What Color Is Diesel Fuel? (Clear vs Dyed)

If you are like most people, you wouldn’t think there are different colors of diesel fuel when filling up your car. But did you know that fuel nowadays can vary in color?

All around the world, fuel is dyed in various colors to distinguish them for special purposes and is usually referred to as clear or dyed fuel. So you might wonder, what color is diesel fuel?

The regular on-road/clear diesel fuel available for sale at gas stations is slightly green/yellow or does not have color, while dyed diesel fuel that may only be used in off-road vehicles is red.

In this article, we will discuss the colors of diesel fuel and what the differences are. Follow along!

What Color Is Diesel Fuel?

Diesel fuel usually comes in two different types and colors: regular on-road/clear diesel fuel, which is slightly yellow or does not have a color, or dyed diesel fuel, which is red and used for off-road vehicles.

When talking about the color of diesel, most people refer to the shade of green/yellow that regular diesel has. But diesel fuel comes in different colors depending on its purpose of use.

Also read: 7 Reasons Why Your Car Smells Like Gas

Clear Diesel vs. Dyed Diesel

You might not even know there is dyed fuel, and even less, what the differences are? Well, the chemical part of the diesel types is the same.

However, clear and dyed diesel has tax and legal differences, which could be essential to understand if you don’t want to miss out on saving money if you are using off-road vehicles.

Today, the U.S. Government requires diesel gas to be sold in three different ways: clear or colored with red or blue dye.

Regular On-Road/Clear Diesel

The regular on-road/clear diesel is the type of diesel you, me, and everyone else is meant to use in our on-road vehicles, such as cars, trucks, and SUVs – but also marine vehicles.

It is also the most common type of diesel fuel and is likely available for sale at every gas station throughout the United States.

Regular diesel is legally taxable and has a low sulfur content. Every diesel-powered vehicle for on-road purposes must use this fuel.

Off-Road/Red Diesel

This is the most common diesel fuel in the United States. Not every gas station has this diesel because it is not usually available to the public to purchase. However, you may occasionally see some gas stations selling this product.

The red diesel fuel is used for off-road purposes only, such as in construction vehicles, agriculture, farming equipment, residential heating, or manufacturing.

Because it’s used for off-road purposes only, this fuel is not taxed in the U.S. The red dyeing is done to help prevent tax evasion from people using the cheaper off-road fuel for their on-road vehicles.

This type of diesel is blended by most major oil companies such as Shell, Chevron, Texaco, etc.

Blue Diesel

This blue-dyed diesel is identical to red-dyed diesel. However, it is only used in U.S. Government vehicles, and this variation of color helps to separate the clear fuel used by the general public from the diesel used by government on-road vehicles.

Green Diesel

What is green diesel? Well, the term “green diesel” is used more often outside of the United States and is similar to the red diesel Americans are used to.

However, using it as fuel for cars or other on-road vehicles is illegal since it has a lower or no tax at all. In other words, it should only used for specific purposes, such as commercial shipping or in crushers at crushing plants.

But the green diesel doesn’t have to refer to the color of the fuel. In recent years, “green diesel” refers to a form of production and to the fact that it is a more eco-friendly and sustainable fuel source.

Both biodiesel and green diesel are made from plant and animal fats, but green diesel uses refining technology to achieve a more similar product to traditional fuels.

Is Red Diesel Bad?

A common misconception about using dyed diesel fuel is that it will cause a performance loss or even damage your engine. However, there is no proof of that, and the chemical makeup of dyed and clear diesel are the same.

As long as the dyed fuel meets all the specifications of regular diesel, it will not damage your engine or void your warranty. You might only run into issues if you accidentally use dyed diesel in your on-road vehicle.

Dyed diesel is not taxed and is meant for off-road. Using dyed diesel in your on-road vehicle is illegal, and you may be subject to a fine if caught.

Why Is Diesel Fuel Dyed?

In the early 1990s, the U.S. Government started thinking about a way to collect the taxes on gasoline and diesel purchases.

They also saw the benefit of tax exemptions for off-road diesel but noticed a lot of issues with people taking advantage of the tax benefits with this type of diesel when they weren’t supposed to.

Eventually, this resulted in the U.S. government coming up with dyed fuel. This color variation made separating the normally taxed fuels from the lower or non-taxed ones used for special purposes easier.

So, in 1994, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) mandated that all off-road fuel be dyed red.

Dyed Diesel Regulations

The main reason for the difference between clear and dyed diesel fuel is regulatory. Today, the U.S. Government requires that all diesel fuel used for off-road purposes be dyed red to track and tax it properly.

