How To

Tips on How to Maintain Your Diesel Car Engine to Optimize Its Performance

By Staff Reporter , Jul 23, 2020 01:23 PM EDT
(Photo : pixabay)

Keeping up with the maintenance of your diesel engine properly and frequently ensures that it's running at an optimal level. It's uncommon for diesel engines to have problems compared to gasoline engines, which means that general maintenance won't cost you more, saving you money over time in replacements and repairs.

But then, just because those maintenance requirements are less frequent, it doesn't mean you don't have to take care of your engine always. If you want to keep your favorite diesel sedan or truck running for longer and good as new, you should continue reading.

This guide contains some handy tips on diesel engine maintenance, and some simple steps to ensure that your engine is always in good condition.


Ways to Properly Maintain Your Diesel Car Engine

1.     Clean your engine.

Since diesel engines have a longer lifespan than gasoline engines, they may benefit from cleaning them often. After all, your vehicle may be used to traveling over long distances or on dusty challenging roads. Because of this, dust and dirt collect over time in the engine. When dirt and dust form in the engine components, it can decrease fuel efficiency or even shorten your engine's lifespan. If you also stay in an area where you experience harsh winters, your engine's parts may wear out faster due to contact with road salt, which hastens rust and corrosion.

Proper cleaning is an easy and essential way to care for your diesel engine. Please consult your owner's manual before cleaning. The basics that you'll need to clean your engine manually will include:

  • A moist sponge you'll use to wipe the engine bay
  • A special degreaser to dissolve any gunk that has formed in the engine
  • A toothbrush to get to the nook and crannies of your engine

Always ensure your engine is cool before you start cleaning, and also make sure to wear protective gear such as gloves and goggles. Some of your engine parts may not be waterproof; don't forget to check the manual to see what's safe to hose down. You can use plastic bags to waterproof those sensitive parts when cleaning. If you choose not to use water, you can use a leaf blower to dust off your engine bay. Ensure you set it at the lowest setting.

2.     Always check your air filters.

In most vehicles, including a diesel one, the air filter is under the hood in a rectangular air box near the front of the engine compartment. Ensure that you check the air filters frequently because a dirty filter can choke your engine, causing it to use more fuel to get the power and acceleration you need.

It's recommended that you replace your filter every 12,000 miles, or check if you notice a decrease in engine power, increased engine wear, or weaker acceleration.

3.     Take care of your car engine's radiator.

A car's radiator keeps the engine cool by transferring heat from the car's engine to the air. The process starts where the coolant or antifreeze travels through the engine while picking up heat from the engine. The hot cooler then cycles back to the radiator, which releases the heat into the atmosphere. Finally, the freshly cooled coolant travels back to the engine, repeating the process.

Since diesel engines usually run hotter than gasoline engines, their radiators are exposed to higher temperatures, leading to overheating. If your engine overheats, it may warp engine components such as gasket seals and cylinders, leading to complete and potentially irreparable engine failure.

Proper maintenance of your car engine radiator by using coolants or regular replacements is an excellent way of preventing your engine from overheating. Manufacturers of automobile parts recommend changing your radiator fluid every 40,000 miles to 60,000 miles, though it's best to check your manufacturer's recommendations. 

If you notice a maple syrup-like smell coming from the engine or an orange greenish fluid leak and steam coming from under the hood, it's time to get your cooling system and radiator checked.

4.     Always replace your fuel filters.

Gasoline vehicles usually contain one fuel filter, but with a diesel vehicle, it has two - one primary fuel filter between the gas tank and the engine, and the secondary fuel filter is between the transfer pump and fuel injectors. Due to diesel's less refined nature, it tends to absorb more water due to condensation in the tank, which is why manufacturers build diesel engines with two fuel filters.

Water deposits in your fuel can cause your engine to stall, your fuel injectors to explode, or even have a decrease in horsepower. Don't wait for any of these problems to happen. Instead, have your fuel filters replaced. Most engine vehicles need fuel filter replacement services every 10,000 miles to 15,000 miles, though it's recommended to check your manufacturer's manual for assurance.

5.     Don't let your fuel tanks run dry.

If you're unfortunate enough to drain the entire diesel from your tank, you'll need to clear any air that may have entered the fuel system. When you refuel, you'll need to prime the fuel bowl to bleed any air that may have been trapped inside.

6.     Keep your injectors clean.

Modern diesel fuel injectors are quite sophisticated. The injectors are electronically controlled and inject precise amounts of diesel fuel at greater than 20,000 PSI directly into the cylinder, several times per combustion cycle in fractions of a second. Even the slightest sludge or soot can clog up the injectors, resulting in loss of power and excessive smoke from the exhaust.

Injectors can also fail due to back leakage or excess return flow caused by worn out parts, which allow excess fuel to pass through the injectors and return to the fuel system. This usually causes a decrease in rail pressure, which may result in hard starting or not starting at all.

Always use a branded diesel injector cleaner additive to ensure the injectors are well-lubricated and clean. To shop for the best injector pumps, you also need to go to a trusted dealer.

7.     Always check your oil.

Engine oils function much harder in diesel engines than in gasoline engines. HEUI (Hydraulically Actuated Electronic Unit Injectors) utilize high pressurized engine oil and are controlled by lubrication oil to drive plungers pressurizing fuel for injection. Therefore, your engine must receive the cleanest and best engine oil possible. Use only engine oils recommended for diesel engines, and don't forget to read the manufacturer's manual for instructions on the recommended oil change routine.

8.     Turbocharger care

A turbocharger is an exhaust-driven supercharger that pushes air into the engine under pressure. They are used on diesel engines to increase power output. Turbochargers are perfect for diesel engines because the motor can't detonate, because the fuel isn't injected until the combustion phase. They can also increase engine fuel efficiency like low fuel consumption and low emissions because they harness the engine's exhaust energy.

In modern diesel-powered vehicles, the turbocharger is an essential engine component. The wheels of a turbocharger can exceed 100,000 RPM compressing air to high pressure, then forcing it into the engine. Because the turbocharger wheels spin at very high RPM, then they must be well-lubricated.

Before turning your engine off, you should let it cool down to also allow the turbo to cool down, thus avoiding damage to the plugging and bearings of the passages by burnt oil, also known as coking. When the turbo runs at full load or full speed, then shutting it down immediately can be hard on the turbo. With the help of the process of water cooling the turbocharger's center housing, some turbochargers have eliminated the need for long idling periods. 

9.     Warm your engine.

Diesel engines normally clatter when they are cold or haven't been on for a while. This is because the diesel engines rely on the heat generated when the air in the cylinders is compressed for the engine to ignite. If the engine has a cold block of air, combustion won't be effective.

When you start your diesel engine early in the morning or after it has been off for a long time, let it idle for a few minutes. This enables the engine to have enough time to circulate oil efficiently, and gives the cylinders ample time to build up heat for efficient combustion. 


Whether it's for play, work, or both, maintaining your diesel engine car is essential to making it run smoothly and for longer. The only thing that's keeping your diesel engine running for years to come is how well you can maintain it. To keep your diesel engine running perfectly for the next decade or more, ensure that you follow the above tips. Knowing your engine can help you save money on service. Most of the standard maintenance required for your engine can be done in your garage. Once you're used to it, you can buy the replacement parts in bulk and save money. 

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