Extending Engine Life with Condition-Based Maintenance

Intuition alone dictates that reducing emissions extends the life of an engine. The logic is as follows: in part, emissions are unburned hydrocarbons and other particulate matter. Hydrocarbons and particulate matter are solids. Hydrocarbons and particulate matter attach to — and buildup on — the internal combustion components of an engine. Buildup reduces the efficiency of an engine, which means hydrocarbon and particulate matter fatigue an engine with stress.

As the website Fuel and Friction explains, “A modern internal combustion engine is comprised of dozens of moving parts. Without proper oiling, these parts run against each other with tremendous speed, creating friction which then leads to heat. This heat can wear the mechanical parts of an engine and lead to bad performance under the hood. Worn parts due to friction cause havoc with gas mileage and emissions since the engine are pushed to work harder. Wear on the engine’s vehicle is a primary known cause of less efficient burning of fuel.”

Proper oiling is a function of two variables. The first is oil lubricity. The second is oil cleanliness. When engine emissions buildup on the internal components of an engine, the affected parts stress, and fatigue. Additionally, the oil that lubricates the engine begins moving the hydrocarbons and particulate matter throughout the engine creating friction between the parts of an engine as a whole.

Hydrocarbon and particulate matter buildup on the internal components of an engine, contaminated oil stress and wear out an engine. By generating friction and heat, emissions are a primary catalyst of engine fatigue, a major culprit in the shortening of engine life.

How Emissions Shorten the Life of an Engine

At the most fundamental level, hydrocarbon and emissions buildup is a problem for one reason: friction. Friction causes wear, but more importantly, friction generates heat — tremendous amounts in the case of an internal combustion engine. And, nothing is harder on an engine than excessive heat.

Heat deforms seals and ruins gaskets. Heat bends and warps rods. Heat cracks heads and blocks. Simply, heat is the saboteur of internal combustion engines, both compression diesel engines, and spark-fired gasoline engines. Regardless of make, model, combustion type or the age of the vehicle, heat can destroy an engine in a matter of minutes.

“Without oil, your car would produce excessive heat, heat causes friction, and friction produces wear. Wear is enemy number one to your engine,” explains Craig Kerwood of StreetDirectory.com.

If a person were to drain the oil from an engine and start it, the heat produced by the friction between the moving parts of the engine will do significant damage: irreparable permanent damage likely.

Even slight variations in temperature can damage an engine.

Heat and engine are self-perpetuating problems. Heat breaks down the lubricating properties of the in turmoil. Viscous oil allows for the generation of even more excessive heat. Excess, in turn, breaks down engine parts.

And the primary cause of heat in an engine? The biggest culprit with respect to premature wear on the internal components of an engine is emissions debris from unburned fuel.

Effect of Emissions on Motor Oil

Slight variations in temperatures — as well as the addition of hydrocarbons and particulate matter — can destroy motor oil. High temperatures and the addition of hydrocarbons and particulate matter cause thermal breakdown in motor oil. Heat and emissions in motor oil ruin its lubricity. High viscosity means poor lubricating properties and increased friction. Again, friction produces heat, the bain of combustion engines.

Emissions breakdown oil in two manners. The first is oxidation, the production of carboxylic acid. MachineryLubrication.com explains,

“While carboxylic acids by themselves are bad news and can cause acidic corrosion, an increase in acid number is usually a harbinger (forerunner) of an even more damaging chemical process – the formation of sludge and varnish. Sludge and varnish form when oxygenated reaction by-products, such as hydroperoxides and carboxylic acids, combine to form larger molecular species. When a number of such molecules combine, the process is termed polymerization and results in the formation of large molecules of high molecular weight.

Because the viscosity of oil is directly related to the size of the molecules, any degree of polymerization will result in an increase in the measured viscosity. Allowed to progress too far, polymerization continues to such an extent that solid material – sludge and varnish – forms in the oil, as the molecules become too large to remain a liquid. This material is sticky and can cause filter plugging, fouling of critical oil clearances and valve stiction in hydraulics systems.”

