Maintenance

Stay Ahead of Trouble on EGR Engines

There are few prescribed maintenance procedures for exhaust gas recirculation systems, but a watchful eye can prevent a small problem from getting worse.

February 2014, TruckingInfo.com - Feature

by Jim Park, Equipment Editor - Also by this author

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While most of the early problems have been engineered out of the exhaust gas recirculation systems on today’s clean diesel engines, corroded coolers, stuck valves and other problems still plague owners of older equipment.

EGR valves live in a very hostile environment.
EGR valves live in a very hostile environment.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do in terms of scheduled preventive maintenance to keep those systems working. Keeping a close eye out for telltale signs of impending failure, however, can help keep repair cost down by scheduling the event rather than being surprised by it.

“Vehicle performance, fuel efficiency and frequency of active regenerations are good status indicators,” says Roy Horton, Mack’s powertrain product marketing manager. “Adhering to a regular maintenance schedule and addressing issues as soon as they arise are vital for preventing damage to the vehicle.”

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With EGR coolers, for example, external leaks were not reliable indicators of an internal failure. Instead, Mark Ulrich, director of customer support for Cummins’ Engine Business Unit, suggests paying attention to top-up coolant.

“Fleets should be monitoring coolant consumption,” he says. “If they find they are adding, say, half a gallon of coolant per week, but there are no external leaks, that’s a good indication of an EGR cooler with an internal leak.”

Simple DPF maintenance goes a long way toward preventing expensive on-road service calls.
Simple DPF maintenance goes a long way toward preventing expensive on-road service calls.

Ulrich also says elevated sodium and potassium levels in the oil are indicative of coolant contamination that could be coming in through the EGR system.

According to Mike Dowling, an accredited technician trainer on Detroit’s on-highway diesel engines working with Clarke Power Services in St. Louis, the early EGR coolers were “fix as fail” items, and clues to a failure were not particularly easy to spot in advance.

“We tell our techs to watch for white residue at the outlet end of the cooler,” he says. “You wouldn’t necessarily be able to see a coolant leak, but burnt coolant leaves a white residue – the supplemental coolant additive – that’s visible. Once you have the cooler off the engine, you could physically test it and blow it out to remove the exhaust residue, but that’s after the fact.”

In shell-and-tube coolers like Cummins used, Ulrich says, one of the weak spots turned out to be the interface where the tubes are welded into the header plate.

“It was simply a fatigue cycle induced by the expansion and contraction of the components as the hot exhaust gas flowed through the cooler,” he says. “We changed how we flowed coolant through there and we also made some dimensional and material changes.”

John Moore, Volvo Trucks powertrain product manager, says failures seen in early EGR valves are behind the industry now, with changes in materials and design.

Contemporary engine designs improved on past weak points, and thereby reduced the number of failures.
Contemporary engine designs improved on past weak points, and thereby reduced the number of failures.

“Exhaust gas recirculation in diesel engines reintroduces exhaust soot that not only can corrode valves and coolers when condensation occurs, but can also make them stick open or closed due to excessive build-up of gummy deposits,” he says. “These failures are not as common today due to changes in component design, along with ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel as the only option for fueling. That greatly reduces the corrosion and deposit buildup.”

Ken Pickett, a customer support rep at Clarke Power Services’ Wentzville, Mo., facility, notes that EGR cooler failures were often precursors to an EGR valve failure.
“If you could put a lifespan on a cooler, you might be able to predict when they might fail and pull them before they do,” he says. “If you’ve had a cooler fail, chances are the valve won’t be far behind it.”

EPA-2007-emissions engines also saw some problems with the diesel particulate filters.

Navistar spokesperson Elissa Maurer told HDT that proper lubricant is vital to the longevity of these DPFs.

“On top of the regens, the DPF will probably require a physical cleaning sometime over its life, but using the right oils can prevent premature contamination,” she says. “Customers should follow recommended maintenance schedules for their vocation.”

These bits of advice and historical context do not necessarily apply to all engine brands, of course. They are specific to certain manufacturers, but can sometimes be applied generally.

