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Signs your heavy equipment diesel engine is being overworked or about to fail

Signs your heavy equipment diesel engine is being overworked or about to fail

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Heavy equipment diesel engines get put through the wringer. Even when being operated correctly, the tasks and trials these construction, farming and other heavy industry machinery are expected to put up with can wear down even the hardiest equipment.

While there surely are best practices and definite ways not to operate machinery, even the most well-trained equipment operators need to know what to look for to make sure the equipment they are operating is not overworking or about to suffer some sort of failure.

By keeping an eye on performance and possible signs of trouble ahead, operators can much more easily help diagnose problems and save money that would otherwise need to be spent on a mechanic.

Often, those visits aren’t cheap.

With that said, here are the signs you and your operators should be aware of that could point to signs that your heavy equipment diesel engines are being pushed too hard or could have a failing component.

Exhaust is discolored, thicker or smells different

Exhaust issues are one of the tell tale signs of trouble with a diesel engine. Be on the lookout for exhaust that is discolored, thicker than normal or has an odd or different smell to it than what’s typical.

Exhaust issues not only point to engine problems, but can also land you in trouble with fines from OSHA. It’s best to take these very seriously and get to the root of the issue.

A common cause of exhaust that’s just off in one way or another are air filters that are too dirty or even completely clogged. Overworked engine exhaust filters may also be the culprit, as could some engine component malfunctions, oxygen sensor misreadings, bad exhaust recirculation, just to name a few.

A vacuum gauge test or other digital test may be able to help you assess what the true cause is.

Fluid levels are low

Checking fluid levels should be a regular part of equipment inspections. Low levels of coolant or hydraulic oils are signs that either it’s time to refill and replenish – or there’s something else going on.

Leaking fluids can lead to engine damage. Parts that aren’t lubricated well enough can also fail. Neither of these issues is a low cost repair.

Watch your equipment’s dashboards closely. There should be alerts for low fluid levels. However, don’t simply take the dash’s word for it. Visual inspections can oftentimes find issues before a light or symbol kicks on.

Equipment makes odd noises

Heavy machinery is noisy. That’s just a fact.

However, after getting used to what equipment sounds like while in operation, you should be able to tell the difference between what sounds normal and what sounds off.

Don’t ignore any new sounds that seem out of the ordinary. Rattling, banging, hissing and other sounds are usually very clear signs that something isn’t working as it should.

Noise volume and pitch changes are also worth looking into.

Breakdowns happen frequently

Equipment failure happens. But if the same type of failure happens frequently or with some sort of strange consistency, then it’s probably not a coincidence. It probably means the machinery is not being operated properly and could be working too hard and putting too much pressure on the engine or other components.

If you ever notice frequent breakdowns, then it’s time to ask questions. Get to the bottom of how that equipment is being used and what the operator is doing. It may not be their fault, but they will have the best knowledge of what the equipment is doing at the point of breakdown.

No regular maintenance schedule

All equipment and machinery should be on a consistent maintenance schedule. Preventative maintenance can often catch problems far before they become or cause other critical component failures.

All regular maintenance should include the following:

  • Fluid checks
  • Inspection of all belts and hoses
  • Vacuum gauge tests
  • Cleaning or changing air filters

Using low-quality fluids, oil and other products

When going through that regular maintenance, don’t skimp on the types of oil, coolant and fluids you use in your equipment.

Low-quality products can actually lead to faster, more severe failure. Even though they save money at the time of maintenance, you’re potentially going to lose that saved money – plus a whole lot more – when the repair bill comes in.

Poor fuel economy

Think you aren’t getting as much as you should out of your diesel fuel? Better look into that and confirm.

Poor fuel economy, especially a negative change in fuel economy, is one more sure sign that there are issues either with operation or with a malfunctioning part, such as a bad fuel injector or a leak somewhere.

Do you know your equipment’s limits?

It may seem obvious that all heavy equipment operators should know the limits of their machinery, but it’s always a good idea to check and make sure, just to be safe.

Exceeding the weight and load limits listed in the manufacturer’s manual is asking for trouble and almost certainly causing the engine to work harder than it should. Putting too much strain on the engine will eventually lead to failure.

In addition, make sure to be aware of how these limits may change under certain conditions, such as when it is much hotter or colder outside than normal.

Train operators to look out for these signs of engine failure

Untrained operators are a common reason heavy equipment fails.

In this case, it’s likely because they have not been trained to watch for these signs of failure or are neglecting that part of the job entirely.

While training operators on how to use equipment, safety and troubleshooting, be sure to also include these signs that they need to look out for.

Your solution to dirty air filters

While the problem with heavy equipment diesel engines won’t always be related to air filters, it’s one of the simplest problems to address if caught early.

Plus, with Filter Blaster, cleaning an air filter and increasing engine performance is easier than ever.

Learn more about cleaning heavy equipment air filters with Filter Blaster and browse our products to find the right fit for your machinery.