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5 diesel engine problems and how to handle them

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When you are in a line of work that requires you to push equipment and tools to their limits, you are going to encounter wear and tear.

Unfortunately, ignoring those small, everyday maintenance issues over time - especially those that affect your equipment’s engines - is going to cost you. Literally. Down equipment waiting to be repaired only loses money.

According to Construction Equipment, a down machine costs $25 per hour - and that’s their “conservative” estimate. Additionally, the website estimates that a replacement machine adds another $100 per hour in costs when all is tallied up.

Farmers face a similar struggle with broken equipment. WallacesFarmer estimates farmers using 12-row equipment lose $2,400 at planting and $900 at harvest in a single eight-hour work day.

This is why it’s critical to pay attention to the maintenance needs of your equipment. Here are a few common signs of potential problems that heavy equipment operators should never ignore.

Engine makes noise under load

Engines that make odd noises should always be looked into. When you notice a strange noise coming from your engine, the first step to take is to make note of when the engine makes the noise and what you are doing when it makes the sound.

Is the noise happening whenever the engine is on? Only when idling? Perhaps you hear the strange sound when the engine is under load, such as when your equipment is carrying a load or climbing up an incline.

Does the problem seem to occur when your engine is under load? Highway & Heavy Parts suggests the gaskets could be the culprit. Check the integrity of the gaskets. If the integrity of the gaskets checks out, then take a look at the engine oil.

Oil that is too thin could be causing the noise issue. That’s because thin oil does not lubricate well enough and does not have enough pressure ability to provide some cushion for the rotating port on the crankshaft.

If you find that the oil is in fact too thin, then try changing it. If the problem doesn’t go away, then the actual problem could be worse and causing damage. In this case, the gaskets may have failed and need to be replaced.

Engine overheats under load

Maybe you aren’t noticing a noise, but the engine temperature increases every time it’s under load.

If this is an issue, then check that air is flowing to the radiator. It could have blocked by debris. You should also check engine fans, belts, oil levels and coolant levels. Make sure there aren’t any brakes or tires dragging.

Outside air temperature could also play a role in hot weather, so keep an eye on Mother Nature, too.

Compression issues could be causing problems

Another sign your engine is struggling is low or no compression in your machinery’s engine cylinders. Your engine could have compression issues if you’re noticing low power and poor fuel economy. White exhaust smoke is another potential sign.

It’s important to give your equipment a close look if you suspect compression to be the culprit. Compression issues can appear due to a wide variety of reasons, including leaking or broken valves, leaking or worn piston rings, broken valve spring, blown head gasket, broken or worn camshaft and more.

These problems can affect any number of your engine’s cylinders. Highway & Heavy Parts recommends running a compression test to find where the issue is coming from.

There are also a few things you can look for to determine whether the problem of low pressure - or no pressure - is affecting one or all of the cylinders.

For example, leaking valves, broken valve springs, camshaft wear, etc., could be a sign of low compression in one cylinder. No compression in one cylinder could be the case of a dropped valve seal, broken valve spring, piston damage, etc.

Low compression in all cylinders could be due to engine flooding, worn piston rings, poor air filtration or dusting, etc. No compression in all cylinders likely points to a broken camshaft as the problem source.

Take a look at this post from Highway and Heavy parts for more compression issue tips and information.

Diesel engine won’t start

Here’s an especially frustrating problem - a diesel engine that simply will not start.

If you encounter this problem, then you should first check the fuel supply, fuel pump, fuel lines and fuel filters. Clogged filters could be causing the issue and will need to be replaced.

Other issues could be your machinery’s battery or the connections to the starters. Make sure those connections did not come loose.

In some cases, you may need to check your air filters. Are they dirty? Clean them - and replace if necessary. Our Filter Blaster products can help you clean your filters, extend your engine life and improve its performance.

If you have checked everything above and still have not located the problem, then it’s probably time to head to the shop.

Fuel becomes contaminated

Low engine power and poor fuel economy, needing to replace filters more frequently and smoke from an exhaust stack could all be signs of fuel contamination. Under a worst-case scenario, your engine may stop all together due to contaminated fuel.

Dirt, debris, water and bacteria or mold can all contaminate fuel. A regular cleaning schedule and filter changes can help prevent and clear up most of those problems.

However, you have to stay on top of the issue, preferably with frequent testing, before the problem leads to more serious issues, such as complete engine failure.

Clean air filters can prevent many engine issues

A clean air filter can make the difference for your heavy equipment’s engine - and regular cleaning with the right product can take your engine’s performance to another level.

The patented technology behind our Filter Blaster allows our product to out-perform competitors - and not damage your air filters.

We’ve done the testing to back this up, too. Air filter cleaning can help reduce fuel consumption, reduce costly engine maintenance, increase engine performance and increase engine life. Plus, you can use our product anywhere.

Learn more about how our Filter Blasters work.