Diesel truck owners know that taking care of a diesel engine isn’t the same as taking care of a gasoline one. Diesel engines are built differently, perform differently, and have their own care instructions. There are mechanical differences that make a diesel engine easier to care for, but also more sensitive. They don’t have spark plugs, electrical for the ignition, and distributor caps, in addition to having far fewer moving parts. Because of those differences, a diesel engine will last longer and be easier to maintain. What gas and diesel engines have common is the need for routine maintenance and care. Here are some maintenance tips for diesel engines so that your engine will last for 300,000 miles.
Replace the Fuel Filters
Most gasoline engines have a single fuel filter, while diesel engines have two. There is a primary filter between the fuel tank and the engine and a secondary one between the transfer pump and fuel injectors. Manufacturers design diesel trucks with two filters because of the nature of diesel fuel. It’s less refined and tends to absorb more water from condensation in the tank. Water particles in the fuel can lead to decreased horsepower, frequent stalls, and exploding fuel injectors. The filters should be changed every time the oil is changed.
Take Care of the Radiator
The radiator in any vehicle is there to keep the engine cool. It does this by transferring the heat from the engine into the air. Coolant in the radiator travels through the engine, picking up the heat. The now-hot coolant cycles back to the radiator that dissipates the heat into the air and the cycle then repeats. Diesel engines run hotter than gasoline, and as a result, they are subject to higher temperatures and are more likely to overheat. Overheating can warp vital engine parts like the cylinders and gaskets, resulting in engine failure.
Check the Air Filter
Every engine needs oxygen to work. Inside diesel engines and gasoline engines, there are thousands of mini explosions. Those explosions move the pistons in the cylinders and make the vehicle move. Those explosions cannot happen without plenty of oxygen. Having a dirty air filter will choke off the air supply to the engine and affect the performance. You’ll burn more fuel to get the normal power and acceleration you want. If you start to notice performance issues, check the filter, and have it checked every time you change the oil just to be safe.
Clean the Engine
This might seem silly but it’s true. A dirty engine won’t perform as well. Diesel engines are usually in a truck of some kind, and trucks are made to do dirty work. As they are exposed to more extreme conditions, dirt, and grime, they get dirty. All that dirt is not good for the performance of the engine. As dirt collects on engine components, it shortens their lifespan. Not all engine parts are waterproof, so don’t blast it with a hose. Make sure it’s cool, then clean specific parts with a wet sponge, a toothbrush, and some degreaser. If you don’t want to use water at all, get out the leaf blower and do some work. Make sure that the engine is completely cool before attempting any kind of cleaning.
Change the Oil
Changing the oil shouldn’t be considered a maintenance tip for diesel engines. This should go without saying, but there are plenty of rookies that don’t know how important regular oil changes are. The engine oil is the lifeblood of the truck. Without oil, the engine would eventually seize, and nothing would move. Motor oil is used to coat and protect all the moving parts within any engine. It coats the parts so they continue to move freely. Over time, the oil gets dirty and doesn’t protect as well. It starts to gather dirt, debris, and other harmful particles that wear down the parts, making them less effective. Every manufacturer includes their recommended oil change schedule for specific vehicles, but a standard rule is to change your oil every three months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Pay Attention to the Exhaust System
The exhaust system is more than having loud pipes on your truck. It is vital for taking the exhaust away from the engine and keeping fresh air coming in. After the pistons fire, the resulting gasses need to be removed from the engine. They travel down the exhaust and out the back of the truck. Exhaust systems are getting more complicated with diesel particulate filters and diesel exhaust fluid systems all developed to meet the ever-changing EPA standards. The particulate filter can heat up and the particulate within can turn into ash and carbon dioxide.
Inspect the Glow Plugs
Glow plugs are the equivalent of spark plugs in a gasoline engine. They produce the heat the engine needs to start and run normally, especially in cold climates. Each cylinder in the engine has a glow plug, either in the pre-chamber or the combustion chamber. When you turn the ignition the glow plug heats the chamber so the fuel can ignite and move the piston. They will stay hot for a few minutes after ignition to continue heating the cylinders until the engine is hot enough to do so on its own. Failing glow plugs is the main reason that diesel engines won’t start in cold weather.
Use Diesel Treatment
Whenever you fill your tank, consider adding a bottle of diesel treatment. Diesel treatment helps to keep the impurities that are found in the fuel from reaching your engine and possibly causing damage. The diesel fuel burn-off in the engine can lead to build-ups of residue within the fuel injectors. The fuel injectors are some of the most critical parts of the engine and the easiest to gum up. Injectors deliver fuel to the compressed, heated air within the cylinders. If they get clogged, then that cylinder won’t fire, and the truck won’t go. Excessive build-up can clog the air and oil filters as well, meaning frequent replacement and higher maintenance costs. It’s a quick and easy way to protect your truck, so put in an additive.
Hopefully, reading this useful guide on maintenance tips for diesel engines has helped you understand the importance of maintaining your diesel engine. Next Gen Diesel is the go-to source for high-quality aftermarket Cummins 68RFE transmissions, parts, and rebuild kits. Contact us today so we can help get you the right parts.