Most Common Diesel Fuel Problems



Diesel fuel, the fuel of choice for most of this country’s transportation and boating industries, is more prone than gasoline to problems with incomplete combustion, deposits and poor emissions. Deposits on injectors, valve and in combustion chambers can all have negative effects on vehicle/& boat performance. Diesel fuel of the ultra-low sulfur variety has far less natural lubricity than before, and all #2 diesel fuels have the potential for cold weather gelling problems. The tendency to store diesel fuel leads to potential for oxidative breakdown, build up of harmful water in the storage tank, and microbial infestation of the fuel supply, which necessitates use of a biocide to eliminate the infection.


Diesel fuel powers most of this country’s over-the-road transportation, rail and large marine fleets (as well as many pleasure boats). In Europe, diesel cars are more common than here in the States. To be sure, diesel does offer advantages over gasoline as a vehicle fuel. Diesel engines tend to be more efficient, relying on compression ignition than spark ignition. They last longer as well, which is part of the reason they are universally preferred for large industrial applications.

As a diesel fuel user, whether truck or boat, you may aware of certain problems that come with the territory. The common issues fuel users experience with diesel are:


Diesel fuel does not burn as cleanly as gasoline does. This is due in part to diesel being composed of larger, heavier hydrocarbon chain molecules. Larger molecules contain more energy than shorter molecules (because they contain more carbon bonds to break and release heat energy) flexfuel but they also have a greater chance of not combusting completely. When they don’t combust completely, they can form deposits in the combustion chamber. When deposits build up in the combustion chamber, it changes the volume of the chamber and subsequently increases the minimum cetane rating of the fuel needed by the engine to maintain perfect top-dead-center combustion and maximum fuel burn at the proper time. The same effect also happens in gasoline engines, where combustion chamber deposits increase the minimum octane rating by several points early in the engine’s life.

Combustion chamber deposits can also act as both insulators and fuel sponges. Excessive deposits will change the rate at which heat can escape the cylinder, trapping the heat inside and raising temperatures. When this happens, nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) increase, which are terrible for air quality.

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