Why Can Diesel Engines Idle So Long?

Mark and Jamie Womble park their 18-wheeler in the snowy lot behind Trader Alan’s Truck Stop along Interstate 95 around 12 p.m. Eight more trucks have already arrived and are parked side by side. Despite the fact that this is a truck “stop,” their diesel engines are still going.

The Wombles, a husband-and-wife driving duo, will also come to a halt – but not completely. While they enjoy lunch with the other drivers at the restaurant, their truck will idle outside, rumbling gently to keep the engine and fuel warm in the frigid weather.

Hundreds of thousands of diesel trucks idling at truck stops across the United States, according to a research by the American Trucking Association, are a serious emissions problem.

Even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently reduced the sulfur content of diesel fuel to reduce pollution, if the trucking industry is unable to reduce idling trucks, stronger federal emissions regulations may be imposed.

The number of hours wasted idling by the projected 1.28 million long-haul diesel trucks on American roadways is in the billions. Truck stops are significant stationary sources of CO2, NOx, CO2, and volatile organic pollutants. Trucks transport 56 percent of all freight in the United States.

According to Vic Suski, senior automotive engineer of the American Trucking Association (ATA), a gallon of diesel fuel consumed at idle produces 2.5 times the amount of ozone components in the air as a gallon burned on the road.

According to the American Trucking Association’s Vehicle Maintenance Council, the average diesel truck travels 130,000 miles per year and spends 6,316 hours on the road. However, it has only been hauling freight for 3,095 hours, which is less than half of the period. The vehicle has been operating but halted for 3,221 hours, the engine rumbling at a low idle. According to another estimate, truck pauses account for around half of the idle time.

“The community around the truck stop is facing the brunt of these pollution,” says Steve Allen, a project manager with Boston-based Energy Research Group, an energy consultancy business.

Weather circumstances, economic demands, and old habits are all reasons why truckers, both independent owner-operators and fleet drivers, leave their engines idling.

The engine and fuel tank of a vehicle must stay warm in cold weather. Heaters, lighting, and other appliances in the living space right behind the driver, where he or she sleeps, eats, reads, and watches TV, all require power. Cabs and perishable cargoes must be chilled in the summer.

Mr. Suski said, “A lot of drivers are under the gun.” “They have to make a drop, and if the engine won’t start in the dead of winter, or at any other moment, they’re done….” Allowing her to be inactive is the best way to avoid this.” It might cost up to $100 to jump-start a diesel engine. Minor repairs could cost as little as $300.

Despite truck manufacturers’ promises to the contrary, many drivers believe that stopping and starting a diesel engine causes unnecessary wear. Many drivers will not wait the recommended five minutes for the engine to cool down before turning it off. They simply leave the motor idle at a truck stop while they eat, shower, or shop.

“Except in freezing weather, there is no reason to leave an engine idling,” Mr. Allen explains. “Many drivers believe it is healthy for the engine, and it is difficult to break established habits.”

Only the Edison Electrical Institute (EEI) in Washington, D.C., has recommended truck-stop electrification as a feasible solution, according to the trucking industry. Truck stops would be equipped with outlets for “electrified” vehicles to connect into upon arrival, similar to how trailer parks give electricity to their customers.

Heaters for the engine and fuel tank, a heating/cooling device for the cab, and an automatic shutdown to kill the engine five minutes after stopping would all be built into the truck. According to Eric Blume of Electric Perspectives magazine, most of the components are currently available, and retrofitting a vehicle with the equipment would cost between $1,500 and $2,000. The electricity utilized would be paid for by the truckers.

“A truck costs around $3,400 a year to idle,” says Mike McGrath, director of client programs at EEI, whereas plugging in a truck only $1,369. “We are solely advocating this proposal for its economic benefits,” he argues.

The plan’s initial cost to a truck stop is estimated to be $1,500 per outlet, with a payback period of 8 to 16 months, according to EEI.

Even if diesel fuel sales decline, truck-stop owners would make roughly 76 cents per hour if they sold power. According to an EEI estimate, the truck owner, particularly the owner-operator, would save more than $3,500 year in gasoline and extend engine life.

