in a long line of failed “new economy” ventures rendered unworkable by the obsolete market forces, which still drive commercial agriculture.

So what does this mean for the end user?  As the biodiesel consumer it seems increasingly likely that our only hope to fight these mega-million dollar market manipulators is to band together to demand better products at better prices.  This is the heart of the cooperative movement; and this is exactly why we need the Sustainable Fuel Co-op to be able to work for area sustainable fuel users.  All you need to do is join the cause at and help push for a new economy

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TDI Service: Keep your TDI Reliable and Healthy at Dr. Dan’s

We have noticed that many VW TDI’s are not getting the maintenance they require, leading to expensive repairs and breakdowns.

Timing belt intervals:  This can be a complicated subject, since VW’s recommended interval has changed many times over the course of TDI production. There is a different interval for almost every year of TDI, and sometimes even within the same year depending on transmission type! To make matters worse, in the case of some models Volkswagen updated the interval after the cars were produced, so even your owner’s manual may not give you the current correct information.

All of this can make it difficult to know exactly when your car needs its belt done — including for VW dealers themselves, who we have known to commonly replace belts too early or too late. Fortunately, we have made this part easy for you. To find the most up-to-date interval for your particular car, just check out the handy PDF table we have compiled here, and look up your year and model.

If you bought your car used and don’t know if the timing belt has been replaced or what maintenance has been done we are happy to check it out for you.

A proper timing belt replacement on a TDI involves more than just changing the timing belt. In addition to the belt itself, the belt tensioner roller, all idler rollers, the water pump, and the serpentine belt should be replaced, as well as a handful of seals and hardware bits. Installing the new belt correctly is a complex task that involves a large number of special tools and procedures, including a computerized injection timing adjustment. Cutting corners on any of these steps can result in the car running poorly, having difficulty starting, getting worse mileage, or in extreme cases experiencing internal engine damage.  For Instance, we have seen repair shops who just change the belt, only to have the water pump fail just 20K miles later, resulting in the work needing to be done all over again.

Regular Maintenance Saves $$$!:  We provide expert, biodiesel-friendly auto repair and service for TDI’s and all diesels from Benzes, Volvos, and older VWs to Jeeps, Sprinters, and Powerstrokes. We like to save our customers from unnecessary or inadequate repairs recommended by other shops and we work on many TDI’s and older diesels; there is little we haven’t seen.

Biodiesel is wrongly blamed for emission testing failures, injection pump failures, plugged intake manifolds and turbos, leaking hoses and seals, and more. We can prevent and repair most of these problems with the care and thoroughness required to keep you car running as long as possible.

TDIs can be fantastic vehicles and great for biodiesel, and they are not expensive to own as long as you stay on top of the recommended maintenance and fix problems before they can cause additional harm. However, time is going by and these cars are getting older, and as they age we have been starting to see more frequent issues with a number of components.  Some examples of this are mass airflow and coolant temp sensors going bad on 1998-2003 cars, fuel pickup valves sticking, electric fuel pumps dying on 2004-2005 Golfs and Jettas, and several other common issues.  We have seen injector pumps go bad because of a simple clogged fuel filter; a regular maintenance item costing a few dozen $$’s becoming a major repair which is $1500+!

The onset of symptoms of these problems is often gradual, so they can sneak up on you. When you are driving the car every day it is difficult to notice subtle changes in its operation. It is important to pay attention and have the car checked out occasionally in order to keep your TDI happy and avoid big repair bills. If you catch these issues early on when they first arise, the repairs are quick and cheap — but if you let them go too long, they can cause damage to other components and then the repairs start to get expensive. If your car doesn’t have as much pep as it used to, is getting harder to start, has a check engine light on, or is showing any other sign of needing help, be sure to have it checked out sooner rather than later so we can address the problem before it becomes more serious.  We have had people bring their cars in because they failed an emission test and discover a whole host of problems that could have been easily avoided with regular and proper maintenance.

The two keys to being a happy biodiesel user are good, local, sustainable fuel and a healthy car! Awareness and prevention are your main tools. Give us a call or stop in next time you fill up if you need to schedule an appointment for service.

For additional information, take a look at our new Youtube Channel:
There are several videos which explain many of the common TDI maintenance issues and how to deal with them. We also encourage you to share some of your own stories about biodiesel, maintenance and your TDI on our Dr. Dan’s Facebook page.

Have a great Spring and thanks for supporting sustainable biodiesel!

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A Friendly Winter Reminder


With our recent snow and ice drama here in town we just wanted to remind you that our Sustainable Fuel Co-Op B-99 has superior cold weather performance.  Don’t get stuck with frozen fuel, plugged fuel filters and leaky injection pumps from under filtered Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel. Almost all of our work in the shop last week was repairing cars towed in from using other station’s fuel!


cars for sale!
Dan has a couple cars for sale, check ’em out on Craigslist!
We also have a customer selling his ’84 Mazda B-2200 diesel pickup.  We have the infor here at the shop.
Join SFC!


