Severe Service Maintenance: Caring for the Heart - Engines and Transmissions

The engine and transmission could arguable be considered the heart of any apparatus. And "cardiac care" is critical for virtually anything that is required to operate full-bore in tough conditions. Water and dust and dirt are not friends of most all...

"You want good cold-cranking power," Suche said. "In the fire service, we put huge draws on batteries."

To reduce that draw, Suche recommends any kind of equipment that will reduce the apparatus amperage requirements. LED lights, DOT running lights and warning lights as well help reduce battery draw significantly, he said.

There are some other fluids that firefighter must also pay attention to that can affect apparatus performance.

High on that list is diesel fuel. Suche said it's important to use the fuel best suited for which the apparatus is expected to work. In extreme cold, Suche said, apparatus need Number 1 diesel to prevent gelling. Number 3 diesel fuel would not work well in cold and could cause severe problems and cause the engine not to start or even stall because of the gel clogging the fuel lines.

Something to keep in mind is apparatus built and fueled in southern climates will not likely have cold-weather diesel in the tanks and when they arrive in cold climates, the will quickly develop performance problems, Suche said.

The same holds true for apparatus that is not used frequently, he added. Some may have summer or warm-weather blends in the tanks that hold over to winter. Additives can help prevent gelling, but it's better to have the proper fuel in the tanks at all times, Suche said.

In Minnesota, where General Safety builds apparatus, state law mandates that all diesel contain at least 5 percent biodiesel, according to Marvin, General Safety's service manager. In cold weather, the biodiesel can cause waxing, he said.

"When we have an unexpected cold snap, people go scrambling for fuel filters because of the waxing," Marvin said, adding that it would be a good idea to have a supply of diesel fuel filters on hand for just such emergencies.

Diesel additives, like deposit control additives (DCAs) and anti waxing agents, are good investments, Marvin said.

Many of today's diesel engines require urea to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean-air requirements and that's a fluid that can freeze.

Suche said those tanks often need to be heated to keep the agent at a useable temperature.

As emission standards tighten, particularly in 2013, there may be additional pitfalls apparatus users and maintenance people will have to monitor.

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