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2/12/2017 TroubleshootDieselEngineProblems

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Diesel Engine Problems

Iamoftenaskedtodiagnosevehicleproblemsoverthephone,ifonlyitwas
thateasy.MainDealers,specialistsandgaragesequippedwithexpensive
andsophisticateddiagnosticequipmentstillseemtostruggle.Computer
generatedfaultcodesonlygoacertaindistancetopointinthedirectionof
theproblem.Afterthat,itisaprocessofelimination,unfortunatelyatyour
expense.

Theinnovationofthecomputergeneratedfaultdiagnosishasledtoagenerationof
mechanicsthathaveoftenlostsightofthebasicoperatingprinciplesofthediesel
engine.Unfortunatelythefaultcodesdon'talwayspinpointtheproblembutrather
bringupanarrayofcodesthatcouldbeeitherthisorthat.Beingtold:"wehavetried
thisandithasnothelped"orthebestone,"sorrytherearenofaultcodessowecan't
findanything",isextremelyfrustratingandcanbecostly.

Iamnotknockingthemodernmechanic,nowadaysdieselenginesareextremely
sophisticatedanddifficulttodiagnose.Ipersonallydonothaveanydiagnostic
equipmentandallmyknowledgecomesfromotherpeople'sexperiencesandyearsof

https://www.uniteddiesel.co.uk/dieselengineproblems 1/11
2/12/2017 TroubleshootDieselEngineProblems

workinginthedieseltrade.Ihopethattheinformationbelowhelpsanddoesnotjust
confuseyoubutatleastitissomethingtostartwithandhasnotcostyouanything.

BelowisaTroubleshootingchartthatmighthelporjustconfuseyoumore,

Diesel Troubleshooting

Probable Runs
Hard Diesel
Cause Engine rough Lack
to knock Black White Blue
not at of
start / smoke smoke smoke
starting lower power
engine pinking
RPM

Low
compression X X X

Lowenginecompressionwillresultininsufficientheatbeinggeneratedtoignitethe
fuelandcausehardstarting.Thisismoreofaproblemwitholderorhighmileage
vehicles.Tofindoutthecompressionperformacoldenginecompressiontest.
Compressionshouldbebetween20to35barsor300to500PSI.Anythingbelow
thiswillcausestartingproblems.

Lowfuel
X X X X X X
pressure

Itisinthisareathatmostfuelsupplyproblemsoccur.Theproblemcouldeitherbe
poorfuelsupplytotherail/injectors/pumportherail/injectorsarenotholdingthe
fuelwithinthesystem.Thebestwaytodiagnosethisistostartfromthetankand
ensurethatsufficentfuelisavailabletothepump.Thenmakesurethatthepumpis
deliveringfuel.Losenthesupplypipefromthepumptotherail.Checkfueldelivery.
Thisisaimportantpartofthediagnosticssoifyouwanttoknowmorecontactme.If
youputyourfingeroverthepumpoutlet(totherail)canyoustopthedeliverywhilst
cranking?Thedeliverywillnotsquirtfarbutyoushouldnotbeabletostopthe
deliverywithyourfingerasthepressurebuildsup.

Lowcranking
speedflat X X
battery

Iftheengineturnsovertooslowly,thepumpcannotgenerateenoughfuelpressure
toactivatestartofinjectioncausinghardstartingproblems.Thisisusuallyseen
moreinthecoldermonthsespeciallyifthebatteryisrundown.

https://www.uniteddiesel.co.uk/dieselengineproblems 2/11
2/12/2017 TroubleshootDieselEngineProblems

Probable Runs
Hard Diesel
Cause Engine rough Lack
to knock Black White Blue
not at of
start / smoke smoke smoke
starting lower power
engine pinking
RPM

Glowplugsor
X X X
relayfaulty

Theenginereliesontheglowplugstogenerateheattohelpwiththecombustion
cycle.Someenginesonlyusetheglowplugswhencoldbutotherswillallowtheglow
plugstoworkwhentheECU(vehicle'scomputer)needsthemtobeontohelpwith
combustion.Problemsinthisareawillcausedieselenginestartingproblems,uneven
runningandwhitesmokewhentheengineiscold.