With that in mind, truck owners can still stay out of deep trouble by watching the engine for changes in oil or coolant consumption, fuel mileage and performance.  

“An increase in active DPF regenerations on pre-SCR trucks can indicate that the filter needs service,” Moore points out.

“Owners can help prevent progressive damage to their aftertreatment systems through proper maintenance according to published intervals. If the EGR cooling system has performance issues, trouble codes will be present. Do not ignore them. Have the system fixed immediately to avoid more costly repairs,” Moore says.

While the diagnostic capability of contemporary engines is vastly improved over early models, owners should pay attention to the signals they are getting from the blinking lights on the dashboard. When a fault appears, pay attention to it.  

“The fault codes are historical, and all the faults are flagged,” says Clarke’s Dowling. “But good old-fashioned changes in performance or fluid consumption are still good indicators that something has changed. Don’t ignore them, either.”         

Comments

  1. 1. Tim [ February 12, 2014 @ 06:23AM ]

    What is considered normal regens? How many miles or hours are considered common on the Cummins engines this story was referring to?

  2. 2. BB [ February 12, 2014 @ 06:57AM ]

    We have 14 each 2010 Cummins ISX485's in our fleet of 80 trucks, they have more downtime than the rest of our fleet put together. 6 of them have needed complete rebuilds before 450,000 miles (carbon packing). ALL have had had at least 2 EGR coolers and 2 turbo's replaced, some as many as 4.
    When they get to around 4-500,000 miles, the Cummin's techs cannot keep them running over a couple of weeks at a time.

    I REALLY hope the new SCR motors are better, but I really just believe not enough miles have been accumulated yet (still too new) to show the problems. We only have 1 ea. 2012 (ISX w/ SCR) with about 315,000 miles, but it has already been in the shop way too much the last 4 months with about $20,000 spent on motor work.

  3. 3. Jim [ February 15, 2014 @ 08:34AM ]

    Normal engine regenerations should occur without you even noticing oftentimes. Their frequency will depend upon your driving style. If you're all highway, you won't require as many as if you're doing all in town driving .

  4. 4. Jesse [ February 15, 2014 @ 09:03AM ]

    We are generally talking about post 2006 DPF engines here, right? I've got a 2006 ISX with just the EGR/no DPF and the thing is bullet proof. I have had no MAJOR problems with any components related to the engine. 780,550 miles on it. Getting 6.25mpg in a regional operation hauling at gross 80% of the time. Am I lucky, or running on borrowed time?

  5. 5. BB [ February 20, 2014 @ 06:18AM ]

    Jesse,
    My comments only relate to DPF equipped motors (usually 08 trucks with 07 engines and newer). The DPF increases exhaust backpressure and this forces more and more exhaust gases, heat, etc. into the motor. All the parts and pieces that attempts to make this nightmare work seem to overwhelm both the engine and the Cummins techs that try to keep them running.

    You have a good setup, no worries!

  6. 6. Jesus [ February 20, 2014 @ 09:35PM ]

    I recently bought a VOLVO 08 that has already the DPF system. In the past, I used to lease a VOLVO 2012 and had thousands of issues with the REGEN process; now, Im scared as hell just by thinking to go through this funny party again. My truck has 631000 miles on it already and has a cummins ISX; is there any way to find out if the truck went through the proper mantainance when it comes to a REGEN issue?
    Thanks in advance for any advice
    Jesus Cruz

  7. 7. Cliff Downing [ March 01, 2014 @ 09:00AM ]

    When and if the OEM's find a way to drop EGR altogether and rely solely on SCR and DPF, a lot of problems, cost, downtime will be greatly reduced. You just can't feed either a living organism or an engine it's own feces and expect good results.

  8. 8. Nussbaum [ March 04, 2014 @ 04:13AM ]

    I have a 2009 Kenworth with a cummins and have had nothing but problems. At 65,000 miles the turbo went and DPF filter. at 75,000 miles the air compressor went due to carbon build up. At 170,000 the EGR Cooler went taking out the turbo and the DPF filter. A week later it was back in for ALL the injectors. In the last 45-days the truck cost me $ 17,000. This truck is down for repairs 75% more than its twin that is 2007 vintage.

