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Six Things to Know If You're New to Diesel Engines

Jul 14, 2008
Diesel engine fans will rapture on about the impressive combination of power and fuel efficiency that modern diesel engines carry. Environmentally friendly and fairly low maintenance, diesel engines have been popular for years in Europe, and that popularity is finally beginning to grow in the United States as well. With all their benefits, diesel engines may very well become more popular than gas engines! Here are some tips to consider if you, like most U.S. drivers, are fairly inexperienced with diesel engines.

1) Most new diesel engines come with a turbo-charger, which sucks outside air into the engine, increasing efficiency and performance. Turbo-chargers are very powerful pieces of machinery, and require clean air that is empty of debris. Thus, it's vital that you clean and change the air filter on your engine frequently. The majority of diesel engine vehicles are equipped with electronic sensors which will tell you when you need to check or replace your filter. Always change your filter as soon as the sensor tells you to! Delaying or ignoring this alert altogether can result in a damaged engine.

2) The fuel filter in a diesel engine is very important, since diesel fuel isn't as clean and pure as gasoline. Your car has sensors which will tell you if your fuel filter is clogged, and you should take action quickly after this sensor goes off. Neglecting a clogged fuel filter can result in you being stranded on the road. Fuel filters need to be changed more often than gas fuel filters, so you should expect to replace your fuel filter earlier than normal.

3) You already know that diesel fuel is less pure than gasoline, but you might not have known that it also contains water. Small amounts of water won't damage your engine, however, almost all modern diesels have water/fuel separators anyways. Some models may require manual purging of water from the diesel's fuel system. If you're doing this yourself, your owner's manual will tell you how to do this, and how often you should perform this action. Otherwise, there are many service facilities who will do this for little to no charge, and will dispose of the water/fuel mixture in an environmentally safe way.

4) Diesel engines are often referred to as "oil burners" because unlike gasoline engines, diesel engines typically burn some of the engine's lubricating oil during normal operation. That's why it's especially important to check your diesel's oil level between oil changes. To check the oil, make sure the engine has cooled for at least 30 minutes, and that the vehicle is level. Your owner's manual will explain when you should add oil based on the engine's dipstick reading.

5) Diesel engines and coldness don't get along. Low temperatures will cause your diesel engine to start harshly and warm up slowly. Extremely low temperatures of -10F or lower may cause your diesel engine to not function at all. Always remember to use your diesel's block heater whenever the temperature hits below zero. The block heater is a simple electrical plug on your car which keeps your engine warm, using your home's electrical source. All you have to do is plug your car in at night. You can also plug it in whenever the temperatures drop below freezing, if you can afford the electricity. Using your block heater will protect your engine, and will ensure smooth start-ups and quick warm-ups. Your owner's manual will help you locate the block heater on your vehicle.

6) All new engines have a break-in period, and new diesel engines are no different. The break-in for a new diesel is usually from 500 to 1000 miles. Check your manual to find out what the average period is for your vehicle. During this break-in period, manufacturers will recommend that you do not drive at sustained speeds, such as on long trips on the highway, and do not haul or tow anything. Your engine will continue to improve in power and efficiency for 20,000 to 30,000 miles after the initial break-in period is over, since diesel engines reach their peak performance levels after lots of time and use. Most long-time diesel engine owners say their diesel began to truly perform only after a year or two of use.

It is imperative that new or first-time diesel owners read their engine manual thoroughly. Diesel owners need to perform normal vehicle maintenance, as well as monitor air and fuel filter sensors, check engine oil between changes, remove water from fuel system when needed, and plug in the block heater when the temperatures drop below zero. This extra care will result in an engine with power, fuel economy, and 200,000+ miles of service.
About the Author
Author Jason Lancaster, a car business veteran, developed AccurateAutoAdvice.com. You'll find accurate tips for buying a car and auto advice.
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