The snow’s already falling across much of the country, and we’ve seen some short but significant storms blow through. But winter is just getting started. So if you haven’t already winterized your Freightliner, it’s not too late. Taking a few precautions can keep you on the road – safely – rather than stuck in a culvert or the repair shop.
Think about where you’ll be driving over the next few months. It’s important to winterize your Freightliner even if you’ll only be in severe cold some of that time, especially if the timing of your trips has you purchasing fuel in a warmer area and then driving into the cold.
Diesel gels if it gets cold enough.
The paraffin wax that’s a component in all diesel fuel congeals when it gets cold. As paraffin starts to precipitate the fuel becomes cloudy – it’s reached the cloud point stage. Then as precipitation increases, fuel reaches the gel point. Typically there’s a 10-15 degree difference between these two stages.
Ultimately, it can turn your diesel into a gel-like substance that clogs your fuel tanks and filter and won’t flow through your fuel lines. Since this transformation can take place over a range of temperatures, there’s no way to be certain when problems will crop up. So it pays to plan ahead. If your Freightliner is prepared for the worst cold, you can drive with greater confidence. You’re doing everything you can to stay on schedule and stay safe.
Different types of crude oil used to produce diesel contain differing levels of paraffin, which further complicates the situation. Crude oil classifications generally include:
- Brent Blend – Brent Crude and Brent Light Sweet Crude.
- West Texas Intermediate, orTexasLight Sweet.
- OPEC Reference Basket – Bonnie Light, Arab Light,BasraLight, Saharan Blend or Minas.
And of course diesel comes in summer and winter blends. Not surprisingly, the summer blend will congeal at higher temperatures than winter blend, which contains kerosene to lower the gel point. Winterized fuel may be “good” to +10F or down to -20F. But that’s rarely published near the pump, so you can’t know for sure. Again, preparing your Freightliner is the only way to ensure you’re winter-ready.
It’s impossible to keep diesel entirely water-free, since condensation naturally forms on the inside of your fuel tank, if it’s colder than the fuel, or due to changes in temperature or humidity. Any water suspended in your fuel will freeze as the paraffin precipitates out, and those ice crystals can actually damage your fuel system and engine.
Biodiesel changes the picture, too.
Biodiesel blends can range from 2% to 100%, and biodiesel can be produced from soy, corn, peanut, coconut, olive or canola oil. All have different gel points, but canola is the lowest. Any bio-petro diesel blend will have a lower gel point than 100% biodiesel.
You can winterize your Freightliner by using fuel additives.
You can actually lower the gel point of diesel fuel and biodiesel blends by using specialized additives. There are also additives available to reduce moisture content, and some that combine both properties. Use these before you head into the cold, so they have a chance to mix thoroughly with your fuel, and be sure to carry a back-up supply. You don’t want to stop for fuel and find out your truck stop has run out of this critical product.
In some places, you’ll find insulated blankets to wrap your fuel tanks.
Sometimes it’s not your fault that you get stuck.
Smart drivers don’t continue on when it’s obviously unsafe. You don’t have to wait till you see 4-wheel-drive SUVs and even other big rigs mired in snow (or worse) by the side of the road. It makes more sense to find a truck stop or pull off the road safely – not on an incline, of course – and wait for conditions to improve.
Since this is a very real possibility, be sure you’ve prepared yourself as well as your Freightliner, by carrying extra blankets, warm clothing, food and water.