An extra edge

| April 01, 2006

Once the primary filter, which is on the suction side, gets blocked, the fuel pump cannot draw fuel through, and you get stopped dead in your tracks. There are many anti-gel additives that keep the wax particles small enough to get through the filters. Proper use of them will help keep you going.

Lucas recommends being more careful to use an anti-gel with the new low-sulfur fuel because, “To get the sulfur as low as required, they have had to remove a molecule that kept the wax particles separated. You had better be heating the fuel, even with anti-gel.”

Fuel’s cold weather operability is measured in terms of its cold filter plugging point, the temperature at which it will no longer flow through a prescribed filter in a specified period of time, says Stratton. It is important to examine additive labels for CFPP reduction and “not simply pour point reduction,” Stratton says. “Pour point is not a true reflection of the fuel’s cold weather operability; cold filter plugging point is.”

Stratton reports that Power Service Diesel Fuel Supplement + Cetane Boost reduces CFPP as much as 36 degrees F. He recommends using this additive, which comes with a no-gel guarantee, during the months of November through March.

“However, common sense may dictate alterations to that rule of thumb, for example, during a cold April or if you live and drive in warm weather climates exclusively,” he says.

In extreme cold, using blended fuel that includes some diesel No. 1 may be advisable. However, No. 2 contains more energy and will give you more miles per gallon. So, if you can handle the problem with additives together with fuel heaters, it will save you money.

Diesel fuel is formulated by law to resist filter plugging at the prevailing temperature in the area where it is sold. But if confronted by a cold wave, or when using fuel bought in a warm climate to run into a colder area, the fuel’s ability to flow will be compromised. This is when it’s smart to use an anti-gel. Remember to use it before the fuel starts to gel.

“A driver heading north in the winter should always add a good anti-gel to their fuel before they hit the colder climates,” says Glenn Williams, vice president of Bell Additives. “Once the fuel begins to freeze up, adding the anti-gel is a moot point.”

Stratton warns that to be effective, an anti-gel must be added before the “cloud point,” the temperature at which the first wax crystals appear.

The additive won’t mix properly with solids formed by the cold and won’t be able to dissolve them. The only fix at that point is new filters. Preventive treatment is key.

Other additives
The high heat of today’s engines may cook the fuel, creating undesirable chemical changes that interfere with its performance. Stabilizers help chemically stabilize the fuel.

Algae and fungus sometimes grow where there is a thin layer of water in the bottom of your fuel tank. They can leave material that can clog your filters. Draining and cleaning fuel tanks may help, but some water and bacterial growth may be inevitable. A biocide can help protect you from an unexpected shutdown.

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