Avoid Cold Weather Problems by Using Winter Diesel
With the colder weather coming soon, now is the time to switch to winter diesel fuel and treat your stored fuel. Frigid temperatures can hurt your machine's efficiency and cause serious engine problems if the proper precautions aren't taken. We're covering how to properly blend your fuel and convert it to winter diesel, so you can maintain excellent performance during the cold months.
What the cold does to diesel fuel
During cold and freezing overnight and daytime temperatures, diesel may reach what's called the "cloud point," when wax crystals develop in the fuel. All diesel fuel contains wax paraffins which are a necessary component that give it the high cetane number to enable efficient combustion. Ideally, these paraffins are a liquid and are dissolved in the diesel.
When the cloud point is reached, however, your fuel will look cloudy, and the crystals can plug fuel filters, resulting in poor starts, engine hesitation, stalling, and even engine damage. The cloud point for No.2 diesel (the most commonly used diesel) is approximately 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to prevent diesel problems during the winter
- Fuel supplements and winter blends – Avoid diesel fuel crystallization (or gelling) by using an anti-gel fuel supplement or a winter diesel blend. Diesel fuel anti-gels are simply added to the fuel tank. Anti-gels drop the freezing point of diesel fuel so that it is less likely to freeze in cold temperatures.
- Use winter diesel before it gets too cold – A good rule of thumb is to switch to a winter blend 15 degrees above the cloud point. When overnight temperatures begin to dip down near 30 degrees Fahrenheit, it's time to blend in No.1 diesel with additives for winter. For every 10 percent of No.1 diesel added, the fuel cloud point will drop by 3 degrees.
- Don't let the cloud point create issues – Crystals can quickly accumulate in the fuel during a cold snap, but your engine may still run fine. Even if the fuel is blended after reaching the cloud point, those crystals will remain and can clog your fuel filters. An engine that runs well on a chilly Friday could leave you stranded on a warm Monday. An early season move to winter diesel fuel is an easy way to avoid early winter problems.
- Blend your fuel correctly – When you're blending fuel, don't just pour No.1 diesel on top of stored fuel. First check the total volume of No.2 remaining in the tank so you can calculate how much No.1 has to be added to reach your desired cloud point (remember, if you replace 10% of No.2 diesel with No.1, your cloud point drops 3 degrees). You also have to make sure that your No.1 diesel is properly blended with ant-gel additives before adding to your No.2 fuel. If No. 1 diesel is poured into the storage tank without proper blending, the winterized product can be diluted, negatively impacting the fuel quality.
The Kelbe team can help
When done correctly, fuel blending will improve diesel engine performance. But since it's a scientific process that can vary based on expected regional temperatures and your specific operation, you may have a few questions along the way. At Kelbe, we're always ready to answer any questions you may have and help you find the best winter diesel blend for your equipment. Remember, the best time to use a diesel anti-gel and/or switch to blended fuel is before the fuel freezes. Be prepared this winter, and change over before you get stuck!