12.17.2021 By Rich Guida and Erika Howes

Diesel and Alcohol Just Don't Mix

Whether you’re preparing for the wrath of winter or already in the thick of it, the one thing you should never do is turn to a diesel additive that contains alcohol.


Truck drivers, farmers, and diesel engine owners in general, can face serious problems if they’re not prepared when winter weather hits hard. Gelled and frozen fuel filters can cause any diesel engine system to stop working, leaving you stuck in cold and potentially dangerous situations.

“Emergency rescue products that are designed to de-gel fuel in a pinch are essential to have on hand, but not all of them are created equally,” explains Rob Howes, Executive Vice President of Howes Products. “While most may work to break down the gel and get the fuel flowing again, it’s how they do it that’s really important.” When emergency rescue products use alcohol to do the heavy lifting, it can actually lead to disaster.


Diesel engines are not engineered to use alcohol-bearing additives. Alcohol is corrosive and can degrade plastic, rubber, or even metal parts in diesel fuel systems. That’s the last thing you want in a product that’s supposed to be helping you out of an emergency!

Any number of problems can occur if you introduce alcohol to your system. First and foremost, alcohol has a flashpoint of around 65°F, while diesel fuel has an average flash point of around 150°F. Using a product with such a low flash point in diesel fuel is extremely dangerous! Engines run hotter when alcohol is present, which can potentially lead to melted pistons and scuffed cylinder walls. Fuel lines can swell up in the presence of alcohol and tanks often have issues with the coating inside, at times requiring massive structural modifications. Alcohol will scour varnish and deposits out of fuel systems that have remained in place for years. These will eventually wind up in the filter or main jet, choking off the engine's fuel supply. Worse yet, the alcohol itself oxidizes in the tank and produces a tenacious brown glop that's far more damaging to fuel systems than the varnish we're used to seeing in systems burning pure fuel.

“Through our years of experience and constant testing, we’ve also learned that alcohols are often good ‘food’ for bacteria and other troublesome microorganisms that produce sludge. This sludge can cause pitting corrosion of tanks and degrade fuels,” added Rob Howes, who additionally holds the title of Chief Testing Officer at Howes.

Lowflashpoint 550


It’s long been thought that alcohol was the only way to quickly de-gel fuel. Finally, this has been proven to be untrue.

Howes has incorporated state-of-the-art advancements in technology into the development of their products. They have found safer and more effective alternatives to alcohol for de-gelling fuel and melting ice. New Howes Diesel Lifeline® is a revolutionary emergency rescue product that contains absolutely no alcohol. Lifeline’s cutting-edge formula allows it to de-ice frozen fuel filters and re-liquefy gelled fuel not just quickly, but safely as well.

Diesel Lifeline has a flash point that is virtually identical to that of diesel fuel. It is so safe, in fact, that you could actually run your engine on it alone without causing any damage. Lifeline works by chemically modifying the melting points of both ice and wax to make it possible for fuel to flow freely. It is the only rescue product that does not require additional mixing with diesel fuel before pouring it into your system. Even better, it doesn’t require you to change your fuel filters. You just pour it in and let it go to work. It’s wonderful to find a rescue product that works quickly and easily, but it’s essential to find one that works safely as well.

Alcoholfreeproducts 450V2


It’s well worth taking the time to ensure that the fuel additives you use do not contain alcohol. If you are researching a product before you buy, you can check the product’s SDS to see its flash point. If the product you’re researching has a flash point far lower than diesel’s 150°F, there is a good chance it contains alcohol. Another way to check for alcohol is to look through the product’s ingredients. Chemicals like Ethyl Carbinol, Hydroxy Propane, Isopropyl Alcohol, 2-Propanol, and Aliphatic Hydroxy Hydrocarbons are all just different ways to say “alcohol,” and should be avoided at all costs. In a hurry? Simply look for products that clearly state “Alcohol Free” on the label, like Howes Diesel Lifeline. In fact, all Howes additives are alcohol-free and safe to use in any diesel system.



As temperatures continue to become consistently cold, you definitely want to be treating your diesel fuel on a regular basis. At every fill-up, be sure you add Howes Diesel Treat™ to avoid emergencies all together by preventing gelling in the first place. Diesel Treat is the leading anti-gel on the market from one of the oldest, most trusted brands in the space. Filled with more of what your engine needs, Diesel Treat will fight the problems created by today’s Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) fuel, by doing things such as adding lubricity and safely removing water, just to name a few.

To ensure that you make it through winter without a hitch, follow the very simple, Howes two-step winter readiness plan. Step one: use Diesel Treat at every fill-up to prevent gelling. Step two: have a bottle of Diesel Lifeline on hand in case of an emergency. You never know when severe cold will pop up and surprise you. With Howes, you will always be prepared.

Winter Readiness 600