top of page

I Want to Understand Tractor Fuel Types

We want to help you understand all the various tractor fuel types.

Let’s go through each of them.


Diesel fuel first appeared in large agricultural crawlers in the 1930s.

It became a major fuel source for farm tractors in the 1950s.

Early diesel engines were difficult to start, so they were used sparingly.

Some manufacturers built spark-ignition diesel engines. Others built engines that started on gasoline and were switched over to diesel. And then some built small gasoline "pony motors" to warm and start the diesel main engine.

By 1960, diesel engines had greatly improved and started becoming popular for large farm tractors.

By the 1970s, nearly all farm tractors started using diesel engines.


In the early part of the 20th century, Kerosene was commonly used as tractor fuel.

Like tractor-fuel, it was used in "all fuel" engines after the engine had warmed enough to allow efficient combustion of the kerosene.

Cheaper gasoline after World War II, plus the emergence of diesel engines, caused kerosene to disappear as tractor fuel.


Starting in 1892, gasoline became fuel for farm tractors.

Most tractors built through World War II either used gasoline or could use gasoline (in an all-fuel engine).

By the 1960s, diesel was replacing gasoline as the primary fuel.

Gasoline was often an option into the 1970s.

Today, gasoline is only used in lawn tractors or other small equipment.

LP Gas

Liquified propane (aka “LP”) was commonly used in the 1950s and 1960s as a fuel for farm tractors.

Farmers began converting their gasoline engines to less costly LP gas in the 1950s.

Manufacturers began offering these engines as an option.

LP gas engines were discontinued as diesel engines became prevalent.

Tractor fuel/distillate/TVO

Known as tractor vapourising oil or distillate --- this once-cheap fuel was commonly used in farm tractors.

Tractor fuel’s use ended around the start of World War II.

Many manufacturers built low-compression "all fuel" engines. They were designed to burn gasoline, kerosene, or tractor fuel. The engine was started on gasoline from a small tank and then switched to tractor fuel once it was warm.

Tractor fuel, a low-grade fuel, was produced between gasoline and diesel in the traditional distillation of crude oil. New refining techniques made it possible to convert this into more useful fuels. Then it started to disappear.

There also was a high grade of tractor fuel called Power Fuel. It had a lower grade than gasoline and a higher grade than distillate or kerosene.

Power fuel was sometimes formulated to avoid road taxes typically imposed on automotive fuel.

Tractor fuel engines run on modern gasoline.

Today’s lowest grade of gasoline is usually better than the highest grade available when these engines were built.

If you need any further help or have any questions about fuel types, tractors, or anything else, please contact your dealer, local mechanic, or call us at 602-734-9944. Please ask about our current new and used tractor supply.

Team Tractor and Equipment - #1 Tractor Dealer in Arizona. We sell and service most major brands of tractors including Yanmar, Kubota, John Deere, TYM, Mahindra, Kioti, Case, New Holland, Massey Ferguson, Ford, Deutz, Case IH, Farmall, International Harvester, Branson Tractors, LS, Shibura, Claas Tractor, McCormick Tractors, Valtra, Solis, YTO, Montana, and Nortrac.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page