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March 28th , 2017

When you see black smoke coming from your diesel engine, that simply means that engine is operating at maximum power, right?


This is a common misconception. Black smoke billowing out of your engine does not indicate a machine is running at optimal power. Rather, it actually signifies that fuel is being wasted and that it might be affecting your bottom line.

In fact, wasted fuel can account for as much as 15% of total fuel costs for an engine, according to engine manufacturer Cummins.[1]

Consider an engine with a service life of 10,000 hours that burns 5.5 gallons of fuel per hour. Assuming fuel costs of $2.50 per gallon, this engine would amass $137,500 in total fuel costs during its life cycle.

10,000 Hr Eng Life x 5.5 Gal/Hr x $2.50/Gal Fuel = $137,500 Total Fuel Cost During Engine Life Cycle

If 15% of that cost is lost from wasted fuel, you’re losing $20,625 for each engine.

In addition to wasted fuel, the presence of black smoke can also lead to other issues. For example, not all the unburned fuel escapes from the exhaust, but rather washes down into the liners and into the crankcase oil — presenting yet another problem that can result in expensive repairs and lost revenue.

For these reasons, you should look to your oil analysis program to identify a possible soot alert to signify the presence of unburned fuel even before it turns into visible black smoke. The presence of soot could indicate any number of performance issues, including:

  • Over-extended Drain Intervals
  • Low Engine Temperatures
  • Improperly Sized Turbo
  • Worn or Broken Rings
  • Excessive Idling
  • Hung Valves
  • Wrong Fuel Rack Setting
  • Overfueling (Lugging)
  • Air Intake Restrictions
  • Crack or Leak in Muffler or Piping
  • Faulty Injectors

Improper Spray Pattern Causing Engine to Breathe Own Exhaust The next time you see black smoke or receive soot alert, you should take immediate steps to resolve the issue in order to save money on fuel, increase engine life, reduce operating cost and improve productivity

To find out more information contact a member of Burke Lubricants Technical Team 

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