Truck Jungle first heard about this incident as breaking news on TV, in which it was claimed a large commercial passenger jet in the US – stricken with front landing gear failure – was able to land safely thanks to the courage and quick thinking of a truck owner who used his pickup to cradle the plane’s nose wheel. Take a look:
Amazing stuff. With the jet probably requiring a landing speed of more than 200km/h, we were stunned at the acceleration and top speed of the Nissan Frontier to get in front of the plane so quickly.
What really blew us away, though, was that the Nissan has a factory rated payload of just over one tonne, compared to the jet airliner which probably weighs about 60 tonnes.
So, even if the plane’s front wheel weight was less than half of that, how the mid-sized Japanese truck didn’t end up getting flattened like a pan cake is the stuff of miracles.
If we were cynical, though, we’d probably just say that thanks to today’s incredible computer generated imagery, this could well be another example of ‘viral marketing’ by a vehicle manufacturer wanting to stand out from the pack.
And if it was, then it worked, because we were silly enough to run it! TJ
The iconic Holden One Tonner, launched in November 1971, not only showed what levels of refinement, performance and longevity could be achieved in a serious work vehicle – it was also a game changer.
It hardly seems 40 years have passed since the One Tonner arrived, when you could find at least two at just about every work site across Australia over the past four decades. Even today, some owners have quite happily paid for a second and third rebuild when there is still nothing quite like it.
The creation of the One-Tonner was an inspired move by then Holden managing director Max Wilson. Aware of the gap between the larger US cab-chassis models assembled or manufactured in Australia and the growing range of more accomplished but underpowered four cylinder cab-chassis models from Japan, he moved quickly.
Holden’s new HQ series, the first all-Australian, all-new model since 1948, was the ideal starting point with its hefty front perimeter chassis frame and upgraded six cylinder and V8 engines.
Wilson always preferred the brassy, in-your-face looks of big US models. Holden grilles from the late 1960s that looked like farm gates reflected this look. Wilson was no fan of the sophisticated styling and softer Euro-style front of the HQ passenger car range he inherited and made sure it was scrapped by 1974 – but not before the whole HQ range became the most successful Holden ever.
For his prized HQ light truck concept, Wilson wasn’t prepared to wait that long and insisted on fitting a painted egg crate grille over the HQ grille aperture; a smart move when every big truck had one. For Wilson, though, it still didn’t look tough enough.
Desperate to find a cost-effective measure to create that elusive ‘tough truck’ presence, he instructed his designers to unbolt a huge painted steel bumper from a Bedford truck assigned to the engineering department at the time and make it fit.
To everyone’s surprise, it bolted straight on and created the right work vehicle look that distinguished the One-Tonner from all other HQ Holdens, including the vans and utes. Separate park light/indicator units next to the grille replaced the vulnerable bumper-mounted items on other HQs.
The One-Tonner looked simple, rugged and easy to repair, an impression backed by reality. Unlike any before it, its wide track and low centre of gravity communicated stability, with or without a load.
Holden exploited the HQ’s front perimeter chassis frame by grafting boxed chassis members over its ends under the passenger area, to create a full chassis that could support a huge range of work and leisure bodies behind the cabin.
The soggy coil springs of the passenger cars were swapped for hard-working rear leaf springs, supporting a tough Salisbury live rear axle unique to the One-Tonner.
Although Holden built its HQ commercials on the HQ Statesman’s longer 114 inch/2895 mm wheelbase, it was boosted to 120.4 inches/3058 mm for the One Tonner. Crucially, this added load space within the wheelbase – not behind it.
And like the sedans, it could also seat three full sized Aussie adults across the front; a big advantage over the narrow-gutted Japanese imports.
The iconic Holden One Tonner continued in production until 1985 with surprisingly few changes, which only proved how good the original concept and design was.
The low speed lugging power and low maintenance of Holden’s sixes were ideal for such a work vehicle. As Holden raced its sixes and V8s, tougher engine internals quickly found their way into the One Tonner for a variety of high speed and heavy towing applications.
Long distance overnight couriers soon discovered that an extra rear axle, giant driving lights, bull bars and powerful, upgraded V8 engines running on LPG made it ideal for express deliveries over all roads to remote areas.
Even an ambulance pack with a quad headlight Premier front was offered. ‘No limits’ really meant something with the One-Tonner.
