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Tips on Maintaining a Diesel Engine Vehicle

trocdkmantrocdkman Member Posts: 5
edited March 2014 in Ford
I just bought a diesel engine Ford E-350 van. This is the first time I own this type of truck.

From maintenance and repair point of view, can anybody remind me some tips to maintain the engine, injection pump, fuel tank, cooling, transmission, oil and filter or anything you think is pertinent to this vehicle? Thanks.


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    As a diesel owner, among other cars, I'd be glad to jump in with some suggestions, and I hope other diesel owners will follow.

    I think there are three important elements to running a diesel:

    clean fuel
    clean oil
    clean coolant

    Diesels engines are very efficient but they undergo lots of stress, too, do to very high compression. Often they work hard, too.

    So I am pretty fanatical about filter changes, fuel, air and oil. Also, I use additives for the fuel and for the oil. Keeping the fuel system spotlessly clean is very important, and also boosting the cetane rating of the fuel allows the engine to work easier and with less vibration I think.

    I do a coolant flush every two years, since I'm a bit concerned that my diesel get proper cooling. I have a heavy duty cooling system, and sometimes the engine doesn't get up to operating temperature very quickly. So I worry some about clogged water galleys. I feel the coolant flush helps.
  • rs_pettyrs_petty Member Posts: 423
    ...check out There is a wealth of info available for the PS and your type vehicle. Probably more than you really want to know.
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Administrator Posts: 11,130
    This is a great topic that doesn't appear to be covered. I'm changing the title to make it more prominent and hopefully attract the attention of those who have experience to share!

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  • mrdetailermrdetailer Member Posts: 1,118
    I see duplicates here. Suggest consolidating.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Yep, we have a duplicate topic going so I'm going to cut and paste two responses in that other discussion and then kill it. I also slightly edited the title to make it a big shorter.

    HERE are the two posts from the duplicate discussion on diesels:

    1 of 2 tips of maintenance /repair for first time diesel vehicle owner by trocdkman
    Jan 09, 2002 (01:32 pm)

    I just bough a preowned Ford diesel E-350 van and this is the first time I own a diesel van. Can anybody suggest me tips or pertinent information (from the maintenance/repair point of view) to have an effective and preventive maintenance plan. Please have your opinions from the following aspects and any other points you think it is necessary. I KNOW VERY LITTLE ABOUT DIESEL VEHICLE SO I'M JUST SEEK ADVICE. THANKS.

    1)engine itself, oil and filter change (for example, when and under what situation I should change oil, how do I know the engine is burning or leaking)?

    2) how to you know the fuel tank is dirty or not and how you clean it?

    3) when and how do you you know you should maintain or fix the injection pump and fuel injectors?

    4) how do you know the glow plugs (or the wires, I mean the ignition system) are bad?

    5) Is the maintenance for a diesel vehicle's transmission and cooling system (radiator, water pump, water hoses) all the same as a gas operated vehicle's transmission,etc.?



    (second post)

    #2 of 2 I had a deisel years ago. by mrdetailer Jan 09, 2002 (01:44 pm)

    The Thing I remember the most over a gas engine are 3.

    1. Drain the water out of the fuel filter regularly.

    2. Change the filter yearly.

    3. Diesel fuel additive is necessary in colder weather to avoid gelling. Kerosene may also need to be added to the tank if it is well below zero.

    4. Block heaters are a godsend for below freezing weather.

    OK, so it was 4 things.

    (end of transferred posts)

    Thank you,

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    If you are in a severe winter climate, diesel fuel can gel and make starting impossible, so the above are very good suggestions. In an emergency you can also cut the diesel fuel with gasoline, but not too much! (this very trick, in fact, gave the Russian Army a great advantage in World War II until the enemy found out about it). But kerosene is safer, although maybe not quite so effective. There are also good anti-gel additives.

