How to Avoid Gelling Fuel
Did you know that diesel fuel, initially used as an industrial fuel source, gained immense popularity due to the invention of the diesel engine by Rudolf Diesel in the late 19th century? Today, it powers a significant portion of the world’s transportation and machinery, making it a vital component of modern life.
There’s no denying the widespread use of diesel fuel in our daily lives, thanks to its efficiency and versatility. However, diesel fuel has its challenges, one of the most frustrating being fuel gelling. Picture this: it’s a frigid winter morning, and you’re ready to start your day, only to discover that your diesel engine won’t start because the fuel has gelled. It’s a common problem that can leave you stranded, but fear not! This guide will walk you through what gelled fuel is, how it happens, what to do when it occurs, and most importantly, how to prevent it.
What is Gelling Fuel?
Diesel fuel contains a mixture of hydrocarbons, including paraffin wax. When the temperature drops, paraffin wax begins to crystallize, which is how gelling fuel occurs. When these wax molecules solidify, they can obstruct fuel filters and hinder the flow of fuel to the engine. This can result in poor engine performance, reduced power, and even engine failure, making it a significant concern, especially in colder climates.
There are 3 stages of the gelling fuel process, and each state has certain consistencies and signs to look out for.
- Cloud point. At this stage, the fuel appears cloudy due to the presence of small wax crystals suspended in the liquid. It may not significantly impact the fuel’s flow, but it serves as an early warning sign that cold weather conditions are affecting the fuel.
- Pour Point. As the temperature drops further, the fuel’s consistency becomes thicker, resembling syrup. You may notice that the fuel flows sluggishly, and it may struggle to pass through fuel filters and lines. Engine performance may begin to deteriorate.
- Gel Point. When the temperature reaches the gel point, the fuel has turned into a gel-like substance. It becomes virtually immobile, refusing to pour or flow. At this stage, the signs are severe: your engine won’t start or run properly, and the fuel system is clogged with solidified wax.
What to do With Gelling Fuel
If you find yourself with gelled fuel in your diesel-powered truck, it’s essential to address the issue promptly and safely. If the weather isn’t too extreme and it’s during the afternoon when temperatures may rise slightly, you can try letting your truck warm up naturally. Park it in a warmer area, like a garage or a sunny spot, and wait for the ambient temperature to thaw the gelled fuel. However, avoid attempting anything dangerous, such as manually heating the truck or the gas tank with heating tools—this can be risky and may lead to accidents or damage to your vehicle.
In very cold climates, you can mix a small amount of kerosene with your diesel fuel to lower its gel point. However, be cautious with this approach, as excessive kerosene can affect fuel combustion and engine performance.
You can also try using a de-winterizing solution from a brand like Hot Shot Secret to add to de-gel fuel. Keep in mind, though, that this is not a long-term solution and should be used as a temporary fix to get your vehicle up and running again. The best thing to do for gelling fuel is to prevent it in the first place, which we’ll go over next.
How to Prevent Gelling Fuel
Preventing gelling fuel is essential to keep your diesel-powered vehicles and equipment running smoothly, especially in cold and freezing temperatures. Fortunately, there are several proactive measures you can take to ensure that your fuel remains in a liquid state, reducing the risk of engine problems and operational disruptions.
- Using fuel additives. Invest in high-quality fuel additives designed to prevent gelling. These additives contain anti-gel agents that lower the gel point of your diesel fuel. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended dosage for the specific product you choose.
- Getting the correct winter fuel. When available, opt for winter diesel fuel, which is specially formulated with anti-gelling additives. Winter diesel fuel has a lower gel point and is better suited for cold weather conditions.
- Secondary fueling sources. Keep extra fuel on hand in jerry cans or storage tanks with anti-gelling additives. This allows you to refuel your vehicles or equipment with treated fuel if the primary fuel source begins to gel.
- Daily fuel top-offs. If you anticipate extremely cold temperatures, consider topping off your fuel tanks daily. Keeping fuel tanks as full as possible reduces the space available for condensation and water accumulation, which can contribute to gelling.
- Storing equipment indoors. Whenever possible, store your diesel-powered vehicles and equipment indoors or in heated spaces. This helps maintain a higher temperature and prevents fuel from reaching its gel point. If indoor storage isn’t feasible, use engine block heaters or other heating methods to keep the equipment warm.
- Regularly replace fuel filters: Follow the recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle or equipment and replace fuel filters as needed. Clean filters ensure optimal fuel flow and reduce the risk of blockages caused by wax crystals.
- Engine block heaters: Install engine block heaters on your vehicles and equipment. These heaters keep the engine warm, which in turn helps maintain the temperature of the fuel and prevents gelling.
- Monitor Weather Conditions: Finally, stay on top of weather forecasts, especially in colder seasons. This allows you to take preemptive measures, such as adding more anti-gelling additives when necessary or scheduling maintenance on exceptionally cold days.
Keeping Your Fuel and Fleet Flowing Smoothly
In the world of trucking, winter can be a challenging time for both vehicles and drivers. Keeping your fuel and fleet running like normal during these cold months is crucial to maintaining productivity and preventing costly breakdowns.
As we’ve explored in this guide, understanding the causes and solutions for gelling fuel is essential. However, prevention is the key to a trouble-free winter. Stay informed about weather forecasts, invest in quality additives, use the right fuel, and consider all the tips we’ve discussed to keep your trucks running without hiccups.
Before you hit the winter roads or as you kick on your equipment this season, take the time to stay informed and prepared. Your diligence will not only protect your equipment and fuel supply but also ensure your safety and the timely delivery of goods to their destination.
For more insights on winter fleet preparation and all things related to trucks, explore additional resources on the Flex Fleet Rental Blog. Stay informed, stay prepared, and keep on trucking!