Total Pageviews

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Diesel Fuel Nightmare

 Recently I was outside running the tractor and after a few minutes it started to sputter and not run right. I couldn't figure out what was wrong so I called the dealer who advised it was probably the diesel fuel gelling. To put some anti gel solution in the tank. I did that and when I restarted it everything ran well. That is for about 5 minutes and then it stopped running and regretfully stopped in the drive way where we could just squeeze the Jeep around it.  Back on the phone to the dealer again and I was told to put a tarp over it and direct a heater onto the engine where it would warm the tractor all the way to the back. I did as told and heated the tractor for several hours. Tried again and no luck..would not start. Back on the phone with the dealer and I was advised that I needed to use a certain type of anti gel since the one I had been using for the past 15 years probably was no good. We shoveled the driveway wide enough to get the Jeep around the stalled tractor and carol went into town and bought 1/2 gallon of Howes diesel fuel treatment.  She brought it home and I treated the fuel in the tank. A short time later the mechanic arrived and he took out a huge heater and blasted the tractor with warm air. He then bled the fuel lines and after a time it started back up. It ran but not right and it lacked power.
A couple days later I went to use the tractor again and didn't get very far from where I park it under the deck and it stopped and this time it was pretty obvious that it was not going to start. It sat outside over the weekend and first thing Monday I called the dealer again. Three hours later the mechanic was back and we emptied the fuel tank. There were a couple metal filings in the fuel and some very fine grit. He then changed the fuel filters. The photo below shows the first filter in the fuel line. It had a very thick substance like a super thick hand cream that clogged the filter. The mechanic thought I had gotten a bad batch of fuel but there were several possibilities to choose from. Since the fuel was only a few weeks old it couldn't be the age of the fuel.
 After the fuel tank was drained and all the fuel removed from the tank, lines, he replaced the filters. Then bled the lines again and pretty soon the tractor was running again. The top photo is of the two fuel filters with the worst one being the first in the fuel line and the second one just before the fuel went into the engine. I thought I could tell if the problem was old fuel, bad fuel, vandalism or just coincidence when I cut the fuel filters apart but I couldn't. the fuel that ran out of the filters was like jelly and not liquid. The white creamy material in the filters was thick like lard.
I first suspected possible vandalism since just before this occurred the dogs alerted us to something in the front yard. I went out with a flashlight but was not looking under the deck where the tractor is parked. There could have been someone out there but I didn't think to look under the deck so I'll never know.

I wanted to see what sugar in diesel was like so the third photo is 1/3 cup of white sugar in a bottle of diesel fuel. After three days it did not dissolve and just clumped up on the bottom of the jar. It also clouded the fuel so it was no longer clear.  The result is clearly visible in the photo.

So the verdict is still out as to cause. It could have been bad diesel fuel or vandalism. I can not tell from the content of the fuel filters what the cause could be. It could have been vandalism, or it could have been bad fuel or some unknown cause. This five gallon tank of fuel was treated with three different brands of anti gel diesel treatment and this still happened. When it happened the first time I did look at the filters and they had diesel in them and did not look like the photo on top.

It will just have to remain a mystery and I hope it does not happen again as it has been a long two weeks of no tractor. We have had vandalism in the past when our log splitter was vandalized by opening the fuel line and putting something in the gas tank. Also the oil was contaminated and it took several trips into town and the purchase of a new air filter and a gallon of carburetor soak to get it back running again.

Another time I was working in the garden and noticed something was sticking to my boot. It turned out to be big globs of roofing tar that had been thrown into the garden. Another time our gate was broken off and laying on the ground. Another time the lock on our garage door was turned upside down and encased in ice where someone had frozen it. A candle resolved that quickly.

There is no proof that the tractor was vandalized and I do not believe it was even though I can't explain that grit in the fuel or the putty type white substance in the fuel filter or the jelly like substance that came out of the filter before I cut it open. I'm just thankful that the tractor is running again and as far as the log splitter it runs better now than it did when it was brand new.