The switch to the local Commodore eventually left the One Tonner nowhere to go and it took Ford to revive the concept and keep it alive with the similar AU Falcon cab-chassis design from 1999.
Holden briefly revisited the genre in 2003-06 with a cab-chassis based on the VY-VZ Commodore, but without the tough HQ starting point it lost something in the translation. TJ
*The full Heritage story of the Holden One-Tonner coming soon to Truck Jungle
Ford Australia claims its latest FG Falcon Mk II sedan and ute range is packed with more technologies and features than ever previously offered by the brand in this market sector.
The iconic ‘Aussie’ Falcon ute is going to need every bit of help it can get to keep its footing in a local ute/pickup market being flooded with an unprecedented number of imported full-chassis one tonners offering extra passenger vehicle features and refinement – including, ironically perhaps, Ford’s all-new PX Ranger.
Due to go on sale in December, the new FG MkII ute range will consist of three models – base XT workhorse, XR6 and XR6 Turbo.
Missing in the new line-up will be the unloved R6 model, which with subtle appearance and comfort upgrades was designed to bridge the gap between the base XT and up-spec XR models when introduced to the FG range in 2008. However, poor sales of the R6 sealed its fate.
It becomes the second Falcon Ute model to be axed, following in the wheel tracks of the iconic XR8 which was sidelined last year (along with its sedan sibling) after Ford chose not to re-engineer the locally-built 5.4 litre DOHC Boss V8 for tough new Euro IV emissions laws. For XR8 ute buyers, this first round of Mk II announcements is a case of ‘no news is good news’.
Following a bigger than expected decline in Falcon ute sales, Truck Jungle was told by Ford Australia boss Robert Graziano that Ford had been forced to revisit this decision and consider a Mk II XR8 with a variation of the new Coyote V8 engine under the bonnet as a point of difference over the imports.
Expect a final decision on the V8 to be announced early next year, during the next round of Mk II announcements covering the EcoBoost four cylinder engine’s arrival in the passenger cars.
Major changes for the new FG Mk II Falcon Ute include:
- New Interior Command Centre (ICC) with more user-friendly 8.0-inch colour touch screen multimedia interface, to control all the main in-car functions such as audio, phone etc. Standard on XR6/XR6 Turbo, optional on base XT
- New instrument cluster featuring revised design, graphics and improved functionality
- New USB input facility to play MP3 audio files
- Enhanced safety package with side-head/thorax (that’s the upper body area) airbags now standard on all Falcon Ute models
- Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) now standard on all Falcon Ute models
- New exterior design appointments, including what Ford calls ‘tri-plane’ front end architecture with the now signature trapezoidal main grille design. XRs also get new high precision projector headlamps
- New 18-inch alloy wheels on XRs, with new design 19-inch alloys available as part of the new optional Luxury Pack
- More effective dash, floor and body sound deadening package featuring increases to the inner dash insulator thickness and front floor sound barrier
Although Ford appears to have significantly trimmed its Recommended Manufacturer’s List Pricing (MLP) for the FG MkII Ute range, it is more a case of bringing them in line with what was happening in showrooms anyway.
FG Mk II retail prices are now effectively aligned with the transactional prices of outgoing extra value packs and should provide a big boost to the artificially low and unfavourable resale figures generated by list prices that rarely applied in the real world.
Combined with the added value of its new technology and features, Ford claims savings of more than $4500.00 for the base XT cab/chassis up to $5800.00 for XR6 Turbo:
XL (C/C) $27,590
XL (SSB) $27,990
XR6 (C/C) $34,890
XR6 (SSB) $35,190
XR6 Turbo $39,190
Truck Jungle: Opinion
The Australian-designed and built Falcon Ute has never been better equipped or better value.
However, with such intense competition from imported, full chassis truck rivals that can tow and carry substantially greater loads, we think the Falcon Ute’s survival (just like its Holden VE Commodore nemesis) will rely more on appealing to the lifestyle buyer wanting a well-equipped and practical ‘sports car with a big boot’ (particularly the XR6 models) than the hard-nosed commercial shopper these days.
Yet Ford’s retention of a live rear axle and leaf springs, along with its wider choice of load carrying options over the ute’s rear chassis-rails due its cab/chassis design, remain major points of difference over the unibody styleside Commodore ute. TJ
Victorian truck buyers now have local retail access to new RHD versions of the latest generation of American-built Chevy trucks, following the appointment of Melbourne’s Harrison Motoring Group as exclusive state dealer for Australian special vehicle importer, Performax International.
