When the weather gets frigid, water isn’t the only thing freezing. In winter weather, drivers also need to be aware of the potential for fuel to gel- specifically, diesel fuel.
Diesel fuel gels in cold temperatures because it contains paraffin wax, which normally improves fuel viscosity and lubrication.
When temperatures begin to fall, this paraffin wax thickens and turns into a cloudy mixture. This is a part of a phenomenon called "diesel fuel gelling," in which the problem can become so advanced that the paraffin wax can actually clog fuel filters and solidify to the point where the fuel will no longer flow, basically rendering your engine useless.
Diesel fuel gelling has the potential to occur when temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, although the exact temperature it happens at will vary from fuel batch to fuel batch.
How do you prevent your diesel fuel from gelling? It’s important to ensure that your diesel engines continue to work as they should in these cold winter temperatures.
Here's a look:
A primary way to prevent diesel fuel gelling is to control the temperature of the facility that the engine is being stored in. When the engine is running, the fuel is moving and flowing and doesn't have the opportunity to solidify. Storing your vehicle or equipment in a heated garage or climate-controlled structure is enough to do the trick. However, this option may not realistic for many.
Mixing in amounts of kerosene with diesel fuel reduces the plug point temperature, or the temperature at which paraffin wax crystals solidify and begin to clog fuel filters.
Many winter climate fuel suppliers will offer diesel fuel that's already pre-mixed with kerosene for user convenience.
Adding a winter diesel fuel additive is one of the easiest and most popular ways to prevent diesel fuel gelling. These additives can prevent the paraffin wax from gelling together and solidifying. Many fuel additives also offer other winter weather benefits, such as helping improve cold engine starts and removing harmful deposits from your vehicle’s fuel injectors.
During the harsh winter months, you will find that your vehicle, equipment and diesel fuel need a little more care. Failure to take the proper precautions, such as adding kerosene, storing the diesel engine in a temperature controlled facility or implementing a fuel additive can take your diesel engine out of service.
How are you preventing gelled diesel fuel? Don't ignore this crucial part of your diesel engine maintenance.
You may be interested in these other posts:
- Diesel Fuel Additives: Top 5 Things You Never Knew You Didn't Know
- Heavy Truck Diesel Performance: Conventional Wisdom Examined
- Diesel engine problems: black smoke explained
This post was published on January 15, 2014 and was updated on May 26, 2020.