Insufficient
X X X X X
fuelsupply

Thisspeaksforitself,notenoughfuelinthetankoraproblemwithsupplypipes
beingcrackedorbent.Thefueltankbreathercansometimesbeblockedcausinga
vacuuminthetankwhichinturndrawsthefuelbacktothetank.

Fuelquality&
contamination X X X X X X

Ihavebeeninvolvedwithdieselfuelinjectionallmyworkinglifeandstillfindthe
topicoffuelandsolutionscontroversial.Workingwithdieselinjectorsweseethe
resultofpoorfuelqualitydamageandconditionoftheinternalcomponents.Iknow
thatifagoodqualitydieselandansolutionisusedregularlyitwillprolongthelifeof
dieselinjectionequipment.

Poorfuelqualityandgeneralwearandteararenottheonlycauseofinjectorfailure,
thenewertypeofinjectorssometimesfailduetodesignproblems.

Iwouldestimatethatabout85%ofinjectorsfailduetofuelrelatedissuesandthe
balanceduetodesignproblems.

Airvacuum
infuelsupply X X X X

https://www.uniteddiesel.co.uk/dieselengineproblems 3/11
2/12/2017 TroubleshootDieselEngineProblems

Probable Runs
Hard Diesel
Cause Engine rough Lack
to knock Black White Blue
not at of
start / smoke smoke smoke
starting lower power
engine pinking
RPM

Thisissimilarto"Insufficientfuelsupply"(above)butdirtyfuelfiltersorafaulty
filterheadassemblymayalsocausefuelsupplyissuesandhardstarting.

Blockedfuel
supply X X X X X
filters

Needinformation

Faultydiesel
X X X X X X X
injector(s)

Probablythebiggestresultofinjectorfailureisduetotheinjectorshavingexcessive
returnfloworbackleakage.Thisisduetowornpartswhichallowexcessivefuelto
gothroughthedieselinjectorandtoreturnbacktothetankorfuelsystem.This
causesadropinrailpressure(see"Lowfuelpressure")whichresultsinhardstarting
ornotstartingatall.

Anotherproblemresultingfromwornpartsisadelayinthestartofinjectionwhichin
turnresultsinroughrunningatlowRPMoryourdieselnotstarting.

WearealsoseeingproblemswiththelaterBoschPiezoinjectorsthatarecausing
whitesmokeatidle.Thevehiclebuildsupexcessivewhitesmokeatidlebutthen
tendstoclearon
acceleration.Wehavefoundthatthenozzlesdribbleresultinginunburntfuel.

Forpeaceofmindsendyourinjectorsinfortesting,askusforaquote.

Faultyhigh
pressure X X X X X
pump

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2/12/2017 TroubleshootDieselEngineProblems

Probable Runs
Hard Diesel
Cause Engine rough Lack
to knock Black White Blue
not at of
start / smoke smoke smoke
starting lower power
engine pinking
RPM

Ifthepumpisfaultytherewillbea"Lowfuelpressure"problem.Thisproblemarises
ifthepump"breaksup"internallycausingswarfandironfilingstogetintothefuel
system.Normallythiscausesdamagetothedieselinjectorsandunlessthecomplete
fuelsystemisattendedtotheproblemwillariseagain.Thisisanexpensivefailure
andnoshortcutscanbetaken.

Faulty
pressure
X X X X
regulator
sensor

Mostvehicleshaveapressureregulatorfittedonthehighpressurepumpanda
sensorfittedontherail.Ifeitherofthesearefaultytherewillberunningissueslike
hardstarting,uneventickoverandthevehiclecuttingoutwhentheRPMis
increased.

