When you need an engine with steady torque and pulling power without sacrificing fuel economy, diesel engine is the preferred choice. It has a fuel efficiency of roughly 40% more than gas engines and as such, a good source of reliable power. However, the engine is massive and heavy to offset the stress of high compression which makes this engine a bit pricey compared to gasoline engines.
When it comes to maintenance how do diesel engine compare? Shown are some important highlights below.
1.) Unlike the gas engines, diesel engine has no electrical ignition parts like plugs, wires and moving part like distributor rotor which is subject to wear. These parts have a limited life and have to be changed on regular basis. Because of this, this is one chore we dont have to worry about.
2.) Diesel engines run at higher compression pressure than gasoline engines. Where the highest compression for most high performance gasoline engines is close to 200 psi, diesel runs almost 3 times that pressure. As a consequence, more heat is generated putting extra demands on the engine cooling system. Study shows diesel engines usually fail 50% more on cooling related problems because it cannot stand prolong overheating. This is why the cooling system is a high maintenance issue.
Tips on basic diesel engine maintenance:
Do you notice that when your gas engine overheats, you can stop it and rest the engine for a few minutes? Later you can re-start and the engine will be fine. If similar situation happens with your diesel engine, the engine is almost always damaged beyond repair.
On some diesel engines, the cooling system uses a coolant filter to control the acidity (or ph value) of the coolant. This filter ensures that the cylinder block does not have a build up of corrosive particles inside.
3.) Gaskets on diesel on engines must be monitored closely since they are exposed to extreme operating conditions. If possible, all mounting bolts must be re-torque at regular intervals to prevent leaks especially in the combustion mounting areas. This is also true for coolant hoses which can deteriorate quickly if not secured properly. A lot of this is also caused by engine vibrations which is common on diesel engines. Always replace a leaky gasket as a set. If one starts to leak, the rest is not far behind.
4.) Since diesel engines use a lot of air, greater attention is paid to the engine air filtration. A common practice among truckers is to install a tell tale plastic indicator on the side of the air filter housing. The indicator changes color as soon as the engine filter element becomes dirty. Cooling this air is also critical especially if the engine is turbocharged. On some high end diesel engines they are fitted with after coolers to cool the air from turbo charger.
5.) The oil filter selection is very important on diesel engines because of the bad elements of sulfur residue and carbon created when fuel is not burn completely. The filter used must meet or exceed the OEM filter recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. This will ensure that all corrosive particles are removed from the oil. Using synthetic oil will also help because the additives in the oil will resist premature breakdown.
6.) Since the cooling system is critical on diesel engines, it is important that an early warning system should be in placed. Located in the dash panel, the early warning device must be easily seen and heard. If the engine has already overheated and it was not caught on time, the engine could be damaged. Most trucks have this feature in their dash and must be checked regularly to see if early warning system works.
7.) The fuel system maintenance is handled in various ways. Always keep the fuel tank full to prevent condensation from building inside the tank which can end up in the fuel injectors. This also requires changing the fuel filters as recommended to prevent moisture build up. Some diesel engines use 2 types of fuel filters to control the presence of moisture in the engine. Some fuel tanks are also design with one way breather vents for the moisture to escape. This vent should be checked occasionally if there is a suspicion that it is restricted.
8.) Diesel engine has very little carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas common to gasoline engines. However, it produces a lot of black soot which is the result of incomplete combustion. Most of this is caused by dirty injectors and faulty injection timing that inject too much fuel. To ward this off, glow plugs are use to heat the combustion chamber to assist in burning the fuel. These glow plugs must be checked especially before winter season.
9.) During winter, diesel engines are normally hard to start and the best way to remedy this is to install an electrical heater to the cylinder block. Another way is to install a heater element in series with the heater hose. In extreme cases of hard starting, a starting fluid is sprayed on combustion chamber but use it sparingly to prevent scoring the cylinder walls at higher rpm.
10.) To prevent engine cylinder block scoring, avoid prolong idle of your diesel engines. A very common habit among drivers especially in winter... diesel engines are made to idle for long hours to keep the cab warm. When diesel engines are run longer in cold temperatures, insufficient lubrication to the piston wall is the result which might lead to piston scoring. It is better off shutting it down and having it plugged in to a coolant heater which is a common practice used for gasoline vehicles in Canada.
With the cost of fuel rising with no end in sight, diesel engine is a good alternative to gasoline engines that must be considered. Knowing the basic diesel engine maintenance is essential if you want to save money in vehicle operation and cost.
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