Nightmare! Since September we have changed the fuel filters on all three of our John Deere R6125 tractors on an almost weekly basis. Prior to this, they happily went for the designated 750 hours, now we are lucky to get 50 hours out of them. It is the 4 micron pre filter that is giving us the problems. These are fitted as part of the tier 5 emissions system. As I understand it, tier 4 tractors have 6 micron and older tractors have much coarser filters. Our diesel tank has a 10 micron filter and has managed just over a month but now refuses to deliver any more fuel. Oh and just to make matters worse, you can’t get new filters because the manufacturers are unable to keep up with demand.
The photo above shows the John Deere filter that we cut open to investigate. We left the filter element in neat brake cleaning fluid overnight. Bearing in mind that is a clear liquid, it has leached out what looks like very fine, black particles. We got this idea from the workshop manager at our local Claas dealer, so thanks Andy. We are currently trying to clean the tank filter using the brake cleaning fluid, just to get diesel from the tank. Other than selling us more filters at £40 a go, we have not had any help from John Deere. Like the NFU, they are just gathering information with seemingly no action to date.
The cause of all this is the increased inclusion of bio fuel in the diesel. The fuel industry can add up to 7% currently, which increased from 5% earlier this year. Bio diesel is produced from vegetable oils such as oilseed rape or waste cooking oil, known as the FAME (Fatty Acid Methyl Ester) content. As the financial incentive from the government is doubled where biodiesel is produced from waste cooking oil rather than pure vegetable oil, clearly fuel manufacturers are going to use waste cooking oil. So much so, that apparently we are now importing it to meet the demand. This, by its very nature, tends to have many more impurities in it than bio fuel manufactured from a pure oil like rape. It seems to me that this fuel is not fit for purpose and could possibly lead to massive legal claims against the fuel suppliers. The whole problem is compounded by engine manufacturers being forced to upgrade emission controls, which in turn means they are less compatible with bio fuel.
In conclusion, we are heading towards a major problem without any sort of solution on the horizon. Due to the current difficult conditions, many tractors are parked up waiting for better weather. Once they all head out, the already dwindling supply of filters will lead to tractors not being able to run. It makes me really cross that nobody is doing anything to help. What needs to happen is either an immediate suspension of waste cooking oil used in gas oil, or an additive included in the fuel at manufacture to alleviate these negative effects. We need to raise the awareness of this now. Time to launch a national campaign before we all grind to a halt.