Good maintenance vital

POOR MAINTENANCE WOES: Inexperienced servicing causes diesel engine premature demise - D65 Komatsu, Port Moresby.
POOR MAINTENANCE WOES: Inexperienced servicing causes diesel engine premature demise - D65 Komatsu, Port Moresby. Contributed

THE song says there must be 50 ways to leave your lover, and there are probably just as many ways to kill your diesel engine. Today we focus on the top five steps that you can take to ensure your diesel doesn't end up in an early grave.

Although many see themselves as diesel experts, bad maintenance practices abound. Often these are easy to fix mistakes for a real expert, and Torquepower's recent trip to Port Moresby to resuscitate non-operational relatively young machinery, illustrates this point well.

Aside from the obvious technological barriers where specialist training and equipment may be necessary to support modern and complex engine systems, there remains a core service level that is appropriate for any diesel engine if it is going to last the distance.

Common failures include: insufficient access to good (or any) information; limitations in local mechanical skills or experience; parts availability, incorrect parts applied or the correct parts applied incorrectly; close attention to a proper maintenance program.

Factors as simple as the improper application of lubricants can lead to expensive and unnecessary maintenance expenses - especially in remote regions.

Torquepower's field service technician Neil Bird said PNG local technicians were willing and helpful people "but lack the experience that we take for granted back in Australia".

There's no doubt good qualified servicing can dramatically lengthen the life of the heart of your truck.

Robert Dellman of PNG Concrete Aggregates has the last word: "We now have a detailed report and a step by step plan to ensure the D65 and the excavator are functional and productive in the very near future".

So, here are our five top tips:

1. Change your fuel filter on schedule

Fuel is not just fuel. It is also a lubricant and coolant, transferring heat away from the injection components and back to the fuel tank (from where it is often cooled).

As fuel however, it requires good access to the fuel pump and injectors. A clogged fuel filter will at best result in a loss of power and increased fuel burn. A filter that becomes breached will allow contaminants into the fuel system resulting in costly and time-consuming loss of operation. Do not extend fuel filter life.

2. Service your air filter

As you read in our previous column, fuel economy suffers with a clogged air filter. If the filter subsequently fails as it can when overloaded, dust will eagerly enter the engine causing serious damage to turbochargers, valves and cylinders within a very short time.

If you elect to clean the filter rather than replace it make sure you follow the manufacturer's instructions as many do not recommend the practice at all.

New air filters can be the cheapest part of your engine maintenance in the long run.

3. Respect your oil and oil filter

Clean oil to an engine is akin to clean blood in your body. The oil filter is the kidney. Oil provides vital lubrication, cleaning and cooling services to an engine and oil filters remove contaminants collected by the oil during the engine operation.

Both the oil and the filter have a useful service life beyond which, if they are not replaced, each is capable of abetting damage rather than preventing damage.

Contaminated oil is poison to an engine and a blocked filter will either stop oil flow or will allow a bypass valve to supply unfiltered oil to vital engine components - all with catastrophic, expensive consequences. Best practice is to change your oil and filter in strict accordance with the engine manufacturer's recommendations and to sample your engine oil at every scheduled service interval.

Oil analysis can provide a great insight into your engine's health without the expense and inconvenience of major surgery. We can talk more about oil analysis in a future Torquepower Tips.

The key here is to treat your oil and oil filter with the respect they rightly deserve.

4. Reading smoke signals

As the native American Indians in our favourite old westerns taught us, smoke can communicate - and smoke from diesel engines is no exception. Diesel engine smoke comes in three kinds: white, blue and black - or a mixture.

A healthy diesel engine will not emit noticeable exhaust smoke so it should be one of the daily checks that you make. White smoke relates to poor combustion; blue relates to oil being where it is not supposed to be; and black is too much of a good thing - more fuel than can be burned in the oxygen that is available.

Don't assume that an exhaust smoke problem will get better of its own accord. Talk to your engine expert before it is too late.

The earlier exhaust smoke is detected and reported the less costs will be associated with the repair or adjustment that has caused the smoke to appear.

5. Cooling your heels

Cooling system importance is older than the diesel engine itself as the high temperatures generated by the engine's combustion processes need to be controlled. The days of using just good old tank water in the radiator, are gone.

Modern engines require more. Today, special coolant chemistries that include elements designed to protect the engine in a more highly stressed environment than before, are commonplace. Where once operating temperatures were controlled below 76 degrees, today's engines typically operate at 90 degrees and above.

This places more thermal load on all engine fluids not least the coolant itself. To that end, coolant packages come in sealed containers and are used to fill the cooling system.

Water is not required nor should it be used for top-up. Cooling system chemistry can be checked periodically (say, at every lube service) by using test strips marketed by the filter or coolant suppliers. Adjustments to that chemistry are available as product is consumed or lost in the course of the service interval.

The coolant filter plays an important part in this process. Failure to manage your cooling system correctly can have expensive consequences ranging from cavitation, erosion and overheating. So make the time to look after your cooling system.

Topics:  maintenance work transport trucks

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