Suitability of vegetable oil as an alternative to diesel fuel in compression ignition engines has become attractive, and research in this area has gained momentum because of concerns on energy security, high oil prices, and increased emphasis on clean environment. The experimental work reported here has been carried out on a turbocharged direct-injection multicylinder truck diesel engine using diesel fuel and jatropha methyl ester (JME)-diesel blends. The results of the experimental investigation indicate that an increase in JME quantity in the blend slightly advances the dynamic fuel injection timing and lowers the ignition delay compared with the diesel fuel. A maximum rise in peak pressure limited to 6.5 per cent is observed for fuel blends up to 40 per cent JME for part-load (up to about 50 per cent load) operations. However, for a higher-JME blend, the peak pressures decrease at higher loads remained within 4.5 per cent. With increasing proportion of JME in the blend, the peak pressure occurrence slightly advances and the maximum rate of pressure rise, combustion duration, and exhaust gas temperature decrease by 9 per cent, 15 per cent and 17 per cent respectively. Although the changes in brake thermal efficiencies for 20 per cent and 40 per cent JME blends compared with diesel fuel remain insignificant, the 60 per cent JME blend showed about 2.7 per cent improvement in the brake thermal efficiency. In general, it is observed that the overall performance and combustion characteristics of the engine do not alter significantly for 20 per cent and 40 per cent JME blends but show an improvement over diesel performance when fuelled with 60 per cent JME blend. © IMechE 2008.