  9. 9. catpower [ August 03, 2014 @ 12:26PM ]

    Cummins Isx what a joke

  10. 10. Debbie [ September 06, 2014 @ 12:35PM ]

    We bought our truck new 2009 Volvo with 485 Cummins ISX. We have had nothing but issues with our regen system since we got the truck. At just 7,000 miles we need a new particular filter. Then again at about 100,000 miles. At just over 330,000 miles the EGR Valve, EGR Cooler, Filter and Turbo we relplace. Six months later Turbo was replace again. With less than 100,000 miles we needed new compressor. We are on our 3rd one of those. The ERG Cooler failded within 130,000 miles. We have replace the 7th injector so many times I have lost track. We are on our 4th particulater filter. Just 2 months ago we had the filter cleaned. We have had and are still having problems with the system an NO ONE csn fix it or tell us ehat to do. All the techs just stab in the dark In 2013 we spent over $13,000 on the regen system. Our recurring problem since the last EGR Cooler failed is the truck will regen every 75 to 225 miles. If we are lucky we will go 300 miles without regening. But thst is so rare! I have talked to Cummins they said to stay away from Bio Diesel! We do our best but dometimes we have no choise. The above article even says ULSD is the only option. But yet the government is forcing Bio Diesel. hat do we do & WHO CAN FIX OUR TRUVK?

  11. 11. Douglas [ October 01, 2014 @ 05:56PM ]

    Debbie you may have a carbon packed engine. If you are having to regen that often the next time you have it serviced have them pull either the number 6 or number 1 injector and have them scope the cylinder. If the cylinder liners are polished, I.e. They have lost their cross hatch then you will need an inframe rebuild. Also have them check to see if you have fault code 3375 or 1921. If you have either one of them they will always point to having a rebuild through cummins eds. Hope this helps.

  12. 12. george [ December 19, 2014 @ 08:55PM ]

    I have 1921 fault code on my isx that will not go away i find it odd that even with the truck off the code stays active after resetting the dpf maintnance, why is that having this code mean a possible inframe?

  13. 13. Big Yellower [ January 02, 2015 @ 04:17AM ]

    Ironicly why a EGR value fails. Is primary caused by the EGR cooler gets clogged with soot and system starts to leak. I own an 04 FTL Columbia with a DD series 60 14.0 motor. It's not a bad motor . What I've found out the hard way that Detriot diesel remain parts will litterly slowly kill the engine. In laments terms everything mounted to exterior of the engine on driver side to around the front on the engine to the passenger side work in a symanate relationship . If one system fails it affects the others . Ideally the EGR system needs torn down at least every 3-4 months to be cleaned and put back together.. The EGR systems includes EGR valve, cooler, mixer pipes, intake manifold, vpod line, vpod, Vpod harness, EGR sensor, Delta P sensor, intake manifold sensor, turbo Boost sensor, and hoses. Also the exhaust system needs to be checked for excessive rust. Switching to a free flowing exhaust muffler from pit power while allow the engine to breath better. Also switching the stock exhaust manifold to a Pit power . Will stop the exhast leaks that cause turbo, EGR valve failures, I'm ditching remain DD turbo for a new Garrett . Hopefully my Fuel economy will get back to 9 mpg + . I'll settle for at least 7-8 mph. Be aware the vpods for the turbo and EGR valve are very sensitive to moisture. When removing to replace with newer ones it's not an issue .. When new ones are installed. Make sure Vpod lines very closed off with Vpod caps or duck tape to keep line clear of any moisture after intial removal of old vpods. I'm actually plan on making a video series on the EGR system / ajcent systems so others owners won't blow a lot of $$$ fixing rig.. Also draining out the coolant at least once a year and replacing all the coolant hoses and clamps will stop any potential leaks from forming..

