February 13, 2015

4 Tips to Better Diesel Maintenance

Maintaining diesel fuel cleanliness and quality helps ensure your fleet maintains peak productivity. Small particles of debris, excess water, and the assorted byproducts formed as fuel ages can sabotage the efficient operation of your machines.

Quality and cleanliness must be addressed even before placing the nozzle in a vehicle's tank. Precautions must be observed when receiving, storing, and dispensing fuel. The following tips will help you maintain fuel system cleanliness:

1. Receiving Fuel

Check the quality and cleanliness of fuel when it's delivered since it was likely stored at the refinery, traveled the pipeline, stored at the terminal, then loaded into the delivery tanker – all potential sources of contamination.

Need a simple way to check? Upon delivery of the fuel, place a sample in a clean white or clear container. The sample should be "clear and bright," not cloudy with any trace of floating debris. Fleet owners should also double-check the certificate of analysis for the fuel to ensure that it meets ASTM standards.

2. Storage

If possible, keep reserve fuel stored inside to avoid temperature extremes that lead to condensation and add water to the fuel. Also, be sure to keep fuel tanks out of direct sunlight to prevent condensation and microbial growth. Stay away from galvanized tanks. Diesel fuel reacts with zinc and zinc alloys to form unstable compounds that can deposit on the working surfaces of an engine, causing it to run rough and at low power.

3. Dispensing

Practicing proper housekeeping is critical, especially when fueling vehicles in the field from trailer-type tanks for tanks in the back of other vehicles. In a forest setting, be sure to brush debris away before removing a machine's fuel cap.

If portable tanks are used, mount them at an angle on your trailer or truck bed with a drain at the low end to eliminate water. It’s also a good practice to keep the pump's pickup out of the bottom quarter of the tank to avoid possibly drawing up water and debris. This is crucial as portable tanks are often rusty inside, have broken caps that are open to rain and debris, and lack a filter between the tank and nozzle – all of which are typically the result of neglect.

A final word of advice – when in doubt, be sure to regularly consult with the manufacturer of your equipment and engines to discuss fuel quality and cleanliness concerns.

4. Vehicle Basics

  • Replace fuel filters at proper intervals according to the manufacturer's exact specifications.
  • Drain the primary filter, which separates free water from the fuel, as often as required.
  • Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for periodically draining water from fuel tank.
  • Use the proper grade of fuel for the ambient temperature.
  • Keep the tank's debris screen in place.
  • Regularly replace the fuel-tank breather.