Most Common Causes of Diesel Engine Failures

aviation-pump-fueling-skidChanging your diesel fuel filter frequently and cleaning diesel fuel tanks are seen as normal maintenance tasks. They should, however, be regarded as red flags indicating potential diesel engine failure. The individual parts of a diesel filtration system should last at least 1,000 hours. Injectors can be expected to have a lifespan of over 15,000 hours. Because diesel fuel is inherently unstable, sludge forms in your fuel tank, which will eventually foul your diesel fuel filters, damage your fuel injectors, make your diesel engine smoke and eventually ruin your equipment.

A plugged filter may be caused by low temperatures that lead to crystallization of the wax or paraffin contained in diesel fuel. Excessive microbial growth and the bio-degradation of diesel fuel can also plug filters. The micro-organisms, bacteria, fungus, yeast and mold create waste products within the fuel in a manner similar to the process of milk turning into cottage cheese. It should be noted that these waste products, do not clog the filter. The fuel components that form solids plug it.

Biocides are recommended to solve this problem, but by the time you notice the issue, the biocides’ effectiveness is limited. Relief will be minimal, and the organisms that survive will quickly reproduce. In fact, using biocides can worsen the situation and transform the bio-film that forms on the walls of the tank into solids that will clog the engines that power fuel transfer pumps. Plus, any water that is removed from a tank that has been treated with biocides must be handled carefully because biocides are toxic.

Symptoms of Contamination

You can tell if your clean diesel has been contaminated by watching for these symptoms.

  • Loss of power and RPMs
  • Sludge buildup in tanks
  • Dark, hazy fuel
  • Corroded, pitted injectors
  • Foul odor
  • Excess smoke
  • Clogged and slimy filters

Three Common Causes for Diesel Engine Failure

1. Contamination by Micro-Organisms and Dirt
Regardless of how clean your diesel fuel is, it degrades when exposed to heat, water and air. This degradation creates microorganisms, sludge and other dirt that will foul your system. Just filling your tank can introduce chemicals and dirt into it. These contaminants make the fuel solidify, which causes the clogging. This restricts fuel and causes unscheduled shutdowns. It also is responsible for poor fuel economy, sludge deposits in your engine and unnecessary wear and tear. In some cases, a dual filtration system can help by keeping one filter on standby, which means that to change filters, you do not have to shut down. Polishing your fuel will get rid of contaminants and help you avoid engine failure. It is a good idea to check the quality of the fuel before you fill your tank.

2. Water in the Tank
Water enters your tank through condensation, contaminated fuel and leaking deck fills. This water can seriously damage your engine when it is injected by turning into steam. The steam cracks the fuel injectors and corrodes other precision components. Water vapor in the engine returns to the tank and creates sludge. Water in your tank must be removed by filtering it through a centrifuge.

3. Air Leaks
Air leaks happen when fittings decay, valves are accidentally left loose or o-rings fail. Once air enters the fuel system, the engine will get air instead of fuel, which will starve the engine and make it stop. This is common when your fuel filters are clogged because the lift pump is straining to fuel the engine and increasing the vacuum. If your system has air leaks, check each component to find the leak. Then, fix the problem by tightening the valve or replacing any failing o-rings.

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