Will Off-Road Diesel Hurt My Truck?

Off-road diesel may look like a cheap alternative to power your truck but using this diesel can have very serious legal consequences. It is so cheap because it is intended to be used on machinery and vehicles that are not used on roads making it illegal for your truck to have the faintest trace of it in your fuel tank. This article will discuss the implications of using off-road diesel in your truck. 

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

There are two common forms of diesel that you will find at your average gas station; on-road and off-road.  

As the name suggests on-road diesel is designed for all vehicles that will be operated on any road open to the public. This diesel is more expensive than off-road alternatives because its price includes extra taxes for using roads.

Off-road diesel is designed to be operated by equipment (and occasionally vehicles) that will not be used on roads. It is commonly used for things like generators, forklifts, and excavation equipment that might be used to maintain private property.

This diesel is not taxed because the vehicles operated using the fuel are not expected to use roads and shouldn’t be subjected to contribute to the upkeep and maintenance of public roads. 

There is also a color difference between the two fuels to make it easy to detect what form of diesel you use in your truck. Off-road diesel is infused with a bright red dye that is hard to flush from your fuel tanks and can be detected with testing even if only a few small particles remain. On-road diesel is clear. 

Both types of diesel are made with the same formula in all other aspects than the change in fuel color. 

Can I Put Off-Road Diesel in My Truck?

This question can be looked at in two ways, is it legal to put off-road diesel in your truck, and is it practical to put off-road diesel in your truck.


From a legal standpoint, it is only legal to use off-road diesel if the truck remains on your private property. This means that you can’t legally cross any public roads even if you are only going directly to private property. This will dramatically decrease the practicality of your vehicle as it strongly limits the amount of use you can get from your vehicle from a legal standpoint. 

If you were to operate your vehicle fuelled with off-road diesel on public roads you risk excessive fines of anywhere up to $10 000 depending on your state. This is because off-road diesel is tax-exempt to increase the fairness of diesel prices for people who are using it simply to power generators and private property. Operating a car with off-road diesel on roads is considered a form of tax evasion and on top of fines, you can even be charged back-tax by the IRS. 

As another legal consideration of using off-road fuel for your vehicle, it can limit your tax deductions in the future. As you do not pay tax when purchasing this diesel, you can’t claim repayment as part of your tax return. Therefore, if your truck is being used as a company vehicle or as any part of a personal business you could be losing money and benefits in the long run.

To avoid losing this money you should see a tax consultant discuss whether you may be eligible for claiming fuel on your tax return and weigh up the cost and benefits of sacrificing this for a few dollars off of each fill up. 

Contrary to popular belief using off-road fuel legally on your property will not void your warranty with the manufacturer.  As mentioned earlier the only real difference between on and off-road diesel is the tell-tale dye.

Off-road diesel will not void your warranty under most circumstances and as long as you are operating the vehicle lawfully you should experience no real complications for your choice to run your truck using it.


In terms of practicality, off-road diesel will work as effectively and efficiently as ordinary diesel. This is because there is no actual change in the composition and formula of the diesel. It contains the same formula and ingredients as on-road diesel (excluding the dye) and is only marked differently due to the issues discussed earlier with roads taxes and tax exemption. 

The only difference in off-road fuel is the chemical dye which can be detected even in the smallest amounts. Police often carry fuel testing kits that can detect trace amounts of this dye to check that you are operating the vehicle within the eyes of the law.

This means that if you do choose to operate your vehicle on off-road diesel you will be dramatically inhibiting its usefulness as a vehicle. You will not be able to operate your truck in any normal capacity and even a trip to the store for some bread can land you with a fist full of fines.

To conclude off-road diesel functions in the same practical way, however, using off-road diesel can dramatically decrease the practicality of your vehicle as an everyday vehicle. 

What Happens if I Put Off-Road Diesel in My Truck?

Will Off-Road Diesel Hurt My Truck?

In terms of your truck’s mechanical health, off-road diesel will have no serious impact. It will not ruin your truck or render it undrivable because it is essentially the same fuel but designed for a different purpose. So, if you accidentally fill your vehicle with off-road diesel there’s no reason to panic about potential damage.

What does happen is that red dye is released into your fuel tank. This dye is designed to make it easy for the police to verify whether you have been using on or off-road diesel. This dye is quite strong and can remain in the fuel tank even if you try to flush out the fuel tank with on-road diesel.

If you use off-road fuel consistently it will take even more tanks of on-road fuels to ensure that the dye is fully removed from the fuel tank. The reason this is an issue is that the testing kits police use to detect the dye is very powerful and if you do not properly flush the tank you are at risk of fines ranging anywhere between $100-$10 000 depending on your state. 

When you put off-road diesel in your truck the law expects that you will ONLY use your truck on private property. This means it is a declaration of sorts that you will not be using this vehicle on public roads. If you do use the vehicle on public roads, you can be fined and charged by the IRS for tax evasion.

Can I Use Off-Road Diesel in My New Truck?

If you are intending to use your vehicle only on private property then it’s safe to use off-road diesel in a new truck. It is practically identical to standard diesel and will work in the same way without causing any mechanical issues. Using off-road diesel will not damage or impact your new truck in any significant way. 

It could be beneficial to fill your new ute with a tank or two full of on-road diesel to coat the fuel tank and prevent the dye included in off-road fuel from sticking to the walls of the tank. This may come in handy if you change your mind and decide to flush out the tank to use the vehicle regularly.

It’s worthy to note that if you think you might change your mind about the use of your new truck alternating to normal diesel every few tanks will make it easier to flush the dye out if you eventually decide to use it as a daily car.

While this may cost you a little extra in the meantime it can save you a large fine in the future as using only off-road diesel for a longer period will increase the dye particles in the fuel tank which can lead to an increased risk of being detected and you being fined in the future.


Off-road diesel is perfectly safe for your truck and as it is almost identical to on-road diesel and has not short or long-term impact on the way your truck runs. It’s also safe for newer trucks. However, operating off-road fuel on-roads can result in expensive legal repercussions and the dye contained in the diesel can linger after multiple tanks of ordinary diesel.

In conclusion, to avoid legal expenses ensure that you use off-road diesel on vehicles you intend to only use on your private property and be mindful to thoroughly flush your fuel tanks should you change your mind and use this vehicle on public roads.

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