Every fleet wants to save money, but is it worth doing so at the risk of damaging an expensive engine? Consider that something as minor as a fuel filter can make or break the answer to that question and it’s vitally important you pay close attention to this small piece of equipment.
Sure, it isn’t always blatantly clear when a fuel filter is doing its job. A fleet technician puts the fuel filter on then goes about the process of changing it once the date becomes due. As long as something terrible didn’t happen to your engine, it’s easy to assume that the fuel filter worked great and nothing is wrong.
Rarely does a carrier cut open a fuel filter to see if there was a problem, and even if they did it wouldn’t be easy to spot a problem unless you see an obvious fuel system or fuel quality problem. The fact is, contamination comes in many forms.
Different Ways Contamination Happens
Whether you’re talking about water or debris at the bottom of a fuel storage tank or microbial growth that leads to algae formation, there are a number of ways contaminants can impact your fuel system performance. Poorly maintained systems can develop rust or create a rich environment for other particulates.
If you are finding problems with the fuel filter you are using, it may not actually be the filter’s problem. One thing that fleets often overlook is the simple quality of the fuel they are using. Not all fuels are created equal.
Variability in fuel quality, from high contaminant content to additives and additive drop-out, it all makes itself known in a variety of ways and creates a harsh environment for an overworked fuel filter. The filter may still be doing its job filtering out particles within the range of what it was designed for, but what if something else is going on?
Why Fuel is a Problem
An average gallon of fuel can potentially contain a lot of harmful particles, up to 18 million of them. These particles can – over time – cause critical damage to vital engine components. That’s why synthetic, multilayered filtration is so important.
How well a fuel filter works depends on how good a job it does at trapping particles of a certain size. 4-micron particles, which cannot be seen with the naked eye, can do major damage to engine components if they make their way through a filter and aggregate on internal engine surfaces.
The moral of the story is that you want a fuel filter that can filter out particles as low as 4-microns at least 99.9 percent of the time. Even small percentage points can make a huge difference when it comes to keeping your engine operating at optimal performance.
Keeping Moisture at Bay
It’s no secret that water is a big problem for fuel. Keep in mind, it’s the water that isn’t visible that is a major problem. Since water cannot be compressed, it poses a major problem for fuel pumps and injector systems, no matter how advanced.
For this reason, water is even more dangerous than particulate contaminants. Whether picked up from tank humidity or from the supplier tank itself, water can become a problem from a variety of sources.
Fortunately, you can spec fuel filters that have water separators. These filters often have glass bowls at the bottom where water can be located and drained away with little problem.
Picking the Right Filter
The fact is, filter technology has come a long way and new variants are better able to meet the demands of fleets than ever. Still, that doesn’t mean the huge array of choices available won’t leave your head spinning.
Keep the following points in mind:
- Choose for life cycle and condensation and contamination reduction.
- Follow OEM recommendations considering the type of equipment you are using.
- Never assume and make sure technicians and operators are draining properly, as needed.
In the end, by following these tips and ensuring your filters are the right ones for the job, you’re sure to get plenty of life out of your equipment’s engine.