An experimental investigation of the effects of ceramic coatings on diesel engine performance and exhaust emissions was conducted. Tests were carried out over a range of engine speeds at full load for a standard metal piston and two pistons insulated with 0.5 mm and 1.0 mm thick ceramic coatings. The thinner (0.5 mm) ceramic coating resulted in improved performance over the baseline engine, with the gains being especially pronounced with decreasing engine speed. At 1000 rpm, the 0.5 mm ceramic coated piston produced 10% higher thermal efficiency than the metal piston. In contrast, the relatively thicker coating (1 mm), resulted in as much as 6% lower thermal efficiency compared to baseline. On the other hand, the insulated engines consistently presented an attractive picture in terms of their emissions characteristics. Due to the more complete combustion in the insulated configurations, exhaust CO levels were between 30% and 60% lower than baseline levels. Similarly, unburned HC levels were 35% to 40% lower for the insulated pistons. The NOx concentrations were also 10% to 30% lower due to the changed nature of combustion in the insulated engines. Finally, smoke emissions decreased slightly in the insulated engines.