The Truth: Will Off-Road Diesel Hurt Your Truck?

will off-road diesel hurt your truck

If you’ve never owned a diesel truck and you’re trying to figure out the differences between off-road diesel and traditional automobile diesel, you’re in the right place. Whether you accidentally filled your tank with the wrong kind or you’re simply curious, you might start to worry about your truck’s longevity.

So, will off-road diesel hurt your truck? No, off-road diesel won’t cause harm to your truck. That being said, it’s illegal to use it because it’s not supposed to be sold for on-road vehicles. You’ll be charged a hefty fine if authorities find out that you’ve been using it.

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following information:

  • The differences between traditional diesel and off-road diesel
  • Whether or not you’re allowed to use them
  • The consequences of mixing them together

What’s the Difference Between Normal Diesel and Off-road Diesel?

The differences between the two types of fuel can help you determine which one you should use. Unless you work for the government or you have a permit, it’s safe to say that you won’t be able to have a choice in the matter. Normal diesel is the only option!

However, if you’re still curious about the various ways that they differ, you’re in luck. Here are the five differences between red (off-road) and green (normal) diesel fuel:

  1. Red diesel has a higher sulfur content than green diesel. It’s about three to four times richer in sulfur, which plays a significant role in the pollution of our environment. More sulfur is not only worse for local habitats, but it’s also a huge problem for people with breathing problems.
  2. Red diesel is illegal for the most part. You won’t be able to use red diesel unless you have a permit, whereas green diesel is open for anyone to use. You’ll more than likely be using green diesel for your truck, which definitely won’t cause any issues. However, red diesel won’t hurt your truck.
  3. Perhaps the most significant difference is that red diesel is tax-free. Criminals often try to get red diesel because they want to avoid spending the tax rate of their local city. It’s a small percentage to avoid a hefty fine that often exceeds $1,000 per violation. It can also land you in jail.
  4. Red diesel has its name because it’s dyed red. This allows law enforcement officers to dip into the tank to see if red dye comes out. If it does, you could be in some serious trouble. There are plenty of truck stops that look for red coloring, so it’s best to avoid it altogether.
  5. Green diesel is much more readily available. Almost all gas stations have green diesel ready to go for trucks and other vehicles that need to use diesel. However, red diesel isn’t as common in areas that don’t have commercial vehicles with a use for it. There are also places that sell it online through shipments as well, such as the Kendrick Oil Company.

As you can see, there are all sorts of differences between red and green diesel. Airlines and other services also dye their diesel multiple colors, such as purple or blue.

You shouldn’t ever use diesel that doesn’t come from a green pump handle. For more information on the legalities of diesel fuel, proceed to the next section.

Is It Legal to Use Red Diesel in My Truck?

Red diesel is actually just diesel that comes with Solvent Red 26 or 164 dye to represent the high sulfur content. However, you should treat the red coloring as a warning sign to stay away from it. Even if you’re not concerned about the dangers that it presents to the environment, your checkbook will thank you if you steer clear.

Using red diesel can result in a $1,000 fine in many states. Some places, such as California, charge $10 per gallon found in your truck. However, the base fine is $1,000, which means that you’ll be charged a fee that’s equivalent to a higher amount of money.

For example, if you have 30 gallons of red diesel in your truck, you’ll be fined $1,000 because it’s still greater than the $300 that it would be otherwise. However, if you have 150 gallons of red diesel stored, you’d be charged 150 x 10 = $1,500 for the offense.

You should always stay away from red diesel, even if the tax reduction seems tempting. The average tax in most cities rests between 7% to 9%, which would make a $100 trip cost only $107 to $109. If you were to be caught for the crime, you’d spend $100 plus the $1,000 fine. Regardless of your standpoint, $109 is a whole lot better than $1,100!

If you want to get a permit to use red diesel fuel, you’ll need a good reason to do so. Agriculture, construction, and off-road business relations are the best reasons to get a permit. However, they don’t guarantee your access. Always follow the necessary legal procedures prior to using it.

As a word of caution, make sure you look at the fuel source every time you buy diesel. Some pumps use red dye and have a green handle. Although the handle is supposed to correspond, mistakes are made and people misplace the right color. If you’re fueling up at a new place, check the labels to save yourself from getting fined.

Can You Mix Diesel and Normal Diesel?

Diesel and normal diesel are both popular choices for fuel, but they’re very different. Everyone knows that mixing diesel with gasoline can have severe and often dangerous side effects, but it’s not the same with diesel and normal diesel.

As mentioned, these two types of diesel fuel are actually referred to as green diesel and red diesel. Mixing the two of them simply causes an imbalance in sulfur content, which doesn’t necessarily cause any harmful issue.

The main concern about mixing the two kinds of fuel is actually that it’s often against the law. If you’ve been using red diesel, there’s a chance that you could get into some serious legal trouble. Avoid using it unless you have a permit to do so.

If you happen to have a permit for using red diesel and you’re using it in your off-road vehicle, you can do so without any worries. It’s allowed to be used in vehicles or equipment that are used for agricultural purposes or for construction. Mixing the two of them will just burn through the fuel slightly quicker than if you’d used red by itself.

Some people prefer to burn through one type of fuel before adding another. For example, if you’re filling high-quality gasoline into your car, it’s a good idea to burn off as much of the low-quality gasoline as possible beforehand. That’s not the case with colored diesel fuel.


Red diesel won’t hurt your truck. It’s just made with a slightly higher concentration of sulfur with man-made red dye inside. However, you’ll be charged with a criminal offense and be fined upwards of $1,000 in most places. In short, your truck won’t be harmed, but your bank account will be.

Here’s a recap of the post:

  • Red diesel is given the name due to the red dye added.
  • There are several dyed diesel fuels.
  • Using green diesel will prevent you from getting in trouble with the law.
  • Aside from dye and sulfur, red diesel can safely be used in commercial vehicles and certain generators.

Jeremy Hoxie

Born and raised in beautiful Northern Michigan, I've have spent two decades enjoying everything the outdoors has to offer. When not working on RigForge, I spend my time Overlanding and tackling off-road trails while sharing my experiences and testing gear along the way. My current rig is a 2013 Jeep JKU Moab.

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