Diesel engines are equipped from the factory with at least a basic fuel filtration device. However, worldwide diesel fuel quality is in general decline, so these basic forms of filtration cannot fully protect precision engine components.
No matter how carefully fuel is handled, contaminants find their way into fuel during transfer, storage or even inside the vehicle's tank. Water, an engine's primary enemy, condenses directly from the air during normal daily heating and cooling cycles. In addition to water, solid and semi-solid particulate and dissolved contamination is common.
If these common contaminant challenges weren’t enough, there is also the potential for paraffin wax crystal formation in the fuel during cold weather operation. Paraffin is a natural constituent in #2 diesel fuel and adds significant energy. But when #2 diesel cools to its particular "cloud point", wax crystal formation causes filters to plug just as if they were fouled by other contamination. Each of these threats to smooth engine operation is addressed by a well designed, high quality and effective diesel fuel filter/water separator. The proper filtration system can go a long way to assist operators with required protection and maintenance.
Note: #1 diesel does not contain dissolved wax, and is often blended with #2 diesel to make winter fuel.
Future posts will discuss the details of contamination sources and their damaging effects.