    I have a water trap in my diesel but it doesn't seem to catch much water. I think if you use a trusted fuel station you won't have to worry about water. Still, not a bad idea.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    is also a very fine idea, assuming you can find it. pretty much limited to truck stops and the like, however... this has a base rather like kerosene with little paraffin, so there is a mileage hit, but it doesn't separate and won't gel until something below -40 F. Dad always put in fuel conditioner, even with #1, any time weather below -10 F was expected anyway, and he never needed to pay the dealer for inside all-day storage to ungel a tankful.

    the power in diesel is mainly in the heavy part of the fuel (paraffin, heavy oils, etc.) so if we were trying to tow in the dead of winter, it probably would have been little fun.

    one climate zone warmer, down here in the twin cities as opposed to fargo, there is blended winter mix (I believe the trade name is polar diesel) that is supposed to be flowable to -35 F. I would not bet one or two oversized tanks full on that when I could get a quart of diesel conditioner for three to five bucks.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    if it isn't very nicely mixed indeed, and you get a cylinder full of plain gas, it can blow the heads right off, and worse. I would stick to 1A kerosene as an emergency gel-preventer if the weatherman suddenly started apologizing at 1015 PM.
  • trocdkmantrocdkman Member Posts: 5
    the diesel van I just bought has the milage about 23 miles/gal.

    Is this performance poor, fair, good, very good for a diesel van (The van is '90 Ford super cargo, 7.3L diesel)?

    Can this performance also tell me something about this van?

    Is 133000 miles considered high for a diesel engine? Somebody told me diesel engine last much longer than gas engine (true)?

    Again, Thanks.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    23 mpg sounds excellent for what amounts to a large, heavy brick moving through the air at high speeds. I'd say that's excellent.

    Do diesel engines last longer than gas engines?

    It depends. If it's a Peterbuilt truck where the engine is as big as your car, sure. But in a normal passenger car, I really don't think there is any evidence to support this.

    So essentially 133K is about, oh, 65%-70% or so of the engine's probable life. Your results may vary.
  • trocdkmantrocdkman Member Posts: 5
    Is engine flush good for diesel when you replace the engine oil just like I did many times for my gas car before?
  • trocdkmantrocdkman Member Posts: 5
    Do you think around $2750.00 is a fair price (will you pay) for '90 Ford E-350 extended diesel van (assume it is in real good condition everywhere, Oh, it is 133000 miles)? Thanks.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Where I live you only get junk for $2,750 so I'd have to say it sounds pretty darn good to me.

    Go to the Home Page and click on True Market Value or on the "used cars" links. It will take you through a custom appraisal for your van!
  • ob11ob11 Member Posts: 28
    I owned a Dodge p/u with 6 cylinder diesel. I would try to buy fuel at places that sell a lot, like truck stops. Battery maintenance is very important. These engines require gobs of cold cranking amps when starting so make sure the starting system is tip top and don't scrimp on replacing the battery unless you like walking. Do not trust oil change places to have the correct oil in stock. Even my dealer(when the truck was new) put gasoline engine oil in my truck during the first service-check up. I started using about a quart every 100 miles. I went to local Cummins dealer and bought what they recommended, and never had a problem with consumption again.
  • lonebulllonebull Member Posts: 5
    Love my Power Stroke diesel but God does it stink!!! My garage is uninhabitable for hours after starting it up or returning from a trip. I have other diesels and they do not smell like this. My dealer is unable to correct --- I think they know it is a problem but will not admit it. HELP!!!
  • trocdkmantrocdkman Member Posts: 5
    everybody knows there is significant improvement of design issues about gasoline engine before and after 1990 (for an example, before 1989, most cars used carburator operated engine, then fuel injection was widely applied after 1988).

    Does diesel engines (the design issues) also have similar progress? or we can say, fundamentally, they are about the same, the diesel engines before and after thw 1990?
  • sivi1sivi1 Member Posts: 82
    about 10 years ago car&driver had an article about a man who put 1 million miles on a1968 mb diesel without an engine overhaul. a dealer in ca. traded the car for a new 93 mb for 0 dollars just to put the 68 in his showroom.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I'm at 223,000 on my MB diesel and still going strong, so I'll let you know. So far, the car looks and runs like new.


