In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Moving A Gelled Machine
Jan 10, 2014
There are lots of reasons to lose your temper on sub-sero days, but the frosting on the cake is if the diesel engine on a tractor or other farm machine gels up and dies on the road, in the driveway, in the feedlot or out in a field.
There are products that claim to un-gell diesel fuel that has already clouded enough to plug the filters. I can't say whether or not they work. When machines gel-up around the dealership, our goal is to get them running long enough to get them into a heated shop so we can "thaw" the fuel, change the filters and add anti-gel to the fuel in the tank. I can vouch that most anti-gel products will prevent gelling as long as they're added to fuel BEFORE it gels.
Our policy is to have a 5 gallon fuel can full of diesel fuel in a warm place in the shop at all times. We've got a clear plastic 5/8-inch (inside diameter) hose with fittings on each end that match the most common line fittings on the intake side of fuel filters. When a machine gels up we disconnect the fuel line from the fuel tankwhere it connects to the fuel filter, attach the clear plastic hose, and put the other end in the bucket of warm diesel fuel. Then we either manually prime the warm fuel into the filters, or use the machine's electric fuel pump to prime the filter. Then it's necessary to either hang the fuel can on the side of the engine, or have a brave soul perch and hold the can and hose in place while somebody else cranks the engine long enough to draw the warm fuel through the system.
Once the engine fires we limp the machine indoors and then let it sit for a couple hours to thaw the fuel in the tank before adding anti-gel to the tank.
There are other ways to deal with gelled engines. I have built a windbreak out of tarps and aimed a kerosene-fueled torpedo heater at the fuel filters and injection pump. I have poured warmed fuel into the gelled fuel tank. I've changed fuel filters, making sure the new filters are full of warmed, treated fuel. I've heard of people wrapping heat tape around the fuel lines and filter, and using a portable generator to power the heat tape.
My favorite and preferred tactic is to remember to put in anti-gel before temperatures fall below zero, and therfore avoid the whole hassle of gelled fuel. But every year I forget to treat the fuel in at least one machine--and it's always the one farthest from an electrical outlet and/or heated shop.