While using offroad diesel in on-road vehicles could be tempting, dyed fuel is strictly regulated by federal and state laws. Improper use of this fuel can result in hefty fines and even significant jail time.

Legal Information About Dyed Diesel Fuel

Dyed diesel is not taxed, which means the federal and state governments are strict about it not being used in on-road vehicles – The regulations surrounding the use of colored diesel range from financial fines to prison.

  • Distributors are not permitted to transport dyed diesel fuel with the intention to sell it to on-road vehicle owners. Retail stores can also not knowingly sell this product for use in on-road vehicles.
  • Customers who purchase dyed diesel cannot knowingly use it in an on-road vehicle. If police officers obtain a cause, they may collect a sample from any gas tank and determine whether the fuel is illegal. If dye is discovered in an on-road vehicle, fines can reach thousands of dollars.
  • Removing dye from diesel is considered a crime. The dyes leave behind microscopic traces that can be detected by lab testing, so it’s pointless. Selling or using dyed diesel with the color removed is regarded as a felony at both the state and federal levels.

How to Know You Are Getting Legal Dyed Diesel

If you are not sure whether the diesel you are getting is legal, there are a few ways to tell.

  1. First, check the label on the pump. Gas stations that sell dyed diesel must have a label on the pump that says if it’s dyed or regular diesel. It is then up to you to see the correct labels to use the right fuel.
  2. Inspect the fuel. To ensure you get the fuel you ordered, you can look at the fuel. You can look through the sight glass on the hose if there is one or use a clear container.
  3. Make sure there is no tampering with the pump or your receipts. Check the pump itself and the label.
  4. Always keep all your receipts and records. If an investigator stops you and it turns out that you are not using the correctly taxed fuel for your purpose. Your receipts and records can determine who is really at fault.

What Color Is Diesel Fuel Pump?

The color of diesel fuel pumps is usually green in the U.S. and black in the U.K. However, there is no official color of the pump handles, and you should never fuel up your car just by the color of the handle or nozzle.

Filling the tank of your car with the wrong fuel can severely damage your engine, leaving you with super expensive repair bills.

However, every fuel pump must be labeled to identify which type of fuel is in the pump. So it is advised to always check the label before filling up your tank.

If the label is missing, you should tell the station attendant.

If you accidentally put diesel in your gasoline car, or wise versa, don’t start the engine! Starting the engine could cause severe damage to your engine. Call a tow truck immediately and tow your car to a professional mechanic.


Can You Mix Dyed and Clear Diesel?

You can mix dyed and clear diesel, but it is not recommended. As mentioned earlier, there is no chemical difference between the two types of diesel. The only difference is that one has been dyed red and the other has not, and the main reason for this is the regulatory of taxes.

Is Red Diesel the Same as Road Diesel?

The chemical part of red diesel and regular diesel is the same. But the red diesel has had a dye added to it to show that it is for non-road use only. The addition of the dye also makes it illegal to use red diesel in a vehicle on the road.

What Happens if You Put Dyed Diesel in Your Car?

If you put red-dyed diesel in your on-road car, which is a vehicle not qualified for using red diesel, it can result in thousands of dollars in fines or even jail time if you get caught.

Is Red Diesel Illegal?

No, red diesel is not illegal. However, there are regulations in place regarding its use. Red diesel is only to be used for off-road purposes. If it is found in an on-road vehicle, the owner may be subject to a fine.

Do I Need a Special License to Buy Dyed Diesel?

No, you do not need a special license to buy dyed diesel. However, you must be sure to use it only for its intended purpose, which is off-road use. If you are caught using it on the road, you may be subject to a fine.

What Is the Penalty for Using Dyed Diesel on the Road?

The penalty for using dyed diesel on the road varies from state to state. However, in most states, the penalty is a fine. The amount of the fine will depend on the amount of fuel in your tank and the state you are in


Diesel fuel is sold either dyed or clear. Clear diesel is the regular, and dyed diesel is usually red as a way to show that it is for non-road use only. The red diesel is not illegal, but there are regulations in place regarding its use. If caught using it on the road, the owner may be subject to a fine of up to thousands of dollars.

The color of the diesel pump is usually green in the U.S. and black in the U.K., but this is not an indication of what type of fuel is in the pump.

Happy driving!





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Rickard Cefalk

Rickard is the owner of Caraspect.com and a dedicated and avid do-it-yourselfer who has always enjoyed working on his own vehicles since childhood. He now devotes his time to sharing his expert knowledge of car maintenance and other car-related information through his website.

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