Diesel cars and trucks might not be as popular in the US market as they are overseas, but they still make up over 7 million vehicles on the road. Diesel registrations account for 2.8 percent of all passenger vehicles, including cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans. If you look at pickup trucks alone, they currently hold just over 10 percent of the market share.
There’s a reason for that. Many consider diesel to be a dirty fuel. So instead, US buyers are flocking towards hybrids and electric cars, which may be a bigger part of our future. But diesel does have a place as a clean, green option for those wanting a high-powered engine without limiting efficiency. Even today, there are still new diesel vehicles entering the market.
Both diesel and gasoline engines use internal combustion. Air enters the engine and creates power by combining with fuel. The engine’s cylinders compress the mixture, which ignites. This causes movement of the piston and crankshaft, which activates the transmission to set the car into motion. The piston then moves back into position to expel the used gas out as exhaust.
The difference between gas and diesel engines involves the compression process. With gas, a spark plug ignites the fuel. Diesel uses extreme compression. That causes diesel engines to have more power, but pays the price as they are louder.
Yet, for many drivers, if they’ve had diesel-fueled vehicles in the past, they love them for the many benefits they offer: better fuel economy, lower emissions, cheaper and less frequent maintenance visits to the service station.
Diesel engines may require fewer maintenance visits, but it doesn’t stop the need for regular maintenance to keep your vehicle operational. If you want your diesel car or truck to last for years, there are a few things you should schedule regularly.
Keep your car or truck’s engine clean
Since diesel engines can last longer than their gas counterparts, it pays to spend a little more attention on the engine compartment to ensure it’s clean. If you’re navigating over more challenging terrain, dusty, bumpy roads are a part of your daily routine, dirt may accumulate faster on the engine. If it accumulates, it can shorten the lifespan of the various components, which in turn will decrease your fuel efficiency.
Colorado winters can also wreak havoc on the various engine components. Salt, mag chloride, sand, and other winter hazards can stick inside the engine compartment, and cause corrosion.
Proper cleaning can start as a part of your regular car or truck washes. Use a moist sponge to wipe down the engine compartment. An old toothbrush can help remove debris from nooks and crannies. Just be sure the engine compartment is cool before you begin any maintenance work, and always wear protective gear such as goggles and gloves before touching and potentially hazardous materials. Check with your owner’s manual to determine appropriate action, as not all parts should be subjected to large amounts of water.
Don’t forget the oil change
It’s equally important for regular oil changes for your diesel engine compared with a gas engine. Check with your owner’s manual for ballpark timing for changing out your motor oil. A good rule of thumb is around every 5,000 miles, but adjust that based on the kind of driving you do.
If you regularly use dirt roads, pull heavy equipment, or move up and down the mountain, your car or truck may benefit from oil changes more frequently. This is one of the easiest yet important maintenance tasks you can perform on your vehicle.
Air filters and fuel filters
Almost all vehicles, including diesels, use an air filter to help keep the engine working at its best. You’ll find it under the hood inside the cold air collector box located near the front of the engine compartment.
A dirty air filter can choke the engine, meaning it will need more fuel to create the same amount of power you’re used to. Manufacturers recommend changing the air filter every 12,000 miles or so, and having it checked if you notice problems with engine power or acceleration.
Gas-powered engines use a single fuel filter, but most diesel engines use a primary filter between the engine and gas tank, and another between the transfer pump and injectors. Diesel fuel doesn’t go through the same refining process as gasoline, allowing more condensation in the tank. The two fuel filters help absorb this condensation. If water builds, you may notice a decrease in horsepower, the engine may stall out more frequently, and it could cause problems with your fuel injectors.
Most diesel fuel filters need replacing every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. Check with your manufacturer for guidelines for your make and model. It’s advisable to replace both fuel filters at the same time.
Proper cooling maintenance
In order to keep the engine cool, vehicles use coolant, or antifreeze, to transfer heat from the engine back to the air. As coolant moves through the engine compartment, it picks up heat. Hot coolant cycles back into the radiator, which turns the heat back into air. Then the cooled coolant travels back into the engine compartment, and starts the process all over again.
Because diesel engines run hotter than gas motors, the radiator is at more risk. Higher temperatures mean a greater chance of overheating, which can lead to failure in many of the various components, including cylinders and gasket seals. If you let it go on too long, you risk complete engine failure.
Proper cooling maintenance includes regular changing of coolant. This involves pumping specialized cleaning fluid through the cooling system and radiator to remove rust and any impurities left in the system by dirty or compromised coolant. The system is then topped off with fresh coolant to help with efficiency.
Once again, check with your owner’s manual for radiator flush recommendations. A good rule of thumb is around every 40,000 to 60,000 miles. If you notice orange or green fluid leaks under your car, a sweet smell coming from the engine, or steam coming up from underneath the hood, it may be an indicator of a problem with your cooling system.
Partner with someone for the best regular diesel maintenance for your vehicle
Whether you use your diesel car or truck for work or play, it’s important to know you can rely on it to get you where you’re going. Maintenance for your diesel car or truck is imperative to keep your vehicle running well for years. Stop by today and learn how we can help you keep your car or truck working at its best now and for years to come.