When fleet managers of diesel equipment get together, a common topic of discussion is ways to get the most life from each truck in their fleet. As this discussion has been ongoing for years, the conclusion has not changed.
The best way to prolong the life of heavy trucks is by regularly scheduled maintenance as called for by the manufacturer, and a rich program of preventative maintenance that includes generous use of additives to solve and prevent life-sapping fuel problems.
Diesel engines differ from gasoline engines, as they do not have spark plugs. Instead, the engine pistons quickly and strenuously compress the air in the combustion chamber, making it superheated. When the diesel fuel enters the cylinder chamber, it ignites spontaneously. Diesel engines have higher compression ratios than gas engines, ranging from 14:1 to 25:1.
Hotter operating temperatures and higher compression account for diesel engines being noisier than gasoline engines. Because of the stress of heat and high-compression, diesel engine manufacturers make them heavier and stronger than gas engines. On the other hand, diesels have the advantage of being simpler in design than gas engines with spark ignition. In addition to more strength, diesels have fewer parts. Since they do not have spark plugs, spark wires, and complicated firing systems this helps prevent them from breaking down not nearly as often as gasoline engines and they last longer.
As a fleet owner or manager, you want to get the greatest life out of the investment(s) you’ve made in your trucks.
Despite their strength, heavy trucks need more frequent routine maintenance than gasoline engines. Oil, oil filters, fuel filters, and air filters should be changed according to the engine manufacturer’s recommend service intervals. At the same time, service technicians should also check engine coolant and exhaust temperatures.
As a fleet manager or own, you’re probably telling your drivers that the way they drive can have a huge influence on how long each truck performs at its peak.
Rabbit jump starts, jump-starts, and frequent stops in traffic put excessive wear and tear on the engine. Drivers also should avoid driving until the engine warms up. It takes longer for a diesel engine to warm up, but once it does, it gets great mileage and gives a smoother ride with less engine wear.
As a diesel truck owner, you might have concerns about the warranty of the use of additives. Manufacturers typically honor warranties for a heavy truck using additives as long as they are EPA-registered.
Common additives used in diesel engines include:
- Cetane boosters: Cetane is the measure of diesel fuel ignition quality. Think of it as the octane rating of diesel fuel. The higher the cetane rating the more efficiently fuel burns. However, remember that going above the recommended cetane rating identified by the engine manufacturer will not really give you an extra benefit.
- Engine cleaners: Engine cleaners contain special detergents that clean fuel injectors and cut exhaust emissions.
- Anti-gel: Usually used in cold weather situations, this additive prevents diesel fuel from forming a gel when it gets cold.
- Lubricity additive: Increases the lubricity of diesel fuel, gives extra lubrication to fuel injectors and fuel pumps, and extends their lives. Especially important for today’s modern ultra-lower sulfur diesel fuels.
Careful driving, following the manufacturers service recommendations, and the proper use of additives are the best ways to extend the life of your heavy truck.
This post was published on February 19, 2014 and was updated on March 29, 2018.