Diesel Gelling: What It Is and Why It Happens
As the weather starts to turn and winter looms around the corner, equipment winter care and maintenance starts to become more and more important. Keeping your equipment up to date on all maintenance is important to ensure your equipment will run all winter long. That being said, there is one thing that can happen to diesel engines in winter that can cause a headache for equipment owners and operators:
What Causes Diesel Gelling?
Gelling diesel is caused by wax particles forming in the fuel. The diesel literally freezes. The big issue with this is that the fuel then can not flow through the engine and fuel lines properly. Not only will the machine be inoperable but the fuel lines and engine could potentially be damaged if this happens.
The 3 Stages of Diesel Gelling
There are three stages to watch for when diesel gelling is occurring: Cloud point, pour point and gel point.
As the name suggests, cloud point is when the fuel is just starting to form crystals. The fuel begins to look cloudy, indicating that the quality of the fuel is being affected. This usually happens around 32 degrees – 0 degrees celsius – or freezing point.
Pour point happens when the fuel continues to freeze or collect wax particles. It happens after cloud point and refers to when the diesel loses the ability to pour properly. This loss of “flow” indicates that the fuel is on it’s way to full-on gelling.
Gel point is the final point and indicates that the diesel fuel has completely solidified. At this point, there is zero fuel moving through the fuel lines or engine of a machine, truck or vehicle.
Preventing Fuel Gelling
Diesel fuel additives to lower the freezing point can help prevent fuel gelling. It’s also worth noting that since the engine warms the fuel, it will not gel while operating. It’s simply an issue with starting the engine first thing in the morning or during a storm that can cause issues.
While there are many other ways to help prevent fuel gelling one of the best and easiest ways to protect your engine is to fill the tank every day at the end of a shift.
Fill Up Diesel Engines
This time of year, temperature fluctuations can cause condensation to form and settle in engines. This is particularly dangerous for diesel fuels because water can lower the freezing temperature of the gas. It can also freeze in the diesel before the fuel actually does, causing engine problems with a machine or vehicle.
During the winter season machines and vehicles are often stored in secondary areas to ease snow removal routes and shorten commute times of both employees and the vehicles themselves. When this happens, it is easy to leave machines half full or to have broken communication lines between operators about machine fueling.
Consider having jerry cans or a secondary fueling source for each machine that can stay wherever the machine is being stored. Make daily fuel top-ups a standard of every operator on every shift. This small habit, if formed at the beginning of the winter season, will help keep your machines running all season long.
Winter Prep for Machines
Aside from diesel gelling and topping up fuel on machines, warm starts, storing equipment indoors and prioritizing battery care can all help to keep machines working in winter.