Get the bugs out of your search for more power

Published in the May 2019 Issue May 2019 Ask The Expert, Feature

By Phil Hamilton, National Fuel Additive Manager, Schaeffer Manufacturing

You purchased your diesel pickup truck because you needed a vehicle with some serious power. And what is it that Tool Time’s Tim Allen says about power? We need more.

So you search online to find ways to add more power to your engine with aftermarket products like upgraded air intake filters, high-flow exhaust systems, reprogrammed EMCs, performance gauges, custom hitches and suspension—systems that promise more power and better fuel economy.

But no matter how much money you spend on aftermarket products to get you more power, if you have poor fuel quality, all those improvements could be less impressive.

Keep It Clean

Fuel is the essence of diesel power. The cleaner the fuel, the better the engine performance, and the more impact all those mechanical upgrades will have on the power of your truck. But what most people don’t realize is that diesel fuel quality can easily be compromised. 

Why? Sulfur, or lack of it.

Before the EPA began phasing in ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) in 2007, the average sulfur content found in diesel fuel was as much as 5,000 parts per million. Today’s diesel fuel contains only 15 ppm of sulfur. The change didn’t happen overnight, but in increments that have been spread out over years.

To achieve lower levels of sulfur, significant changes have been made to the refining process. Unfortunately, the consequences of these changes mean diesel fuel is prone to retaining moisture. Low sulfur and more moisture put diesel fuel and fuel tanks at a much greater risk of contamination.

Sulfur serves as a natural biocide. In higher concentrations, the sulfur would help prevent microbial bacteria, yeast, molds and fungi, commonly referred to as algae or “bugs” from growing in fuel storage tanks.  Moisture can also get into diesel fuel as a result of condensation, rainwater penetration or absorption from the air.

Biodiesel is also present in diesel fuel throughout the United States. The government encourages its use. This saves the refinery money to include it, so they’re going to put in as much as allowed. In fact, there can be up to 5 percent biodiesel in your diesel fuel without it being labeled as a biofuel. Biodiesel is especially hygroscopic.

Problem With Water

Where there is free water, there will be bugs. They live in the water and feed on the fuel. When fuel is left untreated, bacterial and fungal growth can flourish, producing scum mats, dense masses that are capable of clogging expensive filters, pumps and fuel lines—robbing your truck of its power.

Microbes also release organic acids that can accelerate metal corrosion and reduce engine life. The resulting equipment failure translates into increased downtime, costly repairs and potentially, lost revenue.

How do bugs get into your tank? 

Diesel fuel is generally clean when it leaves the refinery, but bacteria and spores are in the air, and your tank breathes in air. When microbes come in contact with water, they are no longer dormant, and the growth begins. Microbes and other contaminates can be picked up as fuel travels through terminals, delivery trucks, storage tanks and dispensing equipment on its way to your truck’s fuel tank.   

Here are six signs that bugs may be in your equipment:

1)      Fuel filters need to be replaced more often than recommended in stock systems.

2)      Frequent cleaning or replacement of fuel injectors. Dirty injectors can also cause oil dilution.

3)      Premature wearing of rings and cylinder liners. This can be a result of the organic acids released from the microbes that increase corrosion.

4)      Increase in fuel consumption. Contaminated fuel clogs injectors, reducing power and fuel economy.

5)      Fuel discoloration. Instead of a bright green color, contaminated fuel will turn a coffee color.

6)      Rotten smell in your fuel filter–sulfuric acidic byproducts from microbes have a strong odor.

Instead of dealing with the costly problems caused by bugs, take steps now to avoid problems. Prevent bugs with a good, moisture-controlling fuel additive or if present, kill them with biocide.

The only thing that kills bacteria in diesel fuel is biocide. The only way to keep them from coming back is to eliminate the moisture. Biocide should be used as an emergency treatment if you think you have an infestation of bugs. Otherwise, continuous use of a quality fuel additive with a moisture-controlling agent will keep systems dry and bug-free without the need for biocide.

The moisture-control component in a fuel additive prevents bacteria from growing by disbursing any “free water” in tiny particles that burn with the fuel. No moisture, no active bugs.

Adding a fuel additive, or biocide, to your diesel fuel is a simple process. Open your fuel tank, pour in the recommended additive and top it off with fuel to properly blend it.

In light of all the problems associated with ULSD, it’s a good idea to make adding a quality, full-spectrum fuel additive every time you fill up a part of your vehicle’s regular maintenance program. You can also choose a fuel supplier that uses a quality fuel additive year-round.

In addition to controlling moisture, a true, full-spectrum fuel additive offers a host of other benefits that will ultimately give you more power.


            •  Optimized cetane.

            •  Increased fuel lubricity—less friction and wear.

            •  More power.  Up to 5-10 percent horsepower improvement.

            •  Improved fuel economy.

            •  Keeps fuel lines and fuel injectors clean.

            •  Reduced maintenance costs and reduced downtime.

            •  Longer engine life.

            •  Year-round performance, seasonally winterized.


Your truck is a beautiful thing, on the inside as well as the outside. When it comes to making it as powerful as it can be, go ahead and put in an upgraded airflow system.

Supercharge your turbocharger. Replace the stock exhaust system with a wider, straighter performance system that can handle all that extra power. But if you’re going to do all that, don’t underestimate what fuel quality can do to your truck.

Feed your truck with quality fuel additives because when regular use of a fuel additive can stop nature from stealing your thunder, then more power to you.  

Schaeffer Photo information

Schaeffer_Million Mile Injector

This fuel injector was removed from a 2001 Peterbilt 379 with a CAT C-12 engine after 1,000,000 miles of service. The driver used Diesel Treat 2000™ in his fuel. According to third party analysis, the injector was rated in very good condition for its high mileage. Their recommendation was for the injector to be reassembled without any repair and placed into their exchange program with their standard 12-month warranty.

Schaeffer_Bus 104 (three pictures showing before treatment, first treatment and second treatment of fuel additive)

Carbon and grit are evident in the filter, which indicates buildup in the fuel system. Filters were pulled from a diesel transit bus and changed every 6,000 miles. Three pictures provided to show results when using no fuel additive treatment: how fast-acting a fuel treatment can be after one use (more carbon and grit is evident because its being flushed out), and what the filter looks like after two treatments of a fuel additive. Filters were pulled from diesel transit buses, lots of stop and go city driving.


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