    I've struggled with this as well, and I improved things a lot by washing down the engine and being extremely careful about filling the tanks (I have a long-range 35 gallon tank in my car for about 800 miles between fill ups).

    I'd suggest you carefully examine your truck for leaks to start with. I am not so familiar with your truck to know what, if any, systems are used to capture fumes (as they are in gasoline powered trucks). So you may need to investigate this.

    It takes only a very small amount of "loose" diesel fuel to stink up the vehicle and the garage. You might also check the seal on your fuel tank filler cap, and on the engine's oil filler cap. You may also have to put the truck on a lift and look around.

    A little smell is I think inevitable with a diesel, but it should not be so offensive. Something is wrong, then.
  • mullins87mullins87 Member Posts: 959
    Is your Powerstroke your newest one?? Does it smell different from other Powerstrokes?

    On a lighter note, go to They have a therapy section that lists several signs that you may need therapy. They say if you can agree with three of them, then you need therapy. I agreed with 11 of them. My favorite is "You honestly think no perfume smells as good as diesel exhaust."
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    About engine flushes. Diesels are sooting stinky things and can build up alot of nasty stuff in the engine, but unless you are going to pull the pan and make sure the pickup tube doesn't get clogged up with crud, then I'd stay away from the engine flushes. They are problems waiting to happen, unless they are done right.

    If your power stroke is a 2000-2002, then yes, they have an odor to them and it is the nature of the beast, it is a cross between a regular diesel smell and a gas engine catalytic converter smell.
    As new efficiencies are pushed for the newer diesels, that smell will become more prevelant.
    This nasty smell is most noticeable when the engine is idling, off idle, it should have a more diesel-like smell.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Seems to me that the "smell" either comes from the fuel itself or the exhaust system, right?

    Soooooo, if the car is running, okay, I can buy that it might stink. But why would he get the smell in his garage? I mean, the engine is off, and the fuel is sealed in the tank. How could it smell, then?

    (I don't expect you to solve this, I'm just one of those very dogged diagnosticians that won't quit).
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    Oh, I thought he was talking about when it is running.
    I park my service truck in a heated shop (it's spoiled) and it has a CAT diesel and don't have any odor problems until she fires up, then it is nasty for about an hour or until the vent fans have taken it out.

    But, the newer powerstrokes, for some reason have an acidic smell to them when they idle. I've noticed this on alot of our 2000-2002 Fords.
    I assumed that they were using a catalytic type exhaust on them now. Some of the import diesels have gone to the catalytic exhaust and they have a nasty smell to them. The Cummins is almost as bad, but nowhere near the powerstroke.
    We haven't gotten any of the new Duramax yet, so I am impatiently waiting to see how they fair.
  • lonebulllonebull Member Posts: 5
    My PSD is in a 2001 Excursion but I had the same problem with a 1999 Super Duty [F250] PSD. Yes -- the odor is most offensive when the vehicle is idling. The smell in my garage comes from simply starting it up and backing it out --- but also when I return to the garage even if I shut it off immediately. My garage is huge [it's actually my workshop] with a 16' high ceiling and measures 36'x42' My Kubota turbo diesel M8200 sits in the same garage and is practically odor free even though I warm it up for 5 to 10 minutes before driving it out. [recommended by Kubota to warm up the hydraulic system for my front end loader and rear mounted blade.]

