High Performance Diesel Engines

Bruce Mallinson
November 2017

Every now and then a great deal comes along, this one is almost too good to be true. If I didn’t know the person in charge of this piece of equipment and saw the pictures, I would not have believed it also. Many of our owner-operators that live on the islands such as Puerto Rico, the US and British Virgin Islands, Hawaii, or even small towns that need back up electricity, hear is a deal for YOU! It’s a KTA Cummins (19 liter) 1150 cubic inches, 560 horsepower, GS456KVA generator that that only has 380 total hours of running time. This engine was started every Monday and run for 15 minutes, the service was performed by a Cummins distributor. This is truly a turn key generator that comes with Cummins touch pad controls, Cutler Hammer 800-amp main disconnect, automatic transfer switch, updated controls with automatic start up, and a double wall late model 250-gallon fuel tank. This 19-liter KTA Cummins engine can be converted to run in a truck and easily puts out 800 to 950 horsepower. Being this generator is in like new condition, I thought someone just might want to keep it in its current configuration. To purchase this generator new today the cost is about $155,000, however I did mention this deal was too good to be true, the price for all the above-mentioned equipment is $42,000. This is NOT a home power plant; this is to power up a small town or manufacturing facility.

Another great item we have for sale is a C-15 single turbo Caterpillar engine with only 500,000 since the last rebuild. This engine just came out of the truck, the owner-operator has moved to the south and is pulling light loads and is installing a DD4 Detroit in his 379 Pete to try to obtain better fuel mileage. I have worked with he and his father for the past 40 years and I did see and hear this engine run last week. If you’re in need of a great used engine that doesn’t burn oil and runs great, and we can make it run greater, this could be your engine.

Variable Geometry Turbochargers - all diesel engine equipped with EGR have this type of turbocharger. They are great turbochargers in design, however expensive and the failure rate is high because of the amount of sooty environment they operate in. The variable geometry vanes eventually accumulate the soot from the burned diesel fuel and the soot in the EGR gasses. Once the soot accumulates on the vanes and the actuator can no longer move the vanes, the ECM will put the engine into a de-rate mode or even a limp home mode. The repair for this problem up until now was to replace the turbo, at a price of $2100 to $3500 plus labor, which makes for an expensive break down. We have been rebuilding turbochargers at our shop for the past 40 years, and so for the past couple of years have taken several of the variable geometry turbos apart to see just why they quit working. The compressor wheel, turbine wheel and shaft are still free and spinning in the exhaust flow and the bearing are still in good shape. However, most of the failures are the variable geometry fins are locked up with soot or the actuator that moves the fins has failed. If you are somewhat mechanically inclined you can remove the turbocharger from the engine, remove the clamp that holds the turbine housing (exhaust housing) to the bearing housing and clean the soot from the fins. I was able to talk an owner-operator through this process on the telephone, and he also replaced the actuator on the turbocharger as well and saved himself several thousand dollars. I think what I’m going to do is have a class on this subject and teach the owner-operators that are in our drivers lounge how to do this cleaning of the variable geometry fins.

Back to the basics on engine rebuilding - last month we talked about liner protrusion and how to set it. We should have started with the crankshaft and machining of the block. These two engine components are the foundation of all engines and it’s critical that a reputable shop perform the work, with qualified employees and great equipment. The machine shop we utilize was started in 1962, and the founder is now 78 years old and comes to work every day. His two sons handle the day-to-day operations of the business.

They start with hot tanking the crank and the engine block; this removes all of the dirt and paint so the parts can be magnafluxed, which makes visible any cracks. If the parts are cracked free, the engine block then has the line bore where the crankshaft rides on the main bearings checked for straightness. If it’s not perfectly straight the line bore is honed until it’s perfectly straight. Next the block is checked for the distance from the center of the crankshaft bore to the top of the deck surface, this lets the machinist know if there is enough cast iron remaining on the block to be resurfaced and if number one cylinder is the same height as number six cylinder. If the height of the front and rear cylinders is off, the block is then squared by resurfacing. The next process is cutting the upper counter bores so the liner protrusion is correct.

The crankshaft is now spun in a set of V blocks with a dial indicator on number four main bearing journal to see how many thousands the crank is out of round. We have seen crankshafts as many as .028 out of round, so to have long engine bearing life the crank must be straightened. A huge hook is mounted to a hydraulic ram and pulls the crank until it’s straight. Being the line bore or crankshaft journal has been machined until it’s perfectly straight and the crankshaft is straight, once you install the crank in the engine block you will be able to spin the crank with one hand. Keep in mind that the average 12-liter to 16-liter crank weighs about 400 pounds, so to be able to spin that mass with one hand is remarkable. If you can’t spin it, either the line bore or the crankshaft is not perfectly straight. This is the foundation of building a Signature Engine.

Written by Bruce Mallinson, Pittsburgh Power Inc.

3600 South Noah Dr. Saxonburg, PA 16056

Phone 724-360-4080

Website: Pittsburghpower.com