Faultylow
pressure
X X X X
supplypump

Notallvehicleshavealowpressuresupplypumpbutiftheydoitcanbefoundeither
inthetankoronthefuelpipenearthetank.Ifyourlowpressurepumpisfaulty,you
mayexperiencesymptomssimilartothoseofa"Faultyhighpressurepump".

Airintake
X X X
restriction

Thiswouldbeduetoadirtyaircleaner,blockedpipesorastuckbutterflyvalve
foundonsomevehicles.Inaddition,afaultyairflowsensorontheairintakewill
causeproblemsrunningandexcessivesmoke.

Turbo
problems
wastegate X X X X X
andVariable
vanes

https://www.uniteddiesel.co.uk/dieselengineproblems 5/11
2/12/2017 TroubleshootDieselEngineProblems

Probable Runs
Hard Diesel
Cause Engine rough Lack
to knock Black White Blue
not at of
start / smoke smoke smoke
starting lower power
engine pinking
RPM

Weareseeingmoreturbosfailingwithnewervehicles,Iputitdowntoa
combinationofthings,highrevvingenginesdemandingmorepower,incorrectdriver
actions(notallowingtheenginetoidleawhilewhenstartedandbeforeswitching
off),poormaintenanceandnotreplacingoldoilwithagoodqualityoil.Aturbospins
atabout42000revolutionsperminute,theaveragewashingmachineat1000rpm.

Asvehiclesgetoldertheturbowastegatestickscausingthevehicletoeithershut
down,gointolimphomemodeorsmokeexcessively.

Ifavehiclehasavariablevaneturbo,problemscanariseifthevanscarbonup,the
symptomsarelackofpower,blacksmokeandhesitationonacceleration.Alsomake
surethatallthevacuumpipesandsensorsthatoperatetheturboareoperating
correctly.

Anotherproblemisiftheairpipestoandfromtheinlet,intercoolerandturboleak
duetodamageorlooseclamps,thevehiclecanexperiencesimilarproblems.

EGRproblems
nowincluding
watercooled
EGRvalves X X X X X X
leakingwater
intothe
engine.

https://www.uniteddiesel.co.uk/dieselengineproblems 6/11
2/12/2017 TroubleshootDieselEngineProblems

Probable Runs
Hard Diesel
Cause Engine rough Lack
to knock Black White Blue
not at of
start / smoke smoke smoke
starting lower power
engine pinking
RPM

IdonotknowwhyEGR(exhaustgasrecycling)valveswereeverputontodiesel
engines,theycausemoretroublethantheyareworth.Theideaisthatwhilstthe
engineisattickover,avalveopensandallowssomeoftheexhaustgasestopass
backintothenicecleanairintakemanifold.

Afterawhilethegasescontainingdirty,sootycarbonsstarttocoverandcoatthe
intakeareaandvalvescausingtheairtofuelratiotobecomeunbalancedthus
resultinginmoreblacksmokebeingemittedfromtheexhaust.Thisblacksmokeis
thendrawnbackintotheairintakeviatheEGRvalve.Aviciouscyclethenstarts
withtheengineproducingmoresmokeandsootiercarbonsbeingdrawnintothe
intake,amajorproblem.IwouldalwaysrecommendtheEGRvalvetobeblankedoff
butsomevehicleswillnotallowthis.

AnewproblemwithmodernEGRvalvesisthatsomeofthemarewatercooled,great
ideabutastheyagetheybecomeporisandstartleakingcoolantintotheengine
throughtheEGRvalve.Tocheckremovethevalve,blockofthecoolantoutlet
connection,connectcompressedairintothecollantinlet,dropintoabucketofwater
andseeifyouhaveantairleaks.