More simply stated, emissions buildup on the inside of an engine results in engine inefficiency and wear. The less complete the combustion of a fuel, the more hydrocarbons and particulate matter buildup on the internal components of an engine and in motor oil. Viscous oil leads to friction and friction generates heat.

How Much Damage Do Emissions Do to an Engine and How Quickly?

Understanding just how much damage emissions are doing to a vehicle, truck, or piece of equipment is difficult to gauge. The dilemma is measuring how much damage thermally cured hydrocarbons and particulate matter buildup is doing to an engine. But, doing so is not an easy task. For one, there are a wide variety of different types of sludge and varnish. According to MachineryLubrcation.com, the following types of sludge and varnish occur:

•Black crusty deposits on mechanical seals

•Gold adherent films on spool valves in EHC hydraulic systems

•Charcoal-like deposits on babbitt sleeve bearings

•Gooey-brown mayonnaise on diesel engine oil filters

•Black scabby deposits on thrust-bearing pads Lumpy, tar-like globs in dryer bearing drain lines (paper machine)

•Grayish gummy deposits on NG engine discharge ports

•Carbonaceous residue of servo strainers

•Hard black enamel on piston crown and ring lands

•Cottage cheese-like gunk clinging to engine valve covers

•Drab-color slime on compressor oil filters

To determining how much damage emissions do to a diesel engine, two sets of data are necessary.

Emissions Output Following Diesel Combustion

The first requisite in the determination of how much damage emission are doing to a diesel engine is emissions output information. This requires an understanding of the primary components of diesel engine emissions and which solids and gases most negatively affect a diesel engine. Then, it can be determined how much of a particular emission type is building up on the internal components of a specific engine

Hydrocarbon and Particulate Matter Build Up in Engines from Emissions

Data regarding hydrocarbon and emissions buildup in a diesel engine — in relation to emissions output — is the second requirement. With emissions information and hydrocarbon and particulate matter buildup data, conclusions regarding engine damage can be drawn.

How to Measure Diesel Engine Emissions

There are two units of measure for emissions. The first unit of measure is parts-per-million. Once the parts per million of a specific emission in the exhaust of a diesel engine is recorded, that sum can be converted into a volume measurement.

“Emission concentrations and mass flow rates are recorded second-by-second during the testing and are stored in a database. The raw emission gas concentrations are then converted from concentrations in parts-per-million (ppm) to mass emission rates in grams per second, using algorithms for the gas analyzers which account for parameters such as emission densities, exhaust flow rates, and differences in dry and wet gas measurements. This is carried out for CO2, CO, HC, NOx and PM.”

Infrared spectroscopy, used in combination with an opacity meter, is commonly the instrument with which the parts per million of a specific emission in the exhaust is measured — carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides, and particulate matter, for example.

What Infrared Spectroscopy Is 

A spectrometer is an instrument that serves as a measuring device. With respect to exhaust emissions, a spectrometer determines the number and types of exhaust emissions. While a highly complex instrument, the principal is simple.

Different gases react to monochromatic radiation in different manners. Some gases reflect radiation while others absorb monochromatic radiation. A specific amount of radiation is fired into exhaust trapped in the spectrometer. Depending on what portion of the radiation is deflected from its path, what portion passes from one side of the spectrometer to the other unaffected, and what amount of the radiation is absorbed by emissions is determined by the content of the exhaust.

More precisely, Thermo Nicolet explains,

“In infrared spectroscopy, IR radiation is passed through a sample. Some of the infrared radiation is absorbed by the sample and some of it is passed through (transmitted). The resulting spectrum represents the molecular absorption and transmission, creating a molecular fingerprint of the sample. Like a fingerprint, no two unique molecular structures produce the same infrared spectrum. This makes infrared spectroscopy useful for several types of analysis.”

In addition to measuring the gas emissions in exhaust, infrared spectroscopy can also measure oxygenated reaction by-products — hydroperoxides and carboxylic acids, — “Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), which measures the degree of infrared absorption in different parts of the infrared spectrum, can be an excellent tool for pinpointing base oil oxidation.”

A spectrometer is valuable for both providing data and information regarding the type and amount of contaminants in oil as well as the chemical makeup of exhaust emissions.

What is an Opacity Meter? 

