High Performance Diesel Engines

Bruce Mallinson, Leroy Pershing
May 2023

Fuel Mileage, most calls I get about poor fuel mileage result from a truck that is not set up correctly and requires 18 to 22 pounds of turbo boost to pull the load on level terrain. There are many causes of high turbo boost on the level. Driving too fast for the conditions, using the cruise control when the terrain is not level, the turbocharger is too small; the turbine housing is too small, the rear gears are too high or too low, the exhaust system is restrictive, an uneven load, the alignment is out of adjustment, the trailer is not lined up with the tractor, the engine is underpowered, the driver is not paying attention to the turbo boost gauge, or the truck is not equipped with a boost gauge or pyrometer, the air filter is too small or restrictive, the tires are too high of a rolling resistance, the transmission is a ten speed, the wheel bearings are set wrong, and poor truck/trailer/load aerodynamics. 

As you read that list, not much is mentioned about the engine other than being underpowered, or the road speed governor is set too low, and the truck cannot be driven using momentum to go over the rolling hills, or the overhead is set wrong. If the engine is equipped with a VGT (Variable Geometry Turbo) and the vanes of the turbine housing are set too tight, a high boost situation will exist when on the level. Whenever the engineering department at Pittsburgh Power does a tune on an electronic engine, they adjust the VG vanes to lower the turbo boost on level terrain. When power is needed to pull the hill or mountain, the ECM adjusts the vanes for more turbo boost. 

2002 and older engines are not equipped with VG turbochargers, so we change the turbine housing size to lower the turbo boost. Now don’t get confused by thinking if we reduce the boost on the level, the engine will not produce enough turbo boost to keep the exhaust gas temperature at an acceptable temperature. Just the opposite happens; when the turbine housing is matched correctly to the cubic inch of the engine and the amount of horsepower it produces, the EGT will stay cooler because the backpressure in the engine can vacate the combustion chamber, travel through the turbine housing, and out the exhaust pipe easier, or freer. 

   By the way, stock mufflers on 2007 and older engines create an exhaust dam and will not allow the engine to breathe correctly. That is why the ported and polished exhaust manifold performed so well by flowing 20% more exhaust. The Max Mileage, Fuel Borne Catalyst, will keep the engine and exhaust system clean of soot and carbon, and the result of the clean engine is a slight increase in torque and fuel mileage.

Vibrations In Trucks

Vibrations can be challenging to troubleshoot; without sophisticated equipment, the diagnostic procedure is to change parts until the vibrations cease. This is how most shops attempt to fix vibrations. This is how we have tried to fix them in the past. We have since upgraded to using a vibration analyzer. This powerful tool is how we can determine the source and the intensity of vibration.

There are two components to vibrations: displacement and frequency. The displacement of a vibration can be thought of as the intensity of a vibration and is measured in milli g-force (mg). While some vibration analyzers measure intensity in acceleration or velocity in this article we will stick with mg. The second component of vibration is frequency which is measured in cycles per second or Hz. First, we ask a series of questions to the driver about which gear, speed, and engine speed the vibration occurs. Then we attempt to replicate that scenario on the dynamometer. We can determine from the analyzer which component is harshly vibrating by supplying the truck with variables such as engine speed, tire size, axle ratio, and transmission gear ratios. Anything above 65 mg is considered too much vibration. However, the threshold will vary across the frequency range. Once the data is collected, we can use orders, or multitudes of frequency, to determine the failed component.

To think about this simply, let us imagine a wheel and tire with a red dot at one point on the tire. With every tire rotation, this red dot will touch the ground once. As the wheel spins faster, the frequency, or the number of times the dot touches the ground, increases in the number of times it touches the ground per minute or per second. This frequency is the tire revolutions per minute. Mathematically, if we divide the engine rpm by the product of the transmission and axle ratios, we will get the tire RPM. Ex. 1600 RPM / (1.0 * 3.55) = 450.7 RPM. Now, let us replace the red dot on the tire with a flat spot from skidding the tire. This flat spot will cause a vibration. As the tire rotates, the ground will encounter the flat spot at the same frequency as the tire’s RPM. This is what is known as a first-order vibration. A first-order vibrations occur at the same frequency as the rotating object. For wheels, this could be an out-of- balance tire, a brake drum, wheel run out etc. An example of a first-order vibration from the engine is the torsional damper, crankshaft, torque converter, and clutch assembly. When we see a vibration that exceeds the failure threshold, we can use formulas like the one previously mentioned to calculate which component is rotating at the frequency of the vibrations. In the next article, we will dive deeper into half, second, third, and further orders of vibration.

Written by: Bruce Mallinson, Leroy Pershing, Pittsburgh Power, Inc., 3600 S. Noah Drive, Saxonburg, PA, 16056 Phone (724) 360-4080 Email: I[email protected]