According to the EEI, an hour of idling time equals 80 highway miles of engine wear. Engines would live longer if idle hours were decreased in half or more under the plan.

Annual carbon reductions under the strategy are estimated to be around 30%. “This is an opportunity to minimize emissions while also making money for truckers and truck-stop businesses,” Mr. Allen says.

The EPA, the ATA, the National Association of Truck Stop Operators, and the Electric Power Research Institute have created an informal consortium to reach agreement on the plan’s provisions. Within two years, pilot initiatives at several new truck stops would commence. “We’re also going to talk to drivers personally,” Allen says.

Is a long idle killing your diesel engine?

Is idling a diesel engine harmful? Idling a diesel engine causes the engine to suffer greater damage than regular running. When a diesel engine is run at a low speed, the internal components are subjected to twice the amount of wear as when it is run at a typical load. This will result in higher maintenance expenses and a reduction in engine life.

This information astounds me. I can’t believe that idling your engine generates twice as much wear. When you consider the amount of idling that occurs in diesel applications, that is just incredible. Do you believe your diesel is on its last legs? See my post on the 10 indications and symptoms of a worn-out diesel engine for more information.

This is why most manufacturers define applications with long idle durations as severe workload and advise a more aggressive maintenance regimen.

Idling really causes carbon to build up in the engine. Mirror glazing in the cylinder walls can also be caused by a large percentage of idle time. When the walls surrounding your pistons have a mirror-like finish, this is known as mirror glazing. More oil will travel by the piston rings, resulting in a high volume of blow-by.

The fact that diesel engines must operate at higher temperatures is the fundamental reason for the damage. A diesel engine requires a very high combustion chamber temperature to complete the fuel burn.

There will be carbon build-up if this temperature is not maintained. Carbon accumulation is accompanied by a slew of other issues. To get the most out of a diesel engine, it must be run under stress. Low idle times help extend the life of your engine.

How long can a diesel engine sit?

“Diesel fuel can be stored for six months to a year without substantial fuel degradation if maintained clean, cool, and dry,” according to Exxon. Diesel fuel, according to Chevron, may be stored for more than a year if it is obtained clean and dry from a reputable source and kept dry.

What is a lot of hours on a diesel engine?

Diesel engines can survive between 6,000 and 8,000 hours with good maintenance before requiring substantial repairs. As a result, some diesel engines on boats can endure a long period. Diesel engines are popular among boaters since they are long-lasting.

Should you let a diesel truck warm up?

Allow time for the engine to warm up. If you want to start a diesel engine and keep it going in cold weather, make sure you give it plenty of time to warm up. If you don’t let your engine warm up before driving, you’ll be forcing it to work harder than it needs to, which will cause difficulties later.

What RPM should a diesel idle at?

Severe weather is the most typical reason for leaving a truck idle. Excessive cold and extreme heat can make it necessary for the driver to idle the truck in order to stay comfortable.

  • Start the engine at 900 to 1200 RPM and let it idle for a few minutes. This guarantees that the oil has enough pressure to reach the tops of the engine’s heads.
  • Open the windows or the bunk vents. This keeps the air in the cab clean and free of fumes. Fumes from the engine have been related to a greater cancer rate among truck drivers, as well as death by asphyxiation.
  • Look for any leaks in the exhaust system. During your morning pre-trip checkup, look for any exhaust leaks. Check any APU exhaust that has been improperly channeled and has accumulated underneath the cab or sleeper. I know of a truck driver in Arkansas who died lately from this identical condition while sleeping in his bunk.
  • For the optimal air flow, park the car. When it’s necessary to idle, try to park in the opposite direction of the wind. Any fumes lingering beneath the truck will be blown away by the wind.
  • Do not leave the truck running with the engine turned off.
  • If you need to get out of the truck, turn it off. Thieves are attracted to idling and empty trucks.

Idling a big rig should only be done in exceptional circumstances. However, it never ceases to amaze me how many truckers leave their trucks running all night when a blanket would keep them just as warm.

What happens to a diesel engine when it sits for a long time?

There are a number of reasons why your diesel engine may be sitting idle. My truck, for example, is currently parked due to the need for new injectors. Some of you may just have a truck that you don’t use very often, which is fine, but how long can diesel engines sit without harming themselves?

