Most diesel users know about or at least heard of the pesky “diesel bug.” However, the diesel bug is blamed for the majority of the issues that happen within diesel fuel, when in fact, there are other culprits as well. Asphaltenes are just as bad as the diesel bug when it comes to diesel contamination. A simple way of saying this is one is biological and one is chemical. Unfortunately, the end result is the same regardless of the culprit, dirty fuel or a non-running engine.
Consider this scenario. The diesel engine will not start or it does not run very well. Most diesel owners know to check the fuel filter first thing as a plugged filter is common place. The filter is pulled out and you see that it is all black and slimy. You know it is plugged and the first thing that is thought about is that the fuel tank has the diesel bug. A new filter is installed and a biocide fuel additive is dumped into the fuel. A short time later, the problem happens again. Now what? How many times is the fuel treated for a biological issue before the correct diagnoses is made?
So what are asphaltenes? As the name implies, it is an asphalt type solid matter that is present in crude oil and subsequently the distillates of crude oil. However, the diesel fuel is filtered so that all of the asphaltenes are removed. Or are they? Asphaltenes can be extremely small that can pass through the filters and would pass through the fuel system without harming it. Unfortunately, under the right conditions, can start to clump together and fall out of the fuel forming a sludge build-up on the bottom of the tank. When this happens, the fuel filter will start to plug up.
So how do you tell which situation you have? B3C Fuel Solutions, LLC has developed 4 in 1 Diesel Test Swabs. The swabs will test for fuel oxidation (condition), water, rust/scale, and sludge/asphaltenes. Using the swab, swipe it in an “S” formation on the bottom of the tank. Let the swab dry for 1-2 minutes and compare the swab with the instruction card. If there is no indication of sludge or asphaltenes, an authorized dealer can then perform the “Diesel Contamination” test, which will look for biological growth.