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Wednesday / 17 April 2024
HomeFeaturesHow dirty diesel damages your engine

How dirty diesel damages your engine

It has been a rocky start to the year for South Africa’s motorists, following a shocking revelation from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) that at least 70 fuel stations around the country have been selling contaminated diesel.

The diesel is diluted by mixing in illuminating paraffin but is sold to the consumer at full retail price as a way for the stations to boost their revenue, as paraffin is much cheaper and is not subject to the same taxes and levies that petrol and diesel are.

The scandal has become a huge cause for concern for motorists, as it is not immediately clear which stations may be selling the watered-down propellant, which can have severely detrimental effects on a car’s engine.

The dangers of dirty diesel

There are two main reasons why paraffin is harmful to a diesel car’s engine: firstly, it does not provide adequate lubrication, and secondly, it does not include the additives that are required by modern engines.

This is according to the South African Petroleum Retailers Association (Sapra), which has supported the investigation into the diesel scandal by the DMRE.

The diesel that a car receives from the pump is supposed to be able to lubricate the fuel injectors to preserve their lifespan over the course of thousands of trips, but paraffin does not adequately achieve this effect, which leads to long-term wear and tear on the powertrain that gets worse the more fuel is burned and the longer the vehicle is driven.

Another issue is that paraffin has a lower flashpoint than diesel (the minimum temperature at which fuel produces enough vapour to ignite), which can lead to engine knocking – a phenomenon when fuel burns unevenly in a system and can damage components.

The contaminated fuel can also cause the system to run at a much higher temperature than it was designed for, which can affect the engine’s valves.

Unfortunately, these problems are magnified in newer cars, as the global push for better emission standards means that cars are now expected to run on cleaner types of fuel, and paraffin lacks the additives of petrol or diesel because it is not meant for cars.

This is made worse by the fact that most manufacturers will not cover engine damage as a result of contaminated diesel in their warranties, since their engines are not intended to run on paraffin, meaning consumers will instead have to claim the damages from their insurer, as stated by BusinessLive.

How to spot a dirty diesel station

The DMRE’s probe only took 1,070 samples from various filling stations around South Africa, out of the 6,500+ stations that consumers have access to, so there’s a strong possibility that there are more locations trading the tainted fuel than just the 70 that were discovered.

To try and avoid these stations, the DMRE suggests that motorists pay special attention to the price of the diesel being sold, as a station selling for noticeably less than others may be diluting their fuel.

DMRE spokesperson Robert Maake said that a discount of R1.00/litre is cause for suspicion, but that the majority of the 70 stations implicated were independent dealers and not well-established brands, giving some reassurance for road users.

The 70 stations have not had their names published as this scandal is a form of tax offence.

“Usually, when there is a tax offender their violations are never discussed in public until they have been taken to a court of law,” said the DMRE.

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