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Six Things to Know If You're New to Diesel Engines

Diesel engine fans will rapture on about the impressive combination of power and fuel efficiency that modern diesel engines carry. Environmentally friendly and fairly low maintenance, diesel engines have been popular for years in Europe, and that popularity is finally beginning to grow in the United States as well. With all their benefits, diesel engines may very well become more popular than gas engines! Here are some tips to consider if you, like most U.S. drivers, are fairly inexperienced with diesel engines.

1) Virtually all new diesel engines are equipped with a turbo-charger, which works like a jet engine, forcing outside air into the engine. This increases efficiency and performance. Turbo-chargers are very powerful, so it's important that the air entering is clean and free of detritus. You can make sure of this by keeping the air filter on your engine clean and changing it often. Most vehicles are equipped with electric sensors which alert you when your air filter needs changing. Pay attention to this! Ignoring this alert could damage your engine.

2) Diesel engines need to use fuel filters, since diesel fuel isn't as pure as gasoline. Your car will have sensors much like those in the air filter, and these will tell you if your fuel filter becomes clogged and needs to be changed. It's strongly advised that you heed these warnings quickly, as failure to change a clogged fuel filter could leave you stuck on the side of the road. Expect to change your diesel fuel filter more often than you're used to, since diesel filters have a shorter life span than gas fuel filters.

3) Here's some shocking news for new diesel owners -- in addition to being less pure than gasoline, diesel fuel also contains water. Even though small amounts of water will not hurt your diesel engine, nearly all modern diesels are equipped with water/fuel separators. Depending upon your vehicle, you may need to purge the water from your diesel's fuel system manually. Check your owner's manual for instructions on how to do this and to find out how often it should be done. The good news is that many service facilities will perform this task for you at little or no charge, and will also dispose of the water/fuel mixture in an environmentally friendly way.

4) Diesel engines generally burn some of the engine's lubricating oil during normal function. This is why they've earned the nickname "oil burners", and why it's important to check your engine's oil level between oil changes. Let the engine cool for at least 30 minutes before checking the oil, and make sure the vehicle is level. Refer to your owner's manual to know when you need to add more oil, based on your dipstick reading.

5) Diesel engines don't like cold temperatures. At low temperatures, diesel engines tend to start harshly and warm-up very slowly. At extremely low temperatures (below -10 F) diesel engines may not function at all. Thus, it's very important to remember to use your diesel's block heater if outside temps ever dip below zero. The block heater is nothing more than an electrical plug on your car that uses your home's electricity to keep your engine warm, and it's as simple as plugging your car in at night. If you can afford the electricity, you can plug-in your block heater any time the outside temperature dips below freezing. This will protect your engine and make for quick and smooth start-ups, and it will help your engine warm-up quickly. Check your owner's manual for your block heater's location.

6) While all new engines have a short break-in period, new diesel engines usually have a break-in period that lasts 500 or 1000 miles. (Check your manual to find out.) Usually, the manufacturer recommends that you avoid driving at sustained speeds (i.e. long trips on the highway) during this period. Additionally, most manufacturers suggest that you not tow or haul anything during this period. Once the initial break-in period is over, it's not uncommon for your diesel to continue to improve in power and efficiency for the first 20k or 30k miles. Unlike gas motors, which often stop improving in power and efficiency after 3k to 5k miles, diesels need lots of time and use to reach their peak efficiency and performance. In fact, most long-time diesel owners will tell you that their engine didn't really start to truly perform until a year or two after they bought it.

It is imperative that new or first-time diesel owners read their engine manual thoroughly. Diesel owners need to perform normal vehicle maintenance, as well as monitor air and fuel filter sensors, check engine oil between changes, remove water from fuel system when needed, and plug in the block heater when the temperatures drop below zero. This extra care will result in an engine with power, fuel economy, and 200,000+ miles of service

Author Jason Lancaster, a car industry veteran, created You'll find accurate tips for buying a car and car advice.






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