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The Care and Feeding of Older Diesel Engines

Our livelihood depends on diesel engines. A 23 year old Cat diesel in the Caterpillar D6H dozer, John Deere diesels in the other associated bulldozers, a Duramax diesel in the Chevy service truck and a diesel in my 1993 Dolphin 32D by National.

My recreational vehicle diesel engine is the 5.9 liter Cummins 6 cylinder “B” series engine rated at 230hp. Development of this particular engine began as a joint venture between Case Tractors and Cummins in the mid 80s. The engine saw widespread use in the agricultural

Cummins 5.9l B Series

Cummins 5.9l B Series

application and was later used in pick up and medium truck applications through the 90’s. One of the reasons this engine works well in my motor home is that the power is transferred through an Allison MD3060  six speed automatic transmission. This is a potent power package and balances good power with exceptional fuel mileage. I average 10-12mpg and I am very pleased with those higher than average mileage figures.

Emission standards continue to grow more stringent and the engine manufacturers are struggling to meet the government mandates.  The biggest impact  to date with our business venture is the introduction of ULSD (ultra low sulfur diesel).

We contacted Caterpillar and Cummins directly to see what impact that would have on the engines we had in service and both manufacturers had the same response.

Concern 1: The reduction of sulfur in the newer fuels reduced the overall lubricity of the diesel fuels.  They cautioned us that the newer fuel may cause accelerated wear to the fuel pump and fuel injectors in the engines in service prior to 2006.

Concern 2: Microorganisms such as algae and bugs are constantly present in air and moisture. If excess moisture enters a fuel storage system, microorganisms can reproduce, feeding off of the fuel itself. In the past, natural sulfur content was a deterrent to this growth, but with ULSD and Biodiesel this is not the case. Excessive microorganism growth can cause premature filter plugging, reducing service intervals.

We have certain maintenance procedures in place that apply to all the diesels and also to the Fish Bus.

We only use quaility filters for all fluids.  Caterpillar, John Deere and Fleetguard are the 3 most prevalent.

A fuel/water separator is in use and drained at regular intervals.

Quality diesel fuel is only purchased from jobbers with high turnover in fuel supply.  I also practice this on the road.  I try to stop at high volume truck stops because there is no substitute for fresh clean fuel.

No vehicle is parked for an extended period unless the fuel tanks are topped up.  This is the singel biggest factor to prevent condensation in the fuel tank.  Water must be present for the algae to grow in diesel.  I am fanatical about this with the Fish Bus.  I fill up just prior to arriving at a new jobsite every time.

The most important factor is the use of a diesel fuel conditioner.  We have always used Power Service over the years.  We would treat the diesel tanks on an infrequent basis or when we got a bad batch of fuel.  When we started using the ULSD, we started treating our fuel with Power Service on a regular basis.  Every tank of fuel has conditioner added at the recommended dilution and this includes my motor home.  The engine manufacturer’s reps would not directly recommend the addition of a fuel conditioner to the ULSD fuel but they did say a biocide and increased lubricity would be advantageous.   Power Service products are top of the line and they do address the lubricity problem and biocide in the formulation of their products.

Maintenance and care of diesel engines is of great importance to us and it defines whether or not our business will be successful and ongoing.  You should be able to apply these practices as well to your specific application.

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