Most of us look after our vehicles very well because they are often the biggest investment of our lives. But every now and then Francois Rossouw meets people who just don’t seem to care.
I recently encountered the most neglected engine I have ever seen, and could not believe that the vehicle could still go! I had expected that at least the air filters were cleaned and changed regularly, as we all know they should be, so that was the last place I looked for trouble.
When the Land Rover of David Fourie sounded as though it had reached the end of the road, his father-in-law checked the oil. It looked like grease! Then, when he took out the air filter, I could not believe my eyes. It was blocked so badly that the air could not get through any more. The suction of the engine had completely sucked the filter into the filter box. The air flow then passed by the filter and David could drive again.
The problem was that the air going into the engine was not filtered at all and dust and dirt went into the engine, grinding up the rings.
For more than 50 000km, David had not serviced his vehicle, although he took several trips into the bush.
Johnny de Bruin, David’s father-in-law, serviced the vehicle properly, changed the oil and all filters and took a week to get the vehicle running properly again. David could not believe the result. His old 4×4 felt like a new one again. In my opinion, though, the dirty air that had gone into the engine for so long must have shortened its life considerably.
Some vehicles such as the VW Amarok and the Land Rover TD5 have the habit of the engine running very unevenly when the air filter gets too dirty, and smoke comes out of the exhaust. This is in fact a good mechanism that protects the engine. There is an air flow meter in the inlet air pipe between the air filter and the engine intake. This meter tells the computer about the volume and temperature of the air that goes into the engine, and the computer then adjusts the fuel supply accordingly to make the engine run as efficiently as possible.
When the air filter gets blocked to the extent that the computer can no longer keep up with the necessary adjustments, the whole lot gets confused and the engine sounds as if it is in the process of blowing up.
When I experienced this for the first time, I was about to tow the vehicle to a repair shop when someone suggested I check the air filter first. After it was cleaned, the engine ran like a clock again, but we changed the air filter as soon as possible afterwards.
When the air filter is blocked, the air/fuel mixture becomes too rich and the vehicle becomes very heavy on fuel. The extra fuel you waste is much more costly than a new air filter.
The filter is the lungs of the engine and needs to be kept clean at all times. Then your vehicle will be happy and prepared to take you wherever you want to go.
In a diesel engine, the fuel filter is just as important. The only difference is that when the fuel filter gets blocked, the engine won’t run at all. Therefore, I recommend that when you go into the bush, spare fuel and air filters are as important as the fuel in the tank.