The 10 Essential Diesel Engine Maintenance Tips You Must Know
There are numerous benefits to purchasing a diesel vehicle, rather than one that runs on gasoline: fuel efficiency, engine longevity, and higher resale rates to name a few.
But with only about 3% of annual automotive sales in the US being diesel vehicles, it’s sometimes difficult to find a local mechanic to care for your diesel engine. While you’ll likely still need a pro for the heavy lifting, this info will help you stay out of the shop longer.
Here are the 10 essential diesel engine maintenance tips you must know to keep your engine running smoothly.
1. Frequent oil changes are key to diesel engine maintenance
With a gasoline engine, failing to change the oil frequently enough will lead to a prematurely aged engine.
With a diesel engine, failing to change the oil will lead to a prematurely dead engine.
This is number one on the list of diesel engine maintenance for a reason. It’s pretty important.
2. Use synthetic oil
Whenever possible stick to a synthetic oil.
Synthetic oil is more resistant to breaking down than mineral oil and therefore last longer.
In addition, synthetic oil is more resistant to the outside temperature, meaning that there is less engine wear during cold start up and less risk during times of extreme heat.
3. Don’t forget the filters
You also need to be sure that you are changing your oil filters regularly to avoid dirty fuel clogging the fuel injection system.
With a diesel engine, sulfur residue and carbon are created if the engine isn’t hot enough and these can build up and clog the oil filter. A good oil filter will, well, filter corrosive particles from the oil.
Be sure that your oil filter meets or exceed the OEM filter recommended by the manufacturer.
4. Replace gaskets
Most car owners can’t even tell you what a gasket is, let alone where to find them in the engine, but it’s important to know the what’s-what of your engine so you are able to keep up with necessary diesel engine maintenance.
Gaskets are subjected to extreme operating temps day in and day out, so from time to time be sure to take a peak under the hood to check for any leaking gaskets.
If you do find one that is leaking, replace it soon.
5. Change the coolant
Often overshadowed by the importance of an oil change, coolant is also imperative to the operation of your diesel engine.
Coolant is an important ingredient in engine health because it helps to protect aluminum engine parts and works to keep the engine from overheating or freezing.
As coolant ages, it begins to deteriorate, meaning that it is neither protecting your engine parts like it should nor cooling at the same rate.
6. Use a coolant filter
That being said, it is still a good idea to use a coolant filter if your vehicle allows for one.
A coolant filter can help to control the acidity of the coolant as it begins to age, giving you a bit of buffer time before the coolant needs to be changed.
The coolant filter will also have an anti-foaming chemical agent that protects the surface tension of the coolant, reducing coolant bubbles. This chemical agent does deplete over time, so the coolant filter must also be replaced periodically.
7. Keep an eye on the air filter
By now you might be getting tired of hearing about all the things you’re going to need to replace in the course of diesel engine maintenance, but keep in mind that these are all relatively low cost and are still much more affordable than the regular maintenance needed on gas engines.
Diesel engines use a lot of air, so it’s important that the air filter is clean and functional. Many diesel owners install a plastic indicator on the side of the air filter housing that tells them when the air filter is in need of changing.
8. Check the glow plugs
A diesel engine depends upon compressed heat to ignite. However, it often fails to produce enough heat for the fuel to burn.
Glow plugs serve as a crutch to heat up the cylinder before the cold engine gets started, which puts an understandable strain on the glow plugs and makes checking them an important part of diesel engine maintenance.
It is especially important to monitor the glow plugs if you live in a climate that typically experiences extreme cold weather.
9. Diesel treatment
Ideally, every time you take your diesel to fuel up you should be adding a bottle of diesel treatment.
While treatments and additives are optional but advised with a gas engine, they are more on the highly advised side of the scale when it comes to diesel engines. This is because, quite simply, diesel fuel has more properties that need to be protected than the more highly refined gasoline.
A diesel treatment will be targeting lubricity, cetane rating, cold weather performance, and stability and helps to protect the overall performance and health of your diesel engine.
10. Avoid idling
There is a common myth surrounding diesel engines that say you need to idle the engine for at least five minutes before you can drive it.
The key word here is myth.
Most manufacturers recommend idling a new vehicle for no more than three minutes before driving.
While this may seem like a small difference, it can actually have huge consequences for the systems in your engine.
Getting diesel fuel to gel used to be a problem, but by using recent advances refiners have been able to resolve this issue by creating winter blends that better withstand colder temperatures.
Idling can actually cause damage to the engine — more so than just stopping and starting it. Idling, which is just running the engine at low speeds, causes twice the wear on internal parts compared to driving at highway speeds.
This can lead to increased diesel engine maintenance costs and shorten the overall life of the engine.
These ten diesel engine maintenance tips will have you well on the road toward good diesel engine health, but if you still have any questions consult your owner’s manual or get in touch!