What Diesel Engine Runaway Is and How To Prevent It

What Diesel Engine Runaway Is and How To Prevent It
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    Does your business own a fleet of diesel-powered trucks?

    If so, you probably know about the benefits of diesel engines.


They’re bigger, stronger, and more efficient than gasoline-powered engines, which makes them great for transporting valuable cargo. But there are also dangers and risks associated with operating a diesel-powered truck.

One lesser known, but just as deadly risk is the phenomenon known as diesel runaway. If your fleet isn’t equipped with the necessary equipment to stop it, and your employees don’t understand what it is, how it works, and what to do what it happens, disaster could strike.

To protect your employees and vehicles from harm, it’s important to know what diesel engine runaway is and how to prevent it.

Understanding Diesel Engine Runaway

To grasp this dangerous phenomenon, you’ll need to know the difference between gasoline and diesel engines. In a gasoline engine, the fuel and air mixture within the cylinder is ignited by spark plugs. But in diesel engines, combustion works differently.

A diesel engine draws in clean air through its intake into a combustion chamber. In the chamber, the air and fuel mixture is compressed until it creates extreme heat and ignites.

A governor regulates the fuel fed into the combustion chamber and controls the speed of the engine. Rarely, a diesel engine will invest a hydrocarbon vapor, or flammable vapor, through the air intake system. It uses this vapor as an external fuel source.

As the engine runs on these vapors, the governor will release less diesel fuel until, eventually, the vapors become its only fuel source. If it’s not stopped, the engine will overspeed, the valves will bounce, and flames can pass through the manifold.

These flames can ignite the flammable vapors, leading to catastrophic accidents and injuries. The Deep-Water Horizon incident is one example of a runaway situation gone wrong.

Once vapors are sucked into the engine, it takes 3-12 seconds for runaway to start. When an engine starts to run away, the driver’s first reaction might be to turn the key and kill the engine. 

But since the engine is running entirely off the flammable vapors, this won’t work. The engine will run uncontrollably, and the only viable option left is to cut off the air supply.

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Can You Prevent Runaway?

Knowing what diesel engine runaway is and how to prevent it is crucial to the safety of your workers and fleet. Fortunately, runaway is preventable.

A positive air shutoff valve offers a way to quickly and efficiently cut off the engine’s air supply in the event of a runaway situation. These valves can be either manual or automatic.

If you install manual versions on the vehicles in your fleet, make sure to educate your employees on what runaway is, how to identify it, and the right appropriate way to use the shutoff valve. By taking the necessary precautions, you’ll be able to eliminate the risk of runaway and keep your employees, vehicles, and cargo safe.

Image Credit: twenty20.com by Pixabay

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