Another means of analyzing the emissions in a motor’s exhaust is an opacity meter. Opacity meters quantify the amount of visible pollution in emissions, particulate matter and black smoke. Unlike infrared spectrometers that measure the invis, opacity meters provide data with

“These instruments have been designed to quantify the visible black smoke emission utilizing such physical phenomena as the extinction of a light beam by scattering and absorption. Opacity limits are used in most inspection and maintenance (I&M) or periodic technical inspection (PTI) programs for diesel engines,” according to Diesel.net.

How to Measure Damage to Engines from Emissions

There are no instruments for testing the damage done to internal components by emissions buildup and contamination. Nor is it possible, yet, to determine how much a given quantity of buildup and contamination will do to an engine. In part, this is due to the fact that the materials, design and engineering of every engine differs.

Measuring the fatigue strength (load capacity) of the internal components of an engine almost always requires a disassembly of the engine. Determining the damage done to the internal components of an engine by gases and debris from emissions buildup and contamination requires a visual inspection. “The engine should be disassembled to determine the extent of erosion, and the degree to which the contaminant may have entered critical areas in the engine.”

Maintaining the State of an Engine Through Emissions Reduction

Condition based maintenance may not be an option. However, understanding the principles of condition based maintenance means understanding what it is that ages an engine most quickly, heat. Heat is a symptom of friction and friction in an engine is a product of poor combustion. Understanding the methodology of condition based maintenance means understanding the importance of clean combustion.

So, condition based maintenance begs the question, how is incomplete combustion prevented?

Consequences of Incomplete Combustion

Incomplete combustion can be the effect of a variety of variables. One variable is the very nature of fossil fuels. Contrary to the visible appearance of fossil fuels, they are not homogenous mixtures. On a molecular level, fossil fuels are clusters of — among other things — carbon and hydrogen, the two components of fossil fuels that combust. Ideally, carbon mixes with oxygen and combusts to make carbon dioxide. If carbon clusters burn incompletely, the effect is carbon monoxide and solid carbon compounds called amorphous carbon, aka, black smoke.

Likewise, if oxygenated hydrogen does not burn completely, it reacts with atmospheric and petroleum contaminants like nitrogen and sulfur to produce nitric acid and sulfuric acid. Not only are these chemical compounds hazardous to the health of the atmosphere and humans, they wreak havoc on the internal components of an engine.

Preventing Incomplete Combustion with a Pre-Combustion Fuel Catalyst 

The active agents in catalytic converters — true catalyst noble metals — prevent many of the dangerous chemical compounds produced by incomplete combustion from escaping into the atmosphere. However, they can do nothing to protect an engine as catalytic converters are post-combustion devices.

To protect an engine from the chemical compounds produced by an incomplete burn, the only solution is to generate a clean burn. That requires fuel conditioning prior to combustion.

Like a catalytic converter, diesel fuel additives, detergents, and treatments are remedies. They do not prevent incomplete combustion. Additives, detergents, and treatments simply remove the contaminants from the internal components of an engine after they are in place.

A pre-combustion catalyst induces a clean burn by conditioning fuel for oxygenation. Almost always and without exception, incomplete combustion is the consequence of un-oxygenated carbon and hydrogen in fuel not combusting.

The noble metals in the Rentar Fuel catalyst neutralize the charge that binds carbon and hydrogen molecules together in clusters. When the fuel molecules on the inside of a cluster do not have sufficient surface area exposure to oxygenize, they do not combust. Hydrogen and carbon molecules failing to combust is the working definition of an incomplete burn.

The Rentar Fuel Catalyst reduces CO2, CO, NO, NOx, and SO2 by 19.2 percent. Black smoke reduction from the Rentar reaches almost 45 percent. Additionally, the Rentar reduces elemental and organic carbons by 35 percent and cancer causing volatile organics like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, acetaldehydes, xylenes, and 1, 2, 3, trimethylbenzene by between 35.4 percent and 58.7 percent.

To extend the life of a diesel engine, reducing emissions by increasing combustion efficiency is absolutely essential. To do so requires a pre-combustion solution. The Rentar Fuel Catalyst is that combustion efficiency solution.


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