Around this time last year, 2019, was my very first snow experience. It wasn’t that much of a deal for me, I wasn’t that excited. In fact, it took 5 years since I moved here in Australia before I decided to give it a go. That is despite all my friends, including my wife, talking about it every time of the year. To me it was just, ice. And it’s not going anywhere, we can always go next year (Mt. Hotham changed my perception though).
I left all the planning to my wife — accommodations, itineraries, etc. From my side, well, I made sure I had snow chains and of course, a toboggan. And because we will be tagging along with our uncle and his family, we went to their house and talked about it over dinner. Then he asked me, is your car diesel? Yes, I replied. Well you need some alpine diesel for that. I’m like, what is that thing? How can I not know this?
First of all, let’s talk a little bit about the regular diesel. Diesel fuels are just like the regular petrol in terms of, well, being in a liquid form. When we talk about chemistry though, it gets more complicated so let’s leave that to the nerds. For us lesser mortals, we only need to know that, diesel, in low temperatures, becomes thick. Almost like a jelly — talk about layman’s term.
From here on, it’s not rocket science. Imagine having some jelly in your gas tank. Imagine the filters, think about the engine. Jelly is bad for the engine. Trust me, there’s way too much sugar! Seriously though, a highly viscous diesel will clog up your filters, and can ruin your engine.
What is Alpine Diesel?
Now that we know about the jelly, we know we want to maintain our diesel’s normal viscosity, or consistency, under snowy conditions. That is where the Alpine Diesel comes in. Simply put, it’s a type of diesel that can withstand temperatures below zero. Luckily for us, petrol stations in snow destinations have them. In fact, Mt. Hotham only had alpine diesels when I was there.
So we were going to start our climb at Mt. Hotham and I still had around 40% of diesel in my tank. I thought, I’ll wait for it to be at around 30% or less before loading up some AD. Much to my dismay, I couldn’t find any petrol stations along the way. Too late now.
At around 2 degrees Celsius, my dashboard started to light up the snowflake icon, meaning we are in an icy condition. I found it pretty cool to be honest. At the back of my mind though, what if I got the jelly now? What if my car stalls? With a 2-year old girl in tow, this could be terrible.
Luckily, we made it to the top with no issues. However, while we were playing around and taking photos, I couldn’t help but think about my car. It’s been parked for a while now, engine has totally cooled down and it’s partially covered in snow. What if it doesn’t start? I was anxious.
Long story short, we survived Mt. Hotham with no alpine diesel. Maybe it wasn’t cold enough (it was -4C from the top of my head), maybe modern engines aren’t really that vulnerable anymore, or maybe I just got lucky. Whatever it was, loading up on alpine diesel or one of those additives would have given me some peace of mind. Just like buying an insurance, you know you may not get to use it, but you buy peace of mind — it’s just as important.
If for some reason you do miss the last petrol station, don’t stress yourself, have fun, and remember that somebody actually made it back without issues. 🙂