FUEL ADDITIVES – THE REAL DEAL

Whenever you fill your tanks with fuel, you’re at risk of getting small amounts of water in your diesel. Whether it’s from a contaminated jerry can or a poorly sealed underground fuel storage tank, fuel contamination is a very real risk.

Firstly, fuel contamination – whether it is dirt, algae or water – blocks your fuel filters and strainers, creating restrictions in the fuel system. This can lead to a lack of power, poor fuel economy or stalling. Fuel contamination also increases the wear of components like your injector pump and fuel injectors, and leaves deposits in your fuel system and engine. This can lead to excessive injector knock, blowing smoke, detonation and even over-fuelling. Left long enough, these problems could completely destroy your engine.

To function reliably, your fuel system needs to be kept clean and well lubricated. Regularly replacing your fuel filter is one thing, but will that alone protect you?

In the case of a diesel engine, it’s the diesel fuel itself that lubricates the fuel system, so aside from avoiding dodgy looking servos, how else can you guarantee your fuel system is well lubricated? Should you use fuel additives? Will a bottle of ‘power and reliability’ emptied into your tank really clear up all of these problems?

WHAT ADDITIVES ARE AVAILABLE?

Steve Marriott – Fuel Doctors
“Fuel additives are designed to minimise, liquefying or kill contaminants prior to or as they grow. There are three main types of additives; some are dramatically superior to others.”

BIOCIDES
“Biocides kill microbial growths in diesel. They were originally developed for use in large fuel refinery tank farms. When used in service station storage tanks and vehicles, they tend to promote fuel filter blocking.”

HYDROCARBON BASED INJECTOR CLEANERS
“Hydrocarbon based injector cleaners are predominantly kerosene based and are formulated for cleaning gums and varnish. Should the contamination issue be fungal related then hydrocarbon additives will feed the problem and make it worse.”

DETERGENT BASED INJECTOR CLEANERS & FUEL CONDITIONERS
“Detergent based additives are multifaceted and can be formulated to address wider ranging issues such as moisture and fungal contamination, whilst increasing lubrication as well as cleaning gums and varnish. Substantial emission reductions are also achievable with these detergent based additives that hydrocarbon based products cannot achieve.”

ARE THERE ANY DANGERS TO USING ADDITIVES?

Steve Marriott – Fuel Doctors
“Prior to 2002, diesel fuel in Australia had a sulphur content greater than 5000 parts per million (ppm). Sulphur leads to gum and varnish formation within your engine and fuel system, however, it also has excellent lubrication qualities.

After January 1st 2002 the sulphur content of diesel dropped to 500ppm. By January 1st 2006 it was 50ppm. And by January 1st 2009 10ppm. That’s a 99.8% decrease in sulphur since 2002. It’s great for your engine because the gum and varnish formation that clogged up fuel and combustion components prior to 2009 is no longer a major issue, but the decrease in lubrication is.

Both kerosene and detergent based additives are used extensively by fuel refiners to offset this issue. Low sulphur diesel is more abrasive to pumps and injectors which is why lubricity additives are now mandated in the production of diesel to meet Australian Fuel Standard. The main thing to remember is that kerosene based additives are chemically abrasive so care needs to be taken not to over treat. Detergent based products that clean AND lubricate are a much safer option.”

ARE SOME ADDITIVES BETTER THAN OTHERS?

Andrew Leimroth – Berrima Diesel
“Additives are a stop gap and nothing beats regular servicing and fuel filter changes.
If an injector that is capable of producing 20,000-30,000psi of pressure can’t clear a blockage itself, then it’s debateable if an injector cleaner would work effectively and consistently.

With that said, some fuel additives and cleaners do work. The only way to properly treat algae contamination, for instance, is to use a fuel additive intended to remove the water the algae grows in, and kill any bacteria left in the tank and lines.”

WHEN SHOULD OWNERS CONSULT A MECHANIC FOR SERIOUS PROBLEMS?

Steve Marriott – Fuel Doctors
“If you’re quoted on a substantial repair like a new fuel pump or set of injectors, it is logical to first attempt cleaning the system with a fuel additive while you drive. If after three treatments the symptoms are unchanged, it is likely that mechanical damage has already progressed to the point where replacement is the only option or the wrong additive was used and it couldn’t effectively address the contamination.”

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DIESEL DIES IN THE BUSH

Andrew Leimroth – Berrima Diesel
“A contamination bad enough to immobilise a vehicle is usually going to be algae related. Algae grows in water, spreads quickly and blocks filters, cutting the fuel supply to the engine.

You’ll need to remove as much of the water as possible by draining the tank. Use a suitable algae treatment to disperse any remaining water and kill any remaining bacteria. Try to blow out the fuel lines with your compressor if you can do it safely. Then replace your fuel filter. In the case of a modern common-rail diesel, it’s also beneficial to carry an engine data scanner which would enable you to monitor and clear fault codes if they arise.”

IS IT WORTH CARRYING A BOTTLE IN THE BOOT?

ANDREW LEIMROTH – BERRIMA DIESEL
“Carrying an additive that is formulated to disperse water and kill algae is definitely recommended, particularly for remote trips. It’s also important to carry a spare fuel filter or two and replace it at the same time as using a fuel treatment. Additives are no substitute for proper servicing. Changing your fuel filter every 10,000km drastically reduces the chances of being immobilised by contaminated fuel.”

[share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true” reddit=”true” email=”true”]