Diesel engines are built to run continuously for lengthy periods of time. Diesels are extremely reliable due to their large internal components and low redline RPM, but how long can these overbuilt powerhouses stay idle? To keep everything moving and the seals from drying out, any engine, whether gas or diesel, should be started and brought up to working temperature at least once or twice a month. It’s even better if you can start your diesel engine once a week. Another reason to run it on a frequent basis is to maintain the fuel supply fresh. Old diesel gasoline can gel and cause a huge mess as well as a headache. If you’re going to be keeping your diesel for an extended amount of time, it’s a good idea to add a Fuel Stabilizer Additive beforehand to avoid any problems. Always remember that the engine should be brought up to working temperature before being turned off, not just started for a minute and then turned off. Short-term operation of diesel engines is not recommended.

What, on the other hand, would or could happen if a diesel engine was left idle for an extended period of time? How serious could the consequences of simply sitting be? You might be surprised by the answer!

Consider a diesel engine as if it were your body. What happens to a body that isn’t kept in good shape and doesn’t move on a regular basis? It starts to decay, and it does so quickly. The same is true for engines; they, too, require frequent use and maintenance. Otherwise, they will get disorganized and lose a lot of value.

Let’s pretend we’ve let an engine idle for a long time. What is the absolute worst that might happen to it? To begin with, all fluids such as oil, coolant, and diesel fuel will degrade and break down. Everything in their environment is affected when this happens. Blockages, corrosion, and outright failure of some components, such as fuel injectors, are caused by the disorganized fluids, which are extremely sensitive to the gasoline that goes through them.

Aside from the fluids breaking down and causing damage, internal components will begin to corrode, which, if left unattended, will leave the engine unworkable. At this point, digging into the engine and replacing the necessary parts to get it functioning again would necessitate the assistance of a mechanic.

What else is there to say? I’m glad you inquired. Dry rot will occur in all rubber hoses, seals, and gaskets, producing leaks. It could also simply weaken them to the point that, when the engine is started and the coolant system creates pressure, the hoses rupture while driving, leaving you stranded.

That’s only a sample of what can go wrong with the engine. Not to mention the fact that all of this sitting takes a toll on the car itself. First, the battery will fail and become unusable, necessitating a jump start or battery replacement. Not to mention the fact that rubber tires have a memory, causing a flat area in the tire that prevents it from being precisely round and balanced.

As you can see, practically every aspect of an engine is harmed when it is ignored and lonely for lengthy periods of time. So, do yourself a favor and start your truck, automobile, tractor, or other vehicle at least once a month. In the long run, it will save you a lot of money and time.

So you’ve been sitting with your truck for years, unused. Or perhaps you’ve recently purchased a diesel project that you want to fix up and get going. Although some damage will almost certainly have occurred, there are actions you may take to ensure that no further parts or components are harmed. What should you do now to make sure you don’t do any more harm than you already have?

Flush the Fluids: Begin with the coolant. To use the radiator, simply twist the plug (make sure you have a catch pan of course). Run the engine after using a coolant cleanse kit that connects to a garden hose. Then drain the coolant and replace it with new coolant. Before starting the engine, both the oil and the oil filter should be updated.

Drop and Drain the Fuel Tank: The following step is to drop and drain the fuel tank. Old fuel that has been in the tank for years tends to gum/gel, clogging the fuel system and injectors. A fuel filter is standard on most diesels, and now is an excellent time to replace it with a new one. Now it’s time to refuel the tank with new diesel! It’s also a good idea to mix in a decent fuel system cleanser with the fresh fuel to ensure that the engine runs smoothly.

Last but not least, inspect the entire engine for leaks, damaged hoses, corrosion, frayed wiring, and other issues. Also, take a walk around the vehicle to ensure that the tires and chassis components are in good working order. If everything checks out, it’s time to fire up the engine and enjoy the journey!

Hopefully, I was able to answer all of your questions about how long a diesel could sit without running, as well as any follow-up questions. Please leave a comment if you have any other queries. We answer as quickly as possible. Thank you for taking the time to read this.