How to Prevent Diesel Lubricity Problems

Here’s how to prevent diesel lubricity problems

Diesel lubricity problems started appearing once Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) was introduced to the market, somewhere mid-2006. Since then, these engines have evolved and became a more precise fuel burning mechanism. For example the majority of today’s heavy and light-duty diesel vehicles run on a common rail fuel injection system. It’s a great system that works with clearances tweaked to the micron level to output great power and torque. However, this output can be offset by the lack of lubricity in critical areas.

If you’re running a diesel of any kind, you should read on. If you’re running a gasoline powered vehicle, then you’re in luck because the way the engine operates and the pressures at which it does so, don’t necessarily require more lubrication than gasoline has to offer. With that said, you should still read this informative article and draw your own conclusions.

What happens when you have low lubricity in the fuel?

In today’s advanced, high-pressure diesel systems, both the pump and injector rely solely on the fuel for their lubrication. This sets the stage for prevention of diesel lubricity problems.

Since the switch to ULSD (Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel), fleet owners and regular diesel users alike have complained about the following:

  • Lower energy content (BTUs) compared to low sulfur diesel (LSD), resulting in lower fuel economy

    BTU is the unit used to measure heat energy, and is also known as British Thermal Units. Larger BTU readings and output mean that your fuel is stronger and produces more power per stroke. Pretty similar to the logic behind the octane levels for gasoline. Previous to 2006, LSD fuels ruled the day. Now ULSD fuels are the standard and requirement since changes were made by the EPA to reduce emissions. Sulfur is the keyword here, as it’s the lubricant for the fuel and affects all system components related to combustion. Lower energy content = the engine needs to burn more fuel to create the same output of power as a fuel with higher energy content, resulting in less fuel economy.
  • ULSD is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs moisture from the air 

    This is an important point. Absorbing moisture from the air can make your fuel go bad much faster. Fuel going bad will result in lower energy content (BTUs) and overall lower performance. The moisture absorbed from the air can also lead to formation of rust inside the fuel tank. Presence of rust not only affects the fuel but can also clog up filters or worse, injectors and pumps. In the winter time, presence of moisture leads to the phenomenon called “diesel gelling”. Diesel fuel changes it’s liquid state into solid, clogging everything and making your truck or other diesel burning vehicle unusable.

  • Reduced levels of lubricity 

    Since diesel systems rely on the lubricity of the fuel to function correctly, a reduced level of sulfur will increase wear and the possibility of other complications appearing throughout.

  • Poor cold flow characteristics 

    Because it absorbs moisture from the air, on colder days the fuel will have a poor flow level due to changes in it’s viscosity.

  • Aggressive chemicals causing corrosion 

    Due to chemical properties, corrosion on components tend to appear faster than in older diesel fuels which contained more sulfur.

These above are the elements discovered by users at first glance. However, fuel systems can develop ULSD related problems in the long run. Most commonly, these issues are:

  • Rust and corrosion forming in lines as well as fuel tanks

    This happens due to the aggressive chemicals within the fuel and also because of its hygroscopic nature.

  • Low fuel lubricity causes wear or scarring in pumps and injectors

    Lack of lubrication affects especially expensive and accurate components that work with very small tolerances.

  • Sludge can build up inside tanks and result in plugged filters

    Sludge or diesel fuel algae is a microbial biomass formation that appears due to the ULSD’s moisture attracting nature. It forms a jelly, slimy contaminant that will work to clog up filters or injectors and pumps as previously mentioned.

How to prevent diesel lubricity problems

And now that you’ve been brought up to speed on the reasons that diesel lubricity problems exist, let’s take a look at a couple of solutions.

There really are only two solutions you have.

  1. One is to buy a new truck or vehicle that was built to run only on ULSD diesel fuels. With this solution you can enjoy some peace of mind knowing that you’re covered through the new vehicle warranty should these critical components experience any problems running such a low lubricity fuel throughout the system. After your warranty is up, you could move on to solution number two, use a clever fuel additive.
  2. One such fuel additive is CleanBoost® Sno-Cat™ in the winter time and CleanBoost® Maxx™ in the summer time, which is a diesel fuel conditioner. Both of these products add back in, critical upper cylinder lubricity. They help by adding back the much needed lubricity in a way that protects your all of your mission critical fuel system components such as fuel filters, fuel lines, injectors and fuel pumps by not allowing the fuel to change viscosity and deliver the fuel as originally intended by the engine manufacturer. CleanBoost® Sno-Cat™ and CleanBoost® Maxx™ help to eliminate fuel to form into a ‘gelling up’ state, with CleanBoost® Sno-Cat™ being the industry leader (according to certified independent lab tests, available by request from the manufacturer). Both of these fuel additives also improve BTU energy levels, which is important once again to re-establish the original designs by the engine manufacturer. CleanBoost® Sno-Cat™ and CleanBoost® Maxx™ both work overtime to inhibit the hygroscopic nature of ULSD, which disperses any water that might have been attracted and keeps the injectors clean and functioning like new.

CleanBoost® Sno-Cat™ and CleanBoost® Maxx™ are both a EPA registered product so you can be assured that you are doing your part for the environment when using it and doing so legally. Perfect to have on board to get the extra protection year round and to limit any unnecessary downtime in the winter.

There really isn’t any other way to gain back what ULSD does or doesn’t do as far as preventing diesel lubricity problems. Fuel quality issues only compound this problem from station to station when filling your tanks. So running a quality fuel additive becomes paramount to reducing these diesel lubricity issues.

If you want to know more about this product, simply go here.

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Tech Guy

Automotive enthusiast, passionate about Jeeps, hot-rods, turbos, performance, efficiency, diesels, fuels, high performance oils, additives and anything with an engine.

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