We are looking for people committed to a future of sustainable energy to join the Sustainable Fuel Co-op.
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Sustaining your Sustainable car [video]

Utah Biodiesel Supply posted this youtube video of Dr. Dan’s presentation at last August’s Collective Biodiesel Conference.


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Inga at Alpental
Dr. Dan’s trusty Volvo 240 Diesel regularly spends the night at Snoqualmie pass during the winter and runs on fuel from Dr. Dan’s pumps

It is important to remember that 24-hour average temperature is usually what to take into consideration. When you drive your car regularly or it warms up enough during the day it is far less likely you will have problems.

Adding a mix of petroleum diesel and winter additives to your fuel will reduce the gelling temperature and reduce the risk of your having problems.  Keep in mind that a typical Seattle winter does not typically see cold enough weather for long enough for there to be serious issues with this method.

It is always good advice to keep track of temperatures during cold snaps, if you park your car outside for any long periods of time and use B99/100.  One trick is to keep a small sample in a re-used plastic drink bottle inside your car.  If the small sample has gelled, chances are the fuel in the tank has too.

Some B99 users have problems with running a blend during the winter, and this is mainly a problem due to using dirty petroleum diesel.  DON’T BUY DIRTY DIESEL!

The chemistry of biodiesel can be complicated, and there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to cloud points and cold-start capabilities.  Where one user may experience drop-out and a clogged filter, the next may have not an ounce of trouble.  As always, If it is going to be well below freezing for an extended period of time where you keep your car, take appropriate action.

Mind your mix and watch the temperatures!

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October TDI Check-Up Special

Greetings from Dr. Dan’s!

As the leaves and seasons begin to change, this is our friendly reminder that it’s that time of year again to make sure your TDI is ready for the cooler months ahead, and get caught up on your scheduled maintenance.

Prepare your Car for Colder Weather

TDIs need a strong battery to start well in cold weather! Every time the temperature drops we get cars towed in that started fine all summer, then refuse to start on the first cold morning. If your battery is more than six years old, it’s probably time for a new one. Diesels also need a healthy glow plug system to start easily and smoothly when it’s cold outside. If you have had a check engine light on for faulty glow plugs or glow plug harness, your car’s operation will not be affected in warm weather, but when the temperature drops below 45F or so it can cause hard, smoky starting — and for those of us who drive a diesel for its green virtues, big smoky clouds of particulates are something we try to avoid making! A good battery, a good fuel filter, and a functional glow system are the keys to making your winter starts quick, easy and clean. Getting those items checked and sorted out *before* the cold weather hits is the best way to make sure you don’t end up dealing with the hassle and expense of a breakdown and tow on a frosty morning.

Through the month of October we are offering our annual Fall Service Special that includes a battery and charging system test, new fuel filter, glow plug system check, brake check, and full vehicle look-over for $99.00 plus tax. Call us for an appointment to bring your car in for its fall check-up to ensure your winter travels this year are trouble-free!

Cold Weather and ULSD Fuel Leaks

Another cold-weather issue that comes up particularly for owners of 1996-2003 TDI’s are fuel leaks from the injection pump. TDI’s from those years are prone to pump leakage if the pump seals have not been replaced. The original seal material is not compatible with ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel, which has been at fuel stations since 2007. Exposure to ULSD over time will make older pump seals shrink and begin to leak fuel out of the pump, which can lead to various problems ranging from starting difficulties to cooling system damage as well as making a big mess. Fortunately, one cheap temporary solution that takes care of this issue during warmer months is biodiesel, which is effective at swelling the old seals up again and curing leaks when used in high blend percentages. (You can watch Dr. Dan demonstrate this effect in a YouTube video.)

However, if you are one of the people who is relying on B99 to keep your pump from leaking, the winter can be a difficult time. When the weather gets cold, you may end up trying to walk a fine line between keeping your bio blend percentage high enough to avoid fuel leaks, but at the same time keeping enough diesel in the tank to make sure you don’t end up with gelled fuel. Erring too far in either direction can result in a dead car and a tow! The permanent fix for this is replacing the injection pump seals with an updated seal material that is compatible with ULSD fuel. If your car still has its original pump seals and you have been delaying getting them fixed, now is a great time to do it so that you can enjoy greater flexibility in your fuel choice this winter — especially if you are planning any out-of-town travel. We charge about 20% less the VW dealer for this repair and feel we offer a much superior product. Give us a call to discuss options if you haven’t had your pump seals upgraded yet.

From all of us at Dr. Dan’s and the Sustainable Fuel Co-Op, we wish you a happy fall season.

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Sprinter and Liberty CRD Service

Dr. Dan’s is your local specialist for Sprinter and Jeep CRD service and repairs!

