Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 21 February 2018

plan to help minimise fuel problems this spring

Fuel contamination and blocked filters are the scourge of tractors at this time of year. They are the most common cause of breakdowns as diesel tank turnover picks up after a long winter and usually result in costly downtime during what is one of the busiest months of the farming year.

The following plan should help minimise any fuel problems contractors and farmers experience this spring:

Storage tank

Is your diesel storage tank fitted with a water filter at the outlet and properly sloped to counteract the water condensation problem? This is important because water will always sink to the bottom of your diesel and therefore towards the rear of your tank (provided you have it sloped that way).

In this way, whenever the diesel tank nears empty, you can let off any water via the bung. Aside from water, other diesel impurities include tiny particles of dust, sand, metal, glass, sludge and rust that are invisible to the human eye.

These are the particles that do the damage to fuel injectors; with modern high pressure common rail engines the particles shoot into the injectors at colossal speeds and pressures of up to 2,000 bar.

This quickly erodes the injectors, leading to increased fuel use and reduced efficiency. Usually if you replace one injector, you have to replace the others as well, so the bills can quickly escalate.

If you are having a lot of fuel problems despite regularly changing your tractor filters, the root of the problem could be in the main diesel storage tank. The costs involved in solving this are minimal compared to the potential price of damaged fuel pumps and injectors.

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For example, Rotech, the diesel filtration specialists based in Wexford, stock a basic water filter for about €45 right up to a pump coupled with water and particulate filtration system for €275 plus VAT.

Best practice is to use an inlet filter on the storage tank's cap as well as an outlet filter off the tap. The inlet filter will absorb any water or other impurities in the fuel as it is being pumped from the oil lorry into the tank.

Those using an outlet filter – which really is the absolute minimum for anyone serious about fuel housekeeping – will also have to fit a pump to the farm tank.

This is because gravity feed will not supply enough pressure to get through a decent outlet filter of 10 microns or five microns in size in realistic time. The contact number for Rotech Ltd is 053 9135165.

Cleaning the diesel tank

If you find you are using filter after filter with no improvement in sight, it could be that your farm tank is filthy and you need it cleaned. This is a dangerous job and is best left to the professionals. One company who offer such a service is G Fuel and Marine. Based in Cork, the firm offers a tank-cleaning service throughout Ireland.

Some of the company's main clients are semi-state, including ESB and Bord Na Móna. G Fuel and Marine will do call-outs to farmers; the company has developed a mobile fuel polishing and tank cleaning system that is designed to remove harmful sludge, water and other contaminants from storage tanks.

At the same time they recondition the stored fuel, saving on its removal and replacement with fresh product. This ensures the farmer has a clean fuel tank and clean fuel.

According to G Fuel and Marine owner, Jonathon Grey, the typical call-out charge to a farmer wishing to have a 2,000 litre diesel tank cleaned out is around €400 plus VAT.

The contact number for G Fuel and Marine is 021 4377728.

Checking/changing filters

Check and drain all water traps on your fuel filters regularly. If there is excessive gathering of water or dirt in a trap, it should set alarm bells ringing – where are you getting your diesel from?

Under normal operation, you need to change your fuel filters as recommended in the operator's manual. They will need to be changed more often when operating in busier times of the year and in dusty conditions like spring and summer. If you notice a loss of engine power, replace the filters immediately.

Water condensation

When storing diesel, be careful not to let water build up inside the tank in the form of condensation.

This can occur either in your bulk diesel storage tank or in your tractor tank. Keep both fuel tanks on tractors and bulk storage tanks as close to full as is possible for as often as possible.

Storing with only a quarter of a tank can lead to condensation forming on the inside walls because you will have a lot of headspace left empty inside.

Over a few weeks, as much as half a pint of water can form inside the tank, which will lead to problems once the engine is started.

Indo Farming