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Critters … In Your Fuel

Your truck is not running well, power is off, it is not idling smoothly, you are clogging fuel filters? What is wrong? It could be critters in your fuel. What, you ask, critters in diesel fuel? How can that be?

Algae in the fuel and other microbes have been a problem for decades, though rarer than in today’s trucking world. In the past, sulfur, naturally occurring in diesel fuel, kept the critters at bay. It is thought by experts that the ultra-low sulfur fuel sold today encourages the growth of algae and other microbes in fuel systems.

Algae needs water to grow; there is where the problem starts in fuel tanks. Add heat and it is perfect growing conditions. It is thought that algae and other microbes might lay dormant until conditions are perfect for growth. It is also contagious, just like the flu. If the driver ahead of you has infected tanks, you might pick up the infection from the nozzle.

One might think that a little algae or a few critters might not cause problems; the filters are catching it, right? Wrong, while yes, the filters do catch a portion of the algae, it does not catch all of it. And it can spread throughout the fuel system. One owner-operator who did not understand about algae, got it so bad that his injectors became clogged as did his fuel lines. It cost a fortune to get it all killed off and the damage repaired.

One way to tell if you have algae is to check your fuel filters when they are changed, or have the mechanic do it. It is natural to see a bit of little silvery globs of water in the poured out filter fuel, but if it is a greenish or rusty brown color, yep, you’ve got algae. If you have a water separator with the huge see through globe, your filter will turn a deep dark brown, possibly with a greenish cast in algae infestations. Another way to tell is if you find black residue inside of your fill tube on your tanks. Yep, algae.

To kill algae if found early on, there are microbiotics available at larger truck stops that will kill those little critters off; it may take several treatments and filter changes to do this and it is not cheap. Bad infestations may take a trip to the shop and have the tanks removed and cleaned, then microbiotics added to completely get rid of those critters.

To avoid algae and other fuel critter contamination, it is suggested that you avoid fueling at truck stops that have low turnover of fuel or as the fuel truck is delivering fuel which stirs up sediment in the main tanks. Also, run fuel treatment periodically to keep the water accumulation down in the tanks. When fueling, try not to allow the outside of the nozzle to touch fuel going into the tank.

Now you know about the critters in your fuel.

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