Owners of Dodge/Mercedes Sprinter vans and Jeep Liberty CRD’s know that finding someone competent to work on their vehicle without spending a fortune can be a challenge. Sprinters and CRD Jeeps are great, efficient, useful vehicles and great choices for biodiesel use, but they are unique and require a specific skill set to diagnose and fix properly. Few independent garages have the necessary equipment or experience to do anything but the most basic repairs, while dealership service is expensive and sometimes not any more effective.

Let us be your superior alternative for Sprinter and Jeep CRD service. We offer years of specific experience and expertise with the Sprinter and Liberty platforms and diesel engines, and are equipped with the latest enhanced diagnostic equipment, special tools, and OEM-quality parts to keep your truck performing at its best. Sprinters and CRD Jeeps each have a handful of common issues that we see regularly and are experienced with fixing quickly and at a minimum cost. However, these same familiar problems can often take a less-experienced shop hours of diagnosis and replacement of unnecessary parts to (maybe!) fix, meaning expense and inconvenience for the customer and less likelihood of a successful repair. Not all dealership service departments have a mechanic that is trained and certified for diesel repairs, and those that do often charge high prices for labor and parts.

From check engine lights and routine maintenance, to Sprinter fuel filter upgrades and transmission rumble strip noise fixes, to Liberty FCV/EGR problems, alternator pulleys, and timing belts — we have the equipment, parts, and know-how to keep your diesel Sprinter or Liberty on the road and trouble-free with minimal downtime and at a price you can afford.

Questions? Call us at 783-5728 to learn more or schedule an appointment!

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TDI Tech: Surviving Summer Heat

Summer has officially begun, and warmer temperatures are finally headed our way here in Seattle (we hope!). Summer weather makes for great travel conditions, but it puts stress on your cooling system that can bring any weak components to their breaking point. A thorough check-over of your TDI’s cooling and air-conditioning systems at the beginning of the summer travel season is a good idea to ensure reliable, trouble-free operation through the warmer weather.

1996-2003 TDI’s are prone to fuel leaks from the injection pump caused by use of ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel. In many cases these leaks are intermittent (leaking more when running diesel, and generally leaking less or not at all when using biodiesel as shown in our YouTube video here), and the leaks may not be severe or consistent enough to make a noticeable difference in the car’s operation. However, over time, the occasional drips of leaking fuel can damage and weaken the coolant hoses that run directly beneath the injection pump, putting them at risk for rupturing just when it is most inconvenient. It is critical to catch a failure like this before it happens and results in an overheated engine, which can lead to major damage and repairs. If your hoses show any signs of flaring, blistering, bulging, or softness like those shown above, or you can smell fuel odor under the hood, make sure you repair the compromised hoses and get the source of the fuel leak fixed before this comparatively minor problem turns into a much more serious one!

The water pump on most TDI’s is driven by the timing belt and hidden from view, making it difficult to detect any coolant leakage there and take preventive action unless the leak is already severe. A new water pump should always be installed whenever the timing belt is being replaced as a preventive measure, and good-quality pumps usually last at least the lifetime of the belt (40 to 100k depending on model), but we have seen pumps leak as early as 60k so there are always exceptions to the rule. A thorough pressure test is the best way to reveal any hidden problems while they are still in their early stages, and ensure that the system is healthy and leak-free. TDI’s are also susceptible to failures of the original-style coolant temperature sensor, which can cause a variety of problems from poor starting to a check-engine light. An updated part is available (recognizable by its green color, compared to the black of the original-style sensor) that is more reliable, and the part is cheap, so if your car still has its original sensor it’s a good idea to have it replaced preemptively if the coolant has to be drained anyway for another repair.

Keeping your engine cool is not much good if you can’t stay cool yourself. TDI’s are equipped with great air conditioning systems, but they depend on air flowing across the car’s radiator and condenser to function effectively. This means your car’s radiator fans are a critical part of the system, especially when you are stuck in traffic. VW’s have two dual-speed electric fans to pull air through the radiator and A/C condenser. Oftentimes those fans will fail in such a way that they still work on the high speed, which keeps the engine coolant from overheating, but no longer function on the low speed, which means your air conditioner has to work overtime to keep cooling at low vehicle speeds when there is no air flowing across the condenser. The high temperatures and pressures that arise in the system under these abnormal conditions can cause the compressor and other A/C components to fail prematurely, resulting in expensive repairs. Having the radiator fans’ operation checked and, if necessary, fixed can go a long way towards keeping both you and your A/C system comfortable and happy this summer.

Finally, if you suffer from seasonal allergies, you can rest easy knowing that your TDI is equipped with a pollen filter that is designed to keep allergens out of the cabin. But… when was the last time that filter was changed?? As the charcoal pollen filter ages, it loses its effectiveness and gets plugged with organic debris. Replacing the filter with a new activated-charcoal element will make your travel experience much more pleasant.

Give yourself some extra peace of mind and avoid potential trouble on the road this summer by giving your TDI a full seasonal check-up and making sure all cooling components are up to the task of whatever the weather may bring. A cool, happy car means cool, happy travelers!

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