    Great response from all of you --- I sincerely appreciate it. More comments are welcome.
  • mullins87mullins87 Member Posts: 959
    I bet the Kubota doesn't have all the EPA crap on it that they make the automakers put on everything.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    True, but a Kubota is hell on a freeway.
  • sivi1sivi1 Member Posts: 82
    bought new 94 and pulls 5000# car like V8. while on cruise at 70 mph and going up a hill it never shifts out of o.d. other (gas 2 cars) i have always downshift. when i traded my 87sdl i told dealer i probaly should get a gas mb because i don't put many miles on. he told me i probaly would have got $7000 less trade if it was gas. now you can,t get a mb diesel in u.s. guess i,ll just keep it. 20mpg city 28 highway.
  • rcvillalrcvillal Member Posts: 6
    I own a Kia Sedona/Carnival(Philippine version) minivan with a turbo diesel engine. I read an automotive article that says I have to wait for several minutes before switching off a turbo engine. Is this correct? What's the reason for this? Anybody out there, pls. enlighten me. Thanks!
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    The reason that it is advised to let the engine idle for a while is because after driving, the oil is hot and the turbo is still spinning fairly fast. If you allow the engine to idle for a bit, the turbo slows its spinning speed and the oil running thru it is allowed to cool a bit.
    If you shut the engine down continuously right away, the turbo would still be spinning on shut down and with no oil supplied to it, as the hot oil will run out fast, the turbo would eventually fail, possibly seizing.
  • arjay1arjay1 Member Posts: 172
    Keep those filters changed...
    I have had both Mercedes and VW diesels. The M-B had 2 fuel filters and one darn big oil filter. Keep that air filter changed as well. I am not sure about the fuel filters on the Ford diesel. On the M-B one is more of a standard in-line filter and the other one is basically a canister type oil filter.
    I don't know if this works but I routinely put in a jar of STP diesel fuel treatment with my first fill-up each month. This was to keep those injectors nice and clean. Then I would add a quart of the Chevron diesel fuel treatment into the gas tank at each oil change. A high mileage long time diesel owner introduced me to this routine so I adopted it.
    Correct oil is important as mentioned above. Do not use an oil that is "SJ" rated or any other level that has an "S" as the first letter. These are for "Spark" engines (spark fired gasoline). You need to use a "CG" oil or one with a "C" as the first letter of the rating. These are for "Compression" engines (compression ignites the diesel fuel). Most synthetics are rated for diesels and many diesel owners also swear by Rotella motor oil (I think it is a Shell product). It comes in gallon containers and you can pick it up at Wal-Mart. It is very inexpensive and is expressly for diesels.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I'm a real nut when it comes to diesel additives, especially cetane enhancers and injector cleaners. I've also installed a water trap system.

    So far, some of my neighbors' diesels have acted up over the years, but never mine. I guess the expense of these additives and filters offsets a lot of the economy of the diesel car, but I still get the benefits of rock-like reliability.

    What I really need is an additive for Mercedes power windows. They give me the most trouble with this car!
  • arjay1arjay1 Member Posts: 172
    I have been lucky but I know a lot of owners of the earlier Mercedes that have had the vacuum operated central locking go out as well as the power windows. From what I hear, that is an expensive fix.
    How about your power antennas as well? As over-engineered as the M-B seem to be, I can't believe all the plastic gears inside the power antenna motor.
    Sorry, I digressed...
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    Just one of those toys I keep around. I stored it outside for 3 years without starting it. I put a battery in it and it started right up with the old fuel. It did blow a hydraulic line on the stabilizer. That fuel did look nasty though.
  • 8u6hfd8u6hfd Member Posts: 1,391
    Power Service goes in my gas tank. Though I am considering SoyGuard, which I heard nothing but good things about.

    Delvac 1 is some expensive stuff, gotta find someplace cheaper. VW calls for a 5w30 or 5w40 CF-4 oil. It is also filled with synthetic from the factory.
  • sivi1sivi1 Member Posts: 82
    i have owned 3 mb turbodiesels from 2 different dealers, both have used regular oil as gas engines use. i asked mechanics and they say this is what mb recommends. any explantion?
  • 8u6hfd8u6hfd Member Posts: 1,391
    It's much cheaper using conventional gas oil. Most of them meet API SJ & CF criteria.

    I know for my car (02 Golf TDI) it requires a oil which meets API CH4 and be either 5w40 (preferred) or 5w30.
  • mdecampsmdecamps Member Posts: 115
    I use the Delvac 1 in my 01 Jetta TDI and it seems to be a decent oil. I'm going to do an oil analysis on the next change. I've been doing the recommended 10K intervals. I just didn't trust the 5W40 Castrol at the dealer.
  • rcvillalrcvillal Member Posts: 6
    Thanks for enlightening me!
This discussion has been closed.