Every vehicle needs regular maintenance. Diesel engines tend to last longer and require less maintenance than gas-powered engines, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to maintaining your vehicle. You will need to have your diesel vehicle serviced by a professional from time to time, but you can reduce maintenance costs by doing some repairs yourself. If you fall behind on these essential tasks, you will have to replace your diesel parts and pay for costly repairs. Use these DIY diesel fuel maintenance tips to keep your engine running as smoothly as possible.
Diesel vs Gas: Maintenance
First, you must understand how a diesel engine works. Diesel engines use highly pressurized air and fuel to generate power, while gas-powered engines need a spark to start the combustion process. That means you don’t have to mess with spark plugs.
The bad news is that diesel engines tend to cost more to maintain than gas-powered engines. That’s because diesel engines use more oil, which makes changing your oil more expensive. There are also lots of filters to change that you wouldn’t find on a gas-powered engine. You also need to monitor your diesel exhaust fluid to make sure your vehicle complies with the latest emissions regulations.
The good news is that diesel engines run at lower rotations per minute (RPMs) than gas-powered engines, which reduces wear and tear on parts. That’s why gas-powered engines usually don’t last as long as their diesel counterparts. Alternatively, gas-powered engines are more likely to see costly internal failures than diesel engines.
Maintaining Your Diesel Fuel System
Here are some of the best things you can do for your diesel engine:
Check Your Gaskets
Diesel engines tend to put enormous pressure on the gasket heads, so be sure to inspect the gaskets for damage. On a diesel engine, the gasket heads sit between the cylinder head and engine block. They are designed to seal in oil, coolant, and maintain compression in the fuel system. V6 and V8 engines have two gasket heads. If you tend to do a lot of towing or use a lot of aftermarket accessories, your gasket heads will deteriorate that much faster. The heads usually won’t collapse all at once. They tend to crack apart slowly as coolant and oil slip through the cracks.
When maintaining the gasket heads, tighten the mounting bolts regularly to prevent leaks. If the gasket is leaking or damaged, replace the gaskets as a set, as the other gaskets will likely fail in the near future. You can try using a gasket head sealer to fill in the cracks, but this is just a temporary solution. Work on replacing the gaskets right away before it blows entirely, or you could permanently damage the engine.
Change Air Filter
Your diesel engine uses lots of compressed air to keep things running. It’s up to the air filter to get of debris and contaminants that could pollute your fuel system. The air filter on your diesel engine works just like the one you would find on a gas-powered vehicle, but there are a few differences to keep in mind. For starters, the filter is located in the cold-air collector box. You also have to shut off the engine completely before trying to access or replace the air filter. If the engine is on, the air intake valve will suck up just about anything nearby, which could clog your engine.
You can also clean the air filter at regular intervals to extend the life of your air filter. If the filter is made of industrial paper, it’s probably better to throw it out. These filters don’t leave a lot of room and are inexpensive to replace. Experts recommend changing your air filter every three years or 30,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Change Fuel Filter
The fuel filter(s) does the exact same thing as the air filter only for the fuel. It filters out debris that can damage internal parts, including the fuel injectors. Most heavy-duty diesel vehicles come with two fuel filters. The main filter is between the fuel tank and the engine, and the secondary filter is closer to the engine. You’ll need to replace the filter just like you would on a gas-powered vehicle.
Your owner’s manual may not include information about replacing the fuel filter if it’s considered a permanent part of the pump housing, but you might need to replace if you experience issues behind the wheel or tend to use your diesel engine for long periods of time. If you’re not sure if the filter needs to be replaced, conduct a fuel pressure test. The pressure will be lower than normal if the filter is clogged.
Drain the Water Separator
Your diesel engine comes with a water separator that collects excess water from mixing with the fuel. You will find the separator underneath the fuel filter. It should be as simple as releasing the petcock valve and letting the water drain. Keep your fuel tank as full as possible to prevent condensation.
Keep your diesel engine as healthy as possible with regular DIY maintenance. If you don’t feel comfortable making these repairs yourself, contact your local mechanic and consult your owner’s manual for more information. If these simple repairs aren’t enough, you may need to swap out some of your older parts. Shop for replacement parts for diesel fuel systems online to find a solution.