Proper fuel management is one of the most important ways of keeping your construction equipment diesel fuel free of contaminants. Get tips for managing and storing fuel.
Proper fuel management, including fuel storage, protects your construction equipment’s fuel systems from water and other contaminants.
Fuel systems operate at extremely high pressures. When contaminants enter these systems, they're propelled at high speed — almost like a sandblaster in your fuel system. Over time, this will damage components and require repairs.
Water can enter diesel during the transportation process and linger in the fuel. If a diesel storage tank becomes very cold, the water separates from the fuel and can settle at the bottom of the tank. This stagnant water can lead to the growth of bacteria, another contaminant you don’t want in a fuel system.
You can help prevent these contaminants from entering your engines by following a few tips for fuel management.
Tip No.1: Test bulk fuel tanks every six months
Every six months, test your bulk fuel supply tanks for contaminants. You can either do this yourself or hire a professional service to perform the test. A small amount of water can be removed, but if significant amounts of water or sludge are found you will need to drain and clean the entire tank. To help monitor your supply tank, maintain a preventive maintenance log for the tank that includes maintenance history, filter changes and particle counts.
Tip No.2: Keep supply tank fuel filters clean
Make sure any fuel entering a bulk storage tank passes through a dispensing filter to boost the effectiveness of the machine’s fuel filter and help prevent contaminants from entering.
Additionally, fuel tank filters should be capped and the tank vent must be filtered. Tank filters typically have a 10-micron-or-fewer fuel filter to help remove moisture as fuel is dispensed through the vent.
Tip No. 3: Fill machine tanks at the end of each workday
Diesel fuel can reach high temperatures during the workday. As the machine cools, condensation can form in air gaps. Make sure every machine is filled with diesel fluid at the end of the day to help reduce condensation and save on maintenance costs.
Tip No. 4: Use 2-micron fuel filters
Use the cleanest fuel possible and an efficient fuel filter to help minimize the amount of particles entering the machine.
Additional best practices include:
- Draining the water trap daily.
- Never prefilling a new filter during installation.
- Never opening fuel connections in the system upstream of the fuel filter.
- Using the manufacturer’s recommended replacement fuel filter.
In case fuel does get contaminated, it’s best to purchase an extra fuel filter for every Tier 4 high-pressure common rail engine-equipped machine and keep it on the jobsite.
Tip No. 5: Prepare for cold weather
Use cold-weather practices, including removing trapped water from your machine’s fuel filter daily, maintaining your machine’s battery state of charge for optimum cranking speed, installing an engine block heater and choosing the best engine oil and hydraulic/hydrostatic oil for the temperature conditions.
Maintaining a cold-weather kit and following the cold-starting procedures in your Operation & Maintenance Manual, purchasing cold-weather accessories and switching to a special winter-blend fuel — typically No. 1 and No. 2 diesel fuel — can also help you prepare for cold temperatures.
Tip No. 6: Attend a fuel management clinic
Construction equipment dealers should be trained on fuel management. They may host events to accurately relay best practices to you and your operators. Dealers can help assess your situation and provide a plan on how to treat any fuel-related issues
Tip No. 7: Confirm the fuel’s cloud point
A fuel’s cloud point is the temperature where wax begins to drop out of fuel, creating a translucent appearance. The wax forms crystals — 50 to 200 microns in size — that can quickly plug the fuel filter. Since the cloud point from the refinery is based on the geographic location and the time of year that fuel is intended to be used, make sure to ask your supplier to confirm the fuel’s cloud point. For instance, fuel in Texas during July will have a different cloud point than fuel available in North Dakota during September.
Tip No. 8: Identify the market’s poor-quality fuel suppliers
You should ask suppliers these two questions before you buy: “What micron level of filtration is used on your delivery line?” and “Is this the best fuel available for current conditions?” A good fuel distributor will provide diesel that meets specifications for all climate environments.
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