Converting an old (1987) Ford pickup to run on butane gas

Years ago, 1976 or so, I picked up a set of instruction to convert a gasoline engine to run on butane gas. Is this safe? I keep thinking about having a tank of highly explosive gas up against the back of my cabin. Also, will it be cheaper? Given the cost of butane today, is it worth it? Thanks and regards, Nelson Garcia, Miami, FL.

The only reason I can think of to do something like this is if the truck is run indoors. Plenty of forklifts run on compressed natural gas (propane, I believe) because there is much less (or zero) carbon monoxide gas in the exhaust.

This does not sound safe or reasonable in a standard gas powered pickup. Even if it is cheaper, you would have to drive it for the next 378 years to make up the cost of the conversion. And you might pick up a Darwin Award in the process.

You may be referring to this 1972 article from Mother Earth News:

According to the article, the propane (not butane) conversion is not difficult or very expensive for a carbureted vehicle. As for the relative costs, the author says that performance is about the same for a gallon of propane vs. a gallon of gas. So call up some local propane suppliers and ask them what the current price per gallon is.

The pickup conversion would actually be pretty safe, because you could put the tank in the bed of the truck right behind the cab, where it would be well protected from collision, but still readily accessible. The author of the article converted a VW bus, and he had to put the tank on top of the bus, which was not so convenient.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and propane are two very different things.

The hardware for such a conversion is not cheap. Filling up is often a problem in my neighborhood with fuel available only Monday through Friday 8:00 'till 5:00 at a couple of locations. It would seem to be far from cost effective here.

One other thing - I’d worry more about leaks if the truck is stored inside a garage. Lots of connections in a conversion like this.

Google ‘propane conversions’, see what you find. Lots of sites. Does your truck have a carb? That seems to be a requirement, converting a fuel injected vehicle appears to be impractical.

First: Butane has a very low boiling temperature (around freezing at 1ATM), so any butane conversion would be a vehicle that could not be operated anywhere cold. Propane and CNG (predominately methane) woudl not have this problem.

Second: Where would you source butane? I’ve only seen butane commercially available in small quantities (such as for a camping stove) which would not be economically viable as a means of powering a vehicle. You need to price and source your fuel before even considering such an option.

Third: The price of propane and CNG is readily available. (CNG averages $7/1,000 ft^3–mcf–where I live). Also, CNG is likely available right at your residence, to power furnace(? in FL), hot water heater, etc. Gvien that a mcf roughly equals 1,000,000BTU and a gallon of gas = 130,000 BTU, CNG goes for ~ $1/gallon equivalent where i live.

Fourth: There are plenty of used fleet vehicles that are “dual-fuel”–gasoline and propane or (typically) CNG. These are in use already and require no conversion.

So–if you want to go alt-fuel–my recommendation would be to purchase a former fleet vehilce already set up to run dual-fuel, preferably CNG. I would definitely price out fuel and determine availability first.

CNG is only available at the OP’s residence if the OP has an expensive high-pressure compressor rated for natural gas. CNG is at 1000’s of PSI, natural gas for your stove is at only a few PSI.

In Mexico, the LP gas is indeed Butane…It burns like propane but the tanks operate at lower pressure…It may be marketed in Florida where cold temperatures are seldom a problem…When used as a vehicle fuel, price is usually the problem…It’s a little cheaper than gasoline, but not much…

Not counting the conversion cost…running on Propane/NG or Butane…the performance and gas mileage will be greatly reduced. Many city bus’s and school bus’s run on Propane or NG.

Vehicles that run on Propane or NG polute a LOT less…and you can drastically extend your oil changes (15-20 k miles OR MORE).

id run with propane and definitately and surely update your instructions. Ive seen a few autos that run on propane…cant say as ive heard much whinning about it

There are large stationary engines, diesels, usually operating a generator, that use NG or landfill methane as their primary fuel…The technology employed to do this is a mystery to me…Is the gas injected into the combustion chamber as in a conventional diesel or what?

Someone told me that a percentage of gas went in with the intake air then a small amount of diesel fuel was injected to ignite the entire charge…I don’t know if that is right or not…

Ford had factory propane F-Series in that year, 1987,. Theres almost no difference, really and its not at all hard to do…propane that is. Yes it will run on any of those volatile carbon chain things…the timing curve on the distributor is a bit different. Carburetor and engine coolant/propane converter are made by IMPCO. Ford offered propane on F150,250,350, 750,850 on the 4.9L and 429…fleet sales only.

Years ago I met a guy from western Canada who had his 1980’s vintage Ford Motorhome converted to run on propane. He said where he lives gas is taxed heavily while propane was not, making it a no-brainer, and a lot of people where he lived do these conversions. Of course, that only works until enough people convert their vehicles to propane, then the government will start taxing it like gasoline!

He told me that with propane, you don’t run out of gas the same way as you do with gasoline, the vehicle just loses more and more power as the pressure in the tank goes down.

The drivability is nearly the same. Propane has noticably less power. Propane boils at a fairly high temperature (-20F, I think) You must use a heat exchanger(engine coolant) to warm the propane or the carb will freeze up for sure. It is neither expensive nor difficult to convert…the carburetors are simple and quite easy to adjust/repair/overhaul, etc. Fleet vehicles (propane delivery…F800, Schwans trucks some phone company trucks) ran this way.

I ask the OP,why did you specify that you wanted to use butane for your fuel?