Photo: Cenex
Fuel Injector Large Cenex

Warning signs your fuel injector needs attention

Sept. 15, 2020
Because of the critical role fuel injectors play, it’s essential for fleet owners to take care of them. To prevent injector issues from attacking your fleet’s performance, here’s what you need to know.

Fuel injectors are the heart of a vehicle’s fuel system. Because they keep the fuel supply running smoothly, when an injector experiences a problem, the whole engine suffers the consequences.

Because of the critical role fuel injectors play, it’s essential for fleet owners to take care of them. To prevent injector issues from attacking your fleet’s performance, here’s what you need to know.

What are fuel injectors?

Just like the heart pumps blood to the body, injectors pump fuel to the engine. In a heart, the pumping action occurs through a series of valves, and a fuel injector similarly functions like a valve.

Fuel injectors work by alternating a rod in and out of a thin tube. When the rod is retracted, the tube is open and fuel flows in. When the rod extends, the tube is closed off and fuel is pumped through.

At the end of the tube, a mist of pressurized fuel is sprayed through a nozzle into the combustion chamber, where it’s ignited to power the engine. So just like the heart delivers the body’s energy supply, the fuel injector delivers your vehicle’s energy supply, which is why it’s such a critical component to protect.

The pros and cons of today’s diesel fuel injectors

The finer the fuel mist sprayed by the injector, the more completely the fuel burns. Achieving a more complete burn carries many benefits, including reduced emissions and restored fuel economy.

But creating a finer mist takes immense pressure. Compared to older models, not only do today’s fuel injectors have smaller openings, but they also use more force. While it was once common for fuel injectors to operate at 15,000 PSI, today’s injectors can easily exceed 30,000 PSI.

High-pressure common-rail (HPCR) injectors, as they’re called, deliver maximum efficiency, although the trade-off is that they can be more sensitive than older models. With precision engineering comes tighter tolerances, so it’s critically important to keep a lookout for issues.

Most common problems with diesel fuel injectors

To detect problems with your fuel injector, keep a lookout for some of the most common warning signs. Often, compromised fuel injectors can cause decreased fuel economy, inconsistent engine power or engine misfire. If your equipment is experiencing any of these issues, it could mean you have a fuel injector problem on your hands. Here are the most common diagnoses.

  • Nozzle coking deposits: Under the intense heat and pressure inside HPCR injectors, typical no. 2 diesel can break down and form strains of black graphite, an issue known as coking. When a fuel cokes, it can leave harmful deposits on the tips of an injector, inhibiting power and fuel efficiency.
  • Internal diesel injector deposits (IDIDs): Unlike nozzle coking deposits, IDIDs form deep inside high-precision injectors. Because these components have tight tolerances, even minimal deposits can significantly reduce power and fuel economy and, in some cases, result in injector failure.
  • Fuel filter plugging: Fuel filters capture unwanted contaminants in fuel. When it comes to HPCR injection systems, these filters can be prone to premature plugging. As a result, the flow of fuel becomes restricted, leading to decreased power.
  • Excess wear: Finally, fuel injector problems can arise simply out of excess wear. With each pump stroke lasting just milliseconds, fuel injectors move at incredibly fast speeds. If a fuel injector isn’t being properly maintained, that constant motion can gradually wear it down, compromising performance.

How to prevent diesel fuel injector problems

While fuel injector problems can be serious, the good news is that minimizing them is easy. One of the simplest ways to maintain fuel injectors automatically is to use a premium diesel fuel like Cenex Roadmaster XL.

Enhanced with a multifunctional, industry-leading additive package, Cenex Premium Diesel helps prevent injector problems before they happen. While each additive is important for overall engine health, these work the hardest to protect injectors.

  • Injection stabilizer: This additive gives fuel the strength it needs to stand up to the intense heat and pressure inside today’s HPCR injectors, minimizing fuel coking and the deposits it can cause.
  • Detergents: These additives do exactly what their name suggests — they keep fuel lines clean, helping reduce both deposits and fuel filter plugging for optimal engine performance.
  • Lubricity improver: This additive reduces friction between the fuel system’s moving parts, such as the injector. By keeping the injector running smoothly, the lubricity improver helps reduce wear, extending the life of the injector.

Injectors are the heart of your vehicle’s fuel system. And if the heart fails, the whole system goes down with it. That’s why taking chances with a subpar diesel fuel just isn’t worth the risk. To fill up on Cenex Roadmaster XL, find a Cenex location near you using our locations finder.

About the Author

Steve Hinds | Senior business development manager

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