Sunday, February 19, 2012

Westly's Care and Feeding - Diesel Oil, Fuel, Filters

When Westly and I became acquainted, he had a large orange oil filter marked "FRAM".  I've used Fram oil filters for years without any apparent problems because they can be picked up at any FLAPS (friendly local auto parts store) for a low price.  However, a quick internet search on oil filters will return thousands of pages with multiple thousands of opinions about Fram and every other oil filter now (or previously) available.  The general consensus is that the orange filter, while it may have been a quality product at one time, is now (due to revised corporate affiliation, manufacturing locale, etc) to be avoided.  This seems to be a recurring theme with many well known name brands of products across the board.  Survey says the preferred filters were German made: Mann or Mahle.  In a pinch, the NAPA or Wix product would do.
The Mann oil filter
What your Volkswagen diesel really wants
I remembered years ago there was a great little service/parts shop in SeaTac called Auto Sport Imports.  It was still there, and I could purchase the proper Mann filter  (W940/25) for only about 40% more than the corresponding Fram item.  And here's the best part - when I told the nice lady at the counter I needed an oil filter for a VW diesel, she produced the filter right away without looking through several catalogs, making a couple of phone calls, and staring at a computer screen with a glazed look in her eyes. This is always a good sign.

The choice of which oil to use is a hotly debated topic in the VW community.  To see what I mean, just check out the forum on the Samba (see my Vanagon related links) and search for "oil".  If you find you are slipping into a comatose state after reading through all those pages, check out the discussions about tires for some stimulating tete-a-tete.

Diesel engines require a certain classification of motor oil due to many factors such as high operating temperature, extreme duty cycle, soot accumulation, low sulpher fuel, etc.  One doesn't just put passenger car/truck motor oil in and hope for the best.  I chose 4.5 quarts of Chevron Delo 400 LE HD 15W40 for Westly and he chugged it greedily.

Back at Auto Sports Imports, while I had the attention of that sagacious frau, I ordered a fuel filter as well.  This time I was presented with a Bosch product (457.434.106).  I  had installed many Bosch parts in my air-cooled past, so I recognized it to be a quality brand.  I should check online though to see if they have changed corporate affiliation or manufacturing locale.

Diesel engines demand clean fuel.  Any contaminants will result in problems like difficult or no starting, clogged fuel injectors, corrosion, broken internal parts; the equivalent of  a really bad hair day for your engine. Properly maintained and regularly changed, they protect your engine from dirt, rust particles, water, microbes (they feed on diesel fuel) and keep air out of the fuel line.  Diesel fuel filters tend to be large and have water separators with drains.  Some are heated as diesel fuel can gel at very low temperatures.

Westly's fuel filter.  The screw on top is for bleeding air out of the line
Underneath is a fitting for draining water & sediment
Out of curiosity I opened the drain on Westly's fuel filter and about a cup of water, rust and sand particles came out.  Yuck!  But the NAPA filter did its job keeping it out of the engine.  I put on the new Bosch filter, purged the air out of the line and he started right up.

I noticed that the  brown fuel line running from the filter to the injection pump had a small crack and was allowing a few air bubbles in.  A query to the online Vanagon community revealed that it could be replaced with 1/4" id X 3/8" od polyethylene tubing but if I were planning to run used vegetable oil (yes, this can be done) I would need a Viton line which is more expensive.  I chose the poly which was about 25 cents a foot at my friendly Ace Hardware and it was a quick replacement.  Soaking the ends in hot water makes them just pliable enough to easily push over the barbed fittings.  I keep a spare 60" in my "just-in case".

Don't accidentally put gas in a diesel  fuel tank
Westly likes his diesel fuel fresh.  It's never a good idea to use fuel that has been sitting around for months.  In addition, a fuel additive should be used to disperse moisture, add extra lubrication to make up for low sulphur fuels, improve flow at  below freezing temperatures, kill any bio-organisms that may be growing, and so on.  There are many brands of this around, I currently use StaBil Diesel Formula Fuel Stabilizer and Performance Improver.  I put in one ounce every tank full (15.9 gallons) so it works out to about 59 cents per tank.  It's true, some call it snake oil.  I call it cheap insurance.

The 32oz bottle has a handy measuring dispenser - take off the cap and squeeze the bottle until the desired amount flows into the spout, then dump it in the tank.  This is good because if the stuff gets on your hands, you're wearing it like a cheap perfume all day and anyone attracted to you by this scent may not be someone you want to hang with.

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