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Get the most from your low-emission diesel engine

Diesel engines being produced today are engineered to deliver very low levels of exhaust emissions that help economies around the world achieve desired greenhouse gas reduction goals. From the United States, to Europe to China, diesel engines are being required to run cleaner than ever. In order to achieve these low levels of exhaust emissions, the latest diesel engines in production today use a suite of new technologies that are necessary to achieve these goals.

These technologies include:

• Common rail fuel systems 

• Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) 

• Diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) 

• Diesel particulate filters (DPF) 

• Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) filters 

• Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) systems 

Perkins has engineered these systems to be as transparent to users as possible, but there are a few things that need to be understood when operating or maintaining equipment with these technologies. Three critical areas to consider are:

Fuel cleanliness

1: Fuel cleanliness and maintenance

Diesel fuel must meet a strict 15 parts per million (ppm) sulphur level and be kept clean from dirt, moisture and other contaminants

Sulphur is a natural component of diesel fuel but can have adverse effects on aftertreatment performance if levels higher than 15 ppm are used. When higher sulphur diesel is burned, the chemical by products that flow to the aftertreatment can react negatively with the filters in the system and cause decreased performance. In other words, the DPF will not be able to regenerate soot as efficiently and the SCR filter will not be able to convert NOx emissions as efficiently. This can lead to premature service and maintenance of the aftertreatment system.

Along with low sulphur fuel requirements, clean fuel is also very important. As common rail fuel systems utilise extremely high pressures for injection, they become more sensitive to dirt, debris, water and other contaminants. This can lead to premature wear of injection components that can cause engine performance issues such as hard starting, low power, etc. It can also lead to more frequent maintenance of the fuel filtration systems used to protect the fuel injection components.

DEF Handling

2: DEF handling  

DEF shouldn’t be intimidating. Cleanliness, storage and proper filling procedures are key to maintaining system health. As long as the fluid is kept in a clean environment and stored in a cool, dry location, it should function as intended.

Clean DEF should never be exposed to dirt or other contaminants or mixed with fluids like fuel, oil, coolant or water, all of which can damage the system. Operators and maintenance personnel must know the location of the DEF tank filler and make sure only clean, pure DEF is put into the DEF tank. Contaminated DEF or improper DEF filling is one of the leading causes of aftertreatment system issues. 

Engine Temperature

3: Engine temperature

Aftertreatment filters function much better when they are hot. Engine heat will help the DOC convert CO and CO2 , help the DPF stay clean by burning off accumulated soot and help the SCR filter more efficiently convert NOx. It’s important to understand an engine’s operating cycle and plan for periods of time where it can be exercised under load or operated at high idle for at least 30 to 45 minutes per shift to allow for the system function as intended.

Major service intervals are typically 500 hours for minor services and multiples of 500 hours for major services including; 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 hours. But there are some things that should be checked every day and serviced as necessary before starting your engine. The list includes: 

Engine Oil level
Fuel system
Engine Air Cleaner

Every 50 hours of operation, or at least once a week, you should check the fuel tank for water and sediment and drain it if necessary.

Even unused engines need attention

If your machine is going to be parked or stored for an extended period there are a number of things that should be done to keep the engine in good condition. Engines are made to be used, and when they’re not used problems can develop that will prevent proper operation when the engine is started again.


Maintain the fuel system

Fill the tank with clean diesel to minimise opportunities for condensation and install new filters. While you’re at it, top off cooling and oil reservoirs for the same reason.

While your engine may be suitable for use with biodiesel, leaving it in the fuel system for an extended period can attract moisture, bacteria and fungi that can lead to issues when the engine is restarted. So, if you use biodiesel it’s very important to drain the tank and replace the fuel filters before filling the tank with clean diesel. Then run the engine for 10 to 15 minutes to remove all of the biodiesel from the fuel system. 




Clean the engine bay

Removing dirt, oil, fuel residue and anything else that may be built up on your engine can help avoid deterioration of wiring, wiring connectors or other sensitive components which could cause start-up issues.




Cover exhaust and intake openings

Insects, animals, water and lots of other things can use them to contaminate your engine.

Disconnect the batteries



Disconnect the batteries

That will keep them from discharging while not in use and help deter theft or joyriding.


It’s a good idea to change the engine oil and filter before restarting a stored engine because condensation can collect and react with contaminants in used oil. Of course, the whole machine should be inspected for damage, deterioration, or contamination before returning it to use.

It only takes a few minutes to familiarise yourself with the more complex maintenance procedures your newer engines and aftertreatment systems require. Combining that knowledge with the well-established procedures applicable to all of your diesel-powered equipment will go a long way toward achieving the maximum possible return on your investment.


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