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How Diesel Fuel Quality Affects Your Vehicle Performance

Date:19-10-2021 | By: Redlines Diesel

Only those who own a vehicle will know the expenses that are associated with maintaining it in top condition. Even though periodic services might take care of many requirements, a vehicle may cease to function properly depending on many factors. Take fuel, for example, a bad quality fuel can adversely affect the mileage and carbon deposit in the engine. For fleet owners, it becomes a nightmare if one or more than one of their trucks are decommissioned simultaneously. So in this article, let us discuss how diesel fuel quality affects your vehicle performance.

Importance Of  Diesel Fuel Quality

We all have probably heard about the availability of clean and dirty diesel. But what exactly does it mean and what is the difference between them? Clean diesel refers to ultra-low sulfur fuel and common-rail diesel that ensure engines that are almost twice as clean as their counterparts from 10 to 20 years ago. Such clean diesel is now the standard for both off-highway and on-highway diesel engines in many nations. There is a 10% reduction in soot emissions from diesel vehicles and equipment by using this cleaner diesel. On the contrary, dirty diesel refers to diesel that has built up slime, sludge, grime, and whatnot sedimented in your diesel that renders it unfit for commercial use. These are the fuel that has been sitting in storage tanks for extended periods of time without proper treatment or testing. 

Diesel fuel is supplied into the combustion chamber to generate the power required to run the vehicle and the pressure at which diesel fuel is injected into combustion chambers directly affects performance, combustion efficiency, fuel mileage, and ultimately emissions. Dirty diesel results in injector deposits and clogged filters. The tolerance for impurities in diesel fuel is reducing constantly due to the use of high-pressure common-rail fuel injection systems, which are not new to diesel engine technology. Fuel economy regulations and tightening emissions require greater injection pressures than ever before. In fact, experts suggest a good portion of the diesel fuel available in the market today may not be suitable for tomorrow’s diesel engines

What Causes Fuel To Go Bad?

Oxygen, heat, and humidity all have a collective impact on the condition of stored fuel. Generally, if stored in a sealed and labelled plastic or even metal container, pure gas begins to lose its combustibility and degrade as a result of oxidation and evaporation in 3 to 6 months.

The average shelf life of diesel is somewhere between 6 to 12 months. It can be much shorter when subjected to certain extreme weather conditions. Also, the longer you store diesel fuel, the likelihood of it getting contaminated by microorganisms increases exponentially. The storage of diesel in large quantities requires professional assistance and needs to undergo stringent government standards. Even so, if there are no periodic inspections, the chances of the stored diesel getting contaminated increases. 

Weather conditions can play a major role in diesel contamination. Condensation could be caused when warm moisture comes into contact with cold diesel or a cold tank leading to water leaking into the fuel. Weather can also affect fuel energy content due to swings in heat and humidity. Besides, warmer temperatures of the middle east can naturally accelerate the degradation of diesel.

How Can I Tell If My Fuel Is Bad?

Now that we know how diesel fuel quality affects your vehicle performance, let us understand how to tell if you are unknowingly using bad fuel. Nobody wants to buy dirty diesel fuel on purpose. So how would you differentiate the clean one from the bad one? There are lots of stored diesel fuel that has been sitting in storage tanks for undefined periods of time while constantly being attacked by water, air, and microbes, forming varnishes and sludge and undergoing oxidation reactions. And people normally don’t look in their tank to check on the condition of the fuel inside. However, you’re eventually going to cross paths with dirty diesel fuel if you’re in the business long enough or use stored fuel enough times. Depending on whether it’s distillate ULSD diesel or bio-diesel, you can only expect diesel fuel to stay functional for 6 to 12 months.  

The outward symptoms of using dirty diesel are pretty straightforward as you will notice lower fuel efficiency, hesitation upon rough idling and/or during acceleration. You may also notice higher levels of emissions which will be alerted by the emissions control system. Apart from the signs, you’d be most likely to notice, here are some symptoms to watch out for in case of doubt. 

  • Dark coloured fuel
  • Fuel Filter Life gets Shortened 
  • During operation, the fuel degrades which are signs of fungal and microbial contamination
  • Unnatural Fuel Tank Stench 
  • Corroded or ruined Fuel Injectors 
  • Considerably more exhaust smoke 
  • Sludge or floating Contaminants in the Tank

Other Contaminants That Can Affect The Quality Of Your Diesel

There are 3 basic areas of contamination concern for contemporary fuels which are water, inorganic debris, and organic debris. The inorganic debris includes sand, rust & dust while the organic debris includes microbial products, products of fuel breakdown, and the waste products of fuel deterioration which make up the bulk of the contaminants usually found in fuel and fuel oil. Oftentimes people mistake microbial contamination for diesel fuel algae. In fact, it has more to do with varnishes, petroleum gums, and lacquers than it has to do with algae since it needs light to grow and cannot grow in closed dark storage tanks. That is not the case with other kinds of microbes like bacteria, moulds, or fungus that grow and cause problems in stored fuel.

In conclusion, always fuel up from a trusted source and demand for the fuel quality check if you have the time. After all, your vehicle is your responsibility and what goes inside should be closely monitored for the long life of the vehicle.

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