Injector
blowbyseat X X X X
leaking

https://www.uniteddiesel.co.uk/dieselengineproblems 7/11
2/12/2017 TroubleshootDieselEngineProblems

Probable Runs
Hard Diesel
Cause Engine rough Lack
to knock Black White Blue
not at of
start / smoke smoke smoke
starting lower power
engine pinking
RPM

Injector"blowby"canbethecauseofsomeofthefollowingsymptoms.Hardor
difficultstarting/erraticoruneventickoveroridle/lumpyrunning/smokeontick
overoracceleration/blacktararoundtheinjectorsandachuffingsoundfromthe
enginewhenrunning.Injector"blowby"occurswhentheinjectordoesnotseal
againsttheinjectorseatinthecylinderhead.Oftenachuffingsoundisheardor
black"tar"canbeseenaroundtheinjectors.

Onsomeengineapplicationsifthiscontinuesseriousenginedamagecouldresultdue
tothefactthattheECUwillovercompensatethefuellingonthecylinderorcylinders
withtheseatingproblemcausingpistonwashingorcylinderoverfuelling.Evenifthe
injectorisremoved,cleaned,anewcopperwasherfittedandthenreplaceditwillnot
alwaysrectifytheproblem.Thereasonforthisisthattheseatinthecylinderhead
hasbeenerodedbytheescapingcombustiongasesresultingindamagetotheseat.
Theonlywaytorefacetheseatistouseaseatcuttingtoolandgentlyrefacethe
seatinthehead.MoreinfocanbefoundonourTipsandTroublespage.

Camcrank
X X X X X X
sensor

Checkthatthesensorsarenotloose,crackedordamagedastheyarenotvery
expensive.IfyouhaveanydoubtsIwouldrecommendreplacingthem.

Injector
wiring X X X X
harness

Moreofaproblemwithvehiclesthathavetheinjectorsundertherockercoverand
allowoiltocomeincontactwiththeelectricalconnections.Eventhoughsome
diagnosticmachineswillcondemntheinjector/s,manytimesthefaultlieswiththe
wiringharness.

Checkthattheelectricalconnectionsontheinjectorsaregoodandaremaking
contact.

Internal
engine X X X X X
problems

https://www.uniteddiesel.co.uk/dieselengineproblems 8/11
2/12/2017 TroubleshootDieselEngineProblems

Probable Runs
Hard Diesel
Cause Engine rough Lack
to knock Black White Blue
not at of
start / smoke smoke smoke
starting lower power
engine pinking
RPM

Thisisgenerallymechanicalfailuresuchasproblemswithbearings,pistons,oil
pressure,overheating,valvesandmore.Thelistisendless,itisbesttogetan
enginespecialisttodiagnosethefault.

The Answer is in the Smoke

Wecangenerallyunderstandwhatiswrongwithadieselenginebythecolourof
smokeemittedfromtheexhaust.Therearethreebasiccoloursblack,whiteand
blue.

Black Smoke

Thisisduetoaairtofuelratioimbalance,eitherthefuelsystemisdeliveringtoo
muchfuelintotheengineorthereisnotenoughcleanair(oxygen)afewthingsto
lookfor:

Faultyinjectors(injectorsneedattentionatabout100.000to120000miles)

Faultyinjectorpump

Dirtyaircleaner

Turbochargerorintercoolerfaulty

Problemswithincylinderhead,valvescloggedupduetofaultyEGR(exhaustgas
recyclingunit)

White Smoke

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2/12/2017 TroubleshootDieselEngineProblems

Normallymeansthatthefuelinjectedintothecylinderisnotburningcorrectly.The
smokewillburnyoureyes.

Engine/pumptimingout

Fuelstarvationtothepumpcausingthepumpstimingnottooperatecorrectly

Lowenginecompression

Water/petrolinthefuel

Blue Smoke

Theengineisburningengineoil

Worncylindersorpistonrings

Faultyvalvesorvalvestemseals

Engineoverfullwithengineoil

Faultyinjectorpump/liftpumpallowingengineoiltobemixedwiththediesel

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