By Rich Guida, Brand Manager, Howes Products
Truck drivers, farmers, and diesel engine owners in general can face serious problems if they’re not prepared when winter weather gets serious. Gelled fuel and frozen fuel filters can cause any diesel engine system to stop working, leaving you stuck in the cold and, in some cases, dangerous situations.
“Emergency rescue products that are designed to de-gel fuel in a pinch are essential to have on hand but, not all of them are created equally,” says Rob Howes, Executive Vice President of Howes Products. “They may all work to break down the gel and get the fuel flowing again, but how they do that is really important.”
Look for products that contain no alcohol
Alcohol is corrosive and can degrade plastic, rubber, or even metal parts in the fuel system that were not engineered to use alcohol-bearing additives. That’s the last thing you want in a product that’s supposed to be helping you out of an emergency!
In fact, it’s long been thought that alcohol was the only way to quickly de-gel fuel, but this has been proven to be untrue. Howes has incorporated new advancements in technology in their products to develop safer and more effective alternatives to alcohol for de-gelling fuel and melting ice. Alcohol has a flashpoint of around 65°F, while diesel fuel has an average flash point of around 150°F. Using a product with that low of a flashpoint in diesel fuel is very dangerous. New Howes Diesel Lifeline has a flashpoint that is virtually identical to that of diesel fuel. Lifeline’s advanced formula allows it to safely de-ice frozen fuel filters and re-liquefy gelled fuel quickly, without using any harmful alcohol.
Any number of problems can occur if you introduce alcohol to your system. Fuel lines can swell up in the presence of alcohol, and tanks often have issues with the coating inside, at times requiring massive structural modifications. Engines will also run hotter when alcohol is present, which can potentially lead to melted pistons and scuffed cylinder walls. Alcohol will scour varnish and deposits out of the fuel system that have remained in place for years. These will eventually wind up in the filter or main jet, choking off the engine’s fuel supply. Worse yet, the alcohol itself oxidizes in the tank and produces a tenacious brown glop that’s far more damaging to the fuel system than the varnish we’re used to seeing in systems burning pure fuel.
“Through our years of experience and constant testing, we’ve also learned that alcohols are often good “food” for bacteria and other troublesome microorganisms that produce sludge. This sludge can cause pitting corrosion of tanks and degrade fuels,” said Howes.
How to identify if the emergency product you have contains alcohol
It’s well worth taking the time to ensure that the fuel additives you use do not contain alcohol. If you are researching a product before you buy, you can check the product’s SDS to see its flashpoint. If the product you’re researching has a flashpoint far lower than diesel’s 150°F, there is a good chance it contains alcohol. Another way to check for alcohol is to look through the product’s ingredients. Chemicals like ethyl carbinol, hydroxy propane, isopropyl alcohol, 2-propanol, and aliphatic hydroxy hydrocarbons are all just different ways to say “alcohol” and should be avoided at all costs. In a hurry? You can also just look for products that clearly state “alcohol-free” on the label, like Howes Diesel Lifeline. In fact, all Howes additives are alcohol-free and safe to use in any diesel system.
Winter marches in
As winter weather shifts and becomes consistently colder, you definitely want to be treating your diesel fuel on a regular basis. At every fill-up, be sure you add Howes Diesel Treat to prevent gelling in the first place. It’s the leading anti-gel on the market from one of the oldest, most trusted brands in the space. Filled with more of what your engine needs, Diesel Treat will fight the problems created by today’s Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) fuel by doing things such as adding lubricity and safely removing water, just to name a few.
As winter storms continue to swoop in, follow the Howes very simple, two-step winter readiness plan. Step one: use Diesel Treat at every fill-up to prevent gelling. Step two: have a bottle of Diesel Lifeline on hand in case you forgot step one. You never know when severe winter cold will pop up and surprise you. Always be prepared.