Every diesel engine uses diesel fuel injectors to move highly pressured fuel into the combustion chamber. A quality, well-maintained injector will create a smooth, even spray pattern to make sure all the fuel gets burned quickly. These injectors make your engine run, but they need to be maintained or you will eventually run into problems behind the wheel, forcing you to replace your diesel fuel injectors outright.
Diesel fuel tends to be dirty. Particulate matter will clog your injectors over time, which can prevent fuel from going into the combustion chamber. These parts can also spring a leak, which can gunk up the insides of your engine. You will burn through more fuel than necessary while suffering from a loss of power. Experts say you should thoroughly clean your diesel fuel injectors every 30,000 miles to extend the life of your parts.
Learn how to properly clean your injectors to avoid damaging your engine.
What Are Fuel Injectors and How Do They Work?
Diesel fuel injectors are responsible for inserting the fuel directly into the combustion chamber where it mixes with highly compressed air to generate power, which allows the engine to run. The injectors must be able to withstand enormous pressure, as diesel engines use direct injection, which means the nozzle opens directly into the combustion chamber. The fuel is also highly pressurized to maintain the correct spray pattern.
Each injector consists of a micron filter on the top inlet side and small hypodermic holes on the bottom for ionizing the fuel. The injectors are controlled by the engine control module (ECM), which grounds the injectors, completing the electrical circuit. This allows the injector to open, thus releasing fuel. The ECM determines the length of time the nozzle remains open based on how much fuel is needed to power the engine. The injectors open and close with each rotation per minute (RPM). The average diesel engine reaches maximum efficiency at 2,000 RPMs, so each injector must repeat this process thousands of times per minute.
The fuel acts as a lubricant for the mechanical parts in the injector. But the lubricating properties of the fuel can vary. Using poor-quality fuel and not replacing your diesel fuel filter can cause the injectors to clog with particulate matter. Water in the fuel reduces lubrication, which can cause the parts to grind together. This is caused by condensation on the fuel tank.
How to Clean Your Diesel Fuel Injectors
You have several options when it comes to cleaning your injectors. If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned them or you suspect they’re clogged, you’ll likely need to use an injector cleaning kit. It cleans each injector individually to get rid of blockages. Some kits connect directly to your fuel system, while others require you to connect each injector to the kit. The kit will then inject cleaning fluid into the injector to flush out debris. Others will use compressed air to dislodge blockages.
If your injectors aren’t fully blocked, you might be able to use some injector cleaning fluid instead. Shut off the engine and remove the fuel filter. Fill it with injector cleaning fluid and put it back into place. There shouldn’t be any air in the filter or the housing.
Once your filter is back in place, warm up your engine for a few minutes to let the injectors absorb the cleaning fluid. Take your car for a short drive to make sure the fluid goes through the system several times over. The cleaner will break up blockages and particulate matter that can clog your injectors.
Repeat this process every 30,000 miles to prevent buildup and debris.
If you suspect your injectors are losing pressure, conduct a fuel pressure test to rate the pressure of your fuel before and after it leaves the combustion chamber.
You should also regularly clean and replace your diesel fuel particulate filters to get rid of particulate matter that can clog your injectors. Your vehicle should come with two filters. One filter is between the fuel tank and the engine, which cleans the fuel before it gets to the fuel transfer pump. The second filter cleans the fuel one last time before it goes into the combustion chamber.
You can also use diesel fuel additives to break up particles that can clog your filters and injectors. It’s all about keeping your fuel system as clean as possible.
Watch out for symptoms of failing diesel fuel injectors, including a sudden loss of power, a sudden drop in fuel efficiency and engine misfiring.
Your diesel fuel injectors may not be the only source of the problem. They are controlled by your vehicle’s computer system, which sends signals to the injection pressure regulator (IPR) valve. The valve then controls the high-pressure oil pump, which moves the fuel injectors.
Injectors have injection control pressure sensors that communicate with the IPR valve. These parts are responsible for controlling the timing and pressure of the fuel entering the combustion chamber. If the IPR valve breaks down, the injectors may fail to fire or send the wrong the amount of fuel into the chamber, which can affect fuel consumption.
The IPR valve has been known to be faulty on the 7.3 Powerstroke engine. The ICP sensors can fail, the regulator may get stuck and the wires can get damaged. Find a replacement 7.3 IPR valve online to fix the issue.
Not cleaning your fuel injectors will only make the problem worse. If the injectors are clogged, the engine won’t receive enough fuel. This can cause the engine to consume more fuel than necessary, which decreases fuel efficiency. Your fuel levels may start to change drastically. Going from low to high RPMs becomes more difficult. The engine will need a surge of fuel to change gears as the injectors become slow to respond.
It’s only a matter of time before the injector fails altogether if the problem continues. The engine will misfire more often than not and you may have trouble starting the engine. The engine will have trouble idling as well. It tends to be rough and irregular as the fuel level continues to change abruptly.
The best way to avoid this problem is to clean your fuel injectors regularly. You should also use high-quality fuel and a diesel fuel additive to keep the fuel system clean.
Diesel engines need just the right amount of highly pressured fuel to generate power. These systems rely on a complex network of sensors to make sure the fuel enters at just the right pressure. Use this information to keep the injection process moving.
Maksim Vivtsaruk / Shutterstock.com
yanik88 / Shutterstock.com
MANAT23 / Shutterstock.com