Diesel Fuel Contamination: Types, Impacts, And Solutions

Published on 02/26/2024

diesel fuel contamination types impacts and solutions

Diesel fuel is essential for optimal performance in your diesel engine machinery, whether you’re driving a ride-on tractor lawnmower or transporting Bay Area residents on public buses. No diesel engine will power on without this crucial ingredient, and many factors affect the fuel’s effectiveness.

Changes in environmental and emission regulations also require diesel to be cleaner. Diesel fuel contamination is more likely with a higher standard, so concerns arise more frequently.

Below, the All Bay Diesel experts discuss the issues, including how to tell when your diesel is not up to standard and why. We’ll also relay why these issues make mobile diesel repair services urgent.

Three Types Of Diesel Fuel Contamination

Let’s take a look at three contamination issues that are common to diesel engines: organic, inorganic, and water.

Inorganic Diesel Fuel Contamination

Diesel fuel contaminants like inorganic debris find their way into the fuel during the transfer process. For example, it may happen as the clean fuel moves between diesel fuel tanks, trucks, drums, and more before reaching your tank. Plus, if the bottom of the tank harbors sand, dirt, rust, or other imperfections, it mixes into the liquid and may cause damage to the engine’s components.

Metals and other particles also mix into the fuel when long, bumpy rides on the road contribute to corrosion, especially in black iron tanks. However, the root cause of the contamination isn’t always forthcoming, and foreign contaminants are not the only problems to look out for.

Organic Diesel Fuel Contamination

Did you know that diesel fuel’s shelf life averages 6 to 12 months? Diesel used to last ten years in a storage tank, but since today’s manufacturers rely upon lower levels of sulfur and crude oil, the result is a shortened shelf life that will meet increased product demand. Unfortunately, it’s a less stable final product that gums and varnishes quicker.

After reaching the end of this lifespan, asphaltenes and tar development will give once-clear diesel a murky appearance. Microbial contamination also enters the mix and will damage your engine. So, experts like All Bay Diesel advise people not to store more diesel than they need in this timeframe.

Water Diesel Fuel Contamination

Water diesel fuel contamination is one of the most complicated issues to prevent. The fuel is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs moisture from its surrounding atmosphere. It typically happens when a manufacturer or transporter stores diesel fuel at less than full capacity so that there’s more air, and therefore more humidity, in the storage tank for the diesel to absorb.

Diesel-engine equipment also allows water into the engine through evaporation and condensation. That’s why long storage periods risk allowing diesel separation and may produce an unseen layer of water below the fuel. And when water mixes with diesel, it dilutes it, lowers its available energy, and reduces the engine efficiency. 

In some cases, this contamination will also lead to the fuel injector tip exploding, the fuel freezing in cold climates, and problematic microbial growth.

How Can You Tell When You Have Contaminated Fuel?

Have you ever noticed your vehicle choke for no apparent reason? That’s just one of the many results of a clogged fuel filter. It’s meant to capture particles within the fuel as it passes through to the engine, whether that’s sludge from degrading material or metal from tanker corrosion. 

The fuel filter keeps these contaminants from causing engine degradation. However, fuel cannot easily pass through it if the filter clogs. You may also notice a power loss when your diesel vehicle is under pressure while it’s accelerating, climbing slopes, or towing something. 

These issues indicate a failing fuel pump mechanism, usually from clogged fuel filters. These clogs force the pump to work harder when delivering fuel to the engine. When the vehicle tries to maintain strenuous functions, like acceleration, the engine function cannot keep up. 

Eventually, a dirty filter will mean that the pump will fail, the car won’t switch on at all, and you’ll end up forking out thousands in major repairs. Alongside sputtering and jerking at higher speeds, look out for the following signs of diesel fuel contamination:

  • Partial or complete injector failure that reduces engine functionality (including RPM and gear selection)
  • Check Engine light comes on
  • Fuel consumption or emissions increase

A Word On Fuel Testing 

Is the issue fuel-related? You might consider fuel testing with tools like Kolor Kut Water Finding Paste or Liqui-Cult Microbial Test Kits. Each tool works differently to analyze your fuel and can lend some insight.

For instance, fluid sampling pumps use flexible tubing to pull fuel for examination without having it come in contact with the pump (as this could cause contamination). However, fuel tank samplers use a plunger that reaches the bottom of the tank before opening up, pulling the diesel sample through it and into the testing unit. It’s helpful to discuss the potential solutions with experts like All Bay Diesel if the tests show positive for fuel contamination.

Can You Fix Fuel Contamination?

Yes, it is possible to remedy contaminated diesel. For example, a fuel polishing technique with several filtration levels will remove current debris and prevent future imperfections. Anyone can install a mobile polishing system to remedy multiple tanks or an automated fuel polishing unit for periodic cycling. 

How does it work? Each system passes fuel through a micron filter that traps larger particles like dirt, sand, sludge, and grime. Many also have a magnetic chamber that attracts rust and metal and a water separator that removes free water. 

Fuel additives like stabilizers will also prevent oxidation and chemical breakdowns, allowing for longer shelf life.

Diesel Repairs For All Vehicles Out There!

Our professional works hard to bring all mobile fleets in the Bay Area of California the repairs and maintenance they need to get back on the road. We work with all vehicle and product types, including Duramax Diesel, CAT, and Ford PowerStroke.

Whether you need diesel exhaust fluid or diesel fuel contamination solutions, give your machinery the care it deserves with All Bay Diesel call (925) 522-1780 today!

Call Now: (925) 522-1780