  14. 14. leonard [ January 02, 2015 @ 06:06AM ]

    You need to talk to these people they can make ALL your troubles with DPF's go away, get better fuel millage,& make your engine last as long as they used to. http://ecmperformance.com/Cummins-On-Site-ECM-Programming.html

  15. 15. Steve P [ January 04, 2015 @ 02:24PM ]

    What every one needs to do is Quit Buying this Junk until the Engine Manufactures and the State of California. Give us a product that actually works. I have an 06 Cat that works fine and I will not replace it until these Egotistical Bunch of Know it All Government Morons figure it out that it don't work. But then everyone to to GREEDY and will keep putting up with what they are dishing out. So go ahead and keep being their Guinea Pigs and quit bitching how much it is costing you.

  16. 16. Danny [ January 16, 2015 @ 04:56AM ]

    The company I work for is forcing me to upgrade to a newer truck, so I'm getting a 2010 kw, my question is, can I delete the egr like they do in the pickups, it's a cummins engine.

  17. 17. Rawze [ January 25, 2015 @ 06:11PM ]

    The problem with these systems,.. and this article,... is that your taking and giving advice from the same people that cannot keep these systems maintained and running properly. Try typing in 'ISX EGR Tune-UP' in a Google search!. If you are an ISX owner, you will stumble on a gold mine of actual information to solve these problems.

  18. 18. Raman Kumar [ March 15, 2015 @ 01:57PM ]

    I have a 2010 Kenworth T2000 with a Cummins Motor, I am noticing my coolant burning and getting low everyday and smoke coming out of the oil filler cap from the coolant burning.

    What is causing this and how can I fix it?

    Engine Model 2007isx1
    Engine SW Ver: 3684275

  19. 19. Maryland pavig [ March 25, 2015 @ 10:05AM ]

    Code 1921

  20. 20. Teuvo Kotoneva Kenvo Tech [ April 16, 2015 @ 04:31PM ]

    I am replying to al these comments, unless it is manufacturing problem of the part. The only effective way to keep all these parts clean and working properly is regular maintenance. By far next to none the system made by Kenvo is the most effective way to keep the egr/cooler/turbo a and the DPF clean. With many years of experience and hundreds of machines working every day in shops through out US, Canada, Mexico and Europe is has become the most effective and reliable solution to combat this problem. Find out for you self by going to kenvo.com

  21. 21. Teuvo Kotoneva [ April 16, 2015 @ 05:47PM ]

    Sorry for the spelling mistakes.
    I am replying to all these comments, unless it's a manufacturing problem of the part. The only effective way to keep all these parts clean and working properly is regular maintenance. By far next to none the system made by Kenvo Technology Inc. is the most effective way to keep the egr valve/egr cooler/turbo and the DPF clean. With many years of experience and hundreds of machines working every day in shops throughout the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe this system has become the most effective and reliable solution to combat this problem. Find out for your self by going to kenvo.com

  22. 22. Dado007 [ May 17, 2015 @ 03:57PM ]

    I've had ton of problems with my ISX till I met Rawze! You need to fix your ISX Google Rawze

  23. 23. Kenny Scott [ June 26, 2015 @ 01:39PM ]

    This stuff is junk , just ask any service manger in the U.S. Had to sell my 012 W900 550 cummins. . $15000 and over 30 days down in 397000 miles for codes and I did maintenance way before limits. I hope cummins get sued. There is a reason Cat said no. Please if you are an owner operator buy a glider if you don't need to run California. If you have too buy the Warrenty and budget in downtime and rentals on your rates you will need it.

  24. 24. harinder [ August 17, 2015 @ 02:10PM ]

    Guys I need suggestions on peterbilt 379 with isx cummins 13L any improvements from past years to 2015 ?

  25. 25. harinder [ August 17, 2015 @ 02:11PM ]

    I am so close to buying it but still skeptical after reading all these reviews all over the Internet

  26. 26. harinder [ August 17, 2015 @ 02:11PM ]

    The other choice I have is mp8

  27. 27. tom [ August 26, 2015 @ 04:21PM ]

    i have 2012 kenworth the d e f cost 32000.00 to repair think hard before you buy 280 k m something most be done

 

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