Pat said...

I know you've been thinking sugar, but looking at that goo, couldn't someone have squirted some handcream or body lotion in there -- is it greasy? What does it feel like?

Bruce said...

Yes, I guess anything is possible. It was slimy.

Gypsy said...

It certainly sounds like vandalism, but I can't imagine not having enough of a life than to mess with other folks' property. Maybe you need to install some kind of camera?

Bruce said...

Gypsy: I have done that but thanks for the suggestion.....

Cletus said...

Many years ago we came off the trail from a winter camping weekend to find the fuel siphoned from our truck parked at the trailhead. Have had locking fuel caps ever since. Are any available for your tractor? Or would it be possible to secure the cap with a locking strap or chain?

I've never seen anything like that in our diesel filters. Wondering if you could smell any perfume over the smell of diesel?

Although I surmise that the vandals that come your way probably walk in. because we live in a remote area with a long drive to the house I purchased a Mighty Mule driveway alarm. It can only be triggered by a large mass of metal i.e. ATV's, cars, trucks etc. Because of the amount of insulation in our house and insulated windows we often did not hear visitors until they rang the door bell. Neither did our 3 dogs. The alarm will not trigger from human or animals but only has a range up to 400 feet. Did have a wired motion sensor audible alarm set up once but it would constantly trip for small animals and deer.

I do have multiple motion sensing spot lights mounted to overlap on all sides of our house and storage barn. Useful when bringing in firewood at night or cooking outside and of course, visitors both animal and human set them off.

Sure wish you could be rid of this type of problem, daily living is sometimes enough to keep one busy with challenges.

Bruce said...

Cletus: Your description of your situation sounds exactly like ours. I smelled the goop but couldn't detect any odor other than a slight odor of diesel. It was like a thick paste consistency. I asked the dealer if there was a locking fuel cap but because of the screw in design into a heavy plastic filler pipe there is none. I had considered a strap that would keep it from being fully unscrewed.

You describe our driveway sensors accurately inasmuch as the least little breeze will set them off. I now have them located where they only go off if something sets them off around the tractor. No one can drive up our driveway (100 yds long) without the dogs hearing them. With 4 dogs one always hears a vehicle. A person can walk up the driveway and wouldn't be heard though. The dogs alerted me to something out front about two weeks before and I went out with a spot light but did not see anyone or any animal. It was my stupidity not to look under the deck where the tractor is kept. The dogs did their job and I came up short. That won't happen again. I like the idea of motion sensor lights. Also the strap which I had considered but now will consider more carefully.

If you remember the mechanics hand cleaner that was in a can and in paste form that is what the stuff in the filters looked like. If it had any smell it was overwhelmed by the diesel smell. Your comment is certainly very welcome and confirms one of my thoughts and gives me some more food for thought. Good suggestions and thank you for taking the time to reply and inspire me.

Cletus said...

Thinking a bit about the stuff in your diesel filter.

Could your fuel have been some form of bio-diesel and the cold separated the fat? I seem to remember someone with a bus conversion years ago who burned used fryer oil who had to preheat it up and do some sort of mix/blend with regular diesel fuel to get it to run the engine.

Never tried bio-diesel, was just reheating some soup and noticed the fat congealed on the surface of the container when I pulled it from the fridge and it made me think of your problem.

Bruce said...

I had not thought of that Cletus but I don't think that could have been the case. I bought the fuel at the same place I have used for many years. I have been thinking about it too and I have concluded the tractor was vandalized because the fuel we took out of the tank and lines was stored outside in a 5 gal bucket covered to keep debris out. It appeared normal when I checked it earlier today, clear and no hint of what was in the filters. I think that rules out bad fuel and implies something added to the fuel that was drawn into the filters.
Our motion sensor lights should be here in a couple days. Motion sensors are already up. Trail camera is mounted inside looking through a window where it can't be reached by a vandal. The window is secure. With your suggestions and what we have done I think we are ready if it happens again.