Melbourne Performax will offer the latest Chevrolet Silverado sports truck from its showroom in High Street, Melton. It will also operate as an agent for other Performax products such as the Chev Corvette and Camaro and Ford Mustang muscle cars, plus the company’s ISO 9001 quality-certified RHD conversion service.
All vehicles are imported and engineered for full Australian Design Rule compliance through Performax International’s factory headquarters near Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
While Performax International has sold new cars directly to customers around Australia for more than 20 years, the appointment of Melbourne Performax as one of the first members of a new national dealer network will make it easier for Victorians to buy their dream American muscle car or sports truck.
Dealer Principal Grant Harrison is confident of solid demand for the latest Silverado, which embodies traditional American truck values while using world-class technologies.
“We are the sole agent for Performax International in Victoria and look forward to many sales as they rapidly grow in the Australian market,” Mr Harrison said. “The Chevrolet Silverado will be the main product we will be retailing, servicing and supplying accessories for.”
The MY 2012 Silverado HD (Heavy Duty) model has a class-leading towing capacity of more than 10.4 tonnes (for fifth wheel-type trailers) and more than 8.1 tonnes for conventional towing. They don’t call it Heavy Duty for nothing.
Its Duramax 6.6 litre V8 turbodiesel engine delivers 397hp (296kW) and a prime-mover grade 765 ft/lbs (1032Nm) of torque, yet has biodiesel tolerance up to B20 and engine efficiencies that enable more than 1000km between fill-ups.
Silverado also features a powerful exhaust brake and active towing safety controls including trailer sway control, integrated trailer brake control, hill start assist, automatic grade braking and intelligent brake assist, plus Allison six-speed automatic transmission, four wheel drive and a luxurious interior loaded with features.
It attracts buyers from the building, construction and mining industries, plus recreational users who need to tow big boats, cars, horse floats or luxury vans with a minimum of effort and in maximum comfort.
Performax International General Manager Glenn Soper said Melbourne Performax would help meet growing demand, at a time when the high value of the Australian dollar favoured American vehicle imports.
“Boosted also by our appearances at many shows and other events around the country, there is now increasing demand from potential customers to test-drive and buy vehicles closer to where they live in Victoria,” he said.
With a record of more than 20 years in importing and conversion and ISO 9001 Quality Assured certification, Performax International currently produces more than 200 RHD-converted vehicles a year, built to OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) standards of finish and driveability.
All vehicles meet Australian Design Rule compliance and are backed by full warranties. TJ
Here’s a blast from the past that tells it like it is (or was), long before today’s huge choice of imported, full chassis, one tonne trucks existed. Back in the 1970s, passenger car-based ‘unibody’ 3/4 tonne utes from local manufacturers Ford, Holden and Chrysler were an almost universal choice for the working man.
Ford’s XA-XB-XC series utes were rugged, good looking and popular, serving as the backbone of the company’s light commercial fleet from 1972-1978.
Available with a choice of six cylinder or V8 power, manual or auto, plus a typically long list of options, the styling was arguably the best of ‘The Big Three’ at the time, thanks in part to use of the two-door Falcon hardtop’s long and elegantly-shaped doors.
The absence of upper framing to support the window glass in these doors really added to the clean lines and airy cabin feel, although being so long and heavy they tended to sag on their hinges over time. No surprise that Falcon hardtops also suffered this problem.
You’ll note there’s nothing fancy in the production values of this very back-to-basics TV commercial for the then brand new XB Falcon 500 model – but that was the whole point.
It had to appeal to your typical hardworking, no-nonsense Falcon ute buyer at the time (played to perfection in overalls here by quintessential Aussie actor Max Fairchild). Just give ‘em the facts, mate! TJ
The Hilux changed Australian attitudes towards Japanese utes. Who could have predicted that big Aussie bruisers would ever swap their six cylinder and V8 local utes for a “rice burner”?
It took some time for Australians to see past the funny styling, cheap plastic interiors and smokey four cylinder engines struggling under a load, that were the signature of early Japanese utes. The Hilux hastened this shift in perception, to the point where it has been regularly topping monthly sales charts as Australia’s biggest selling vehicle.
From the start, Toyota light commercials – which included the Crown ute and the utilitarian Stout range – were tougher than expected with their strong separate chassis. In terms of image and grunt, neither could match the locally assembled Ford F-series or the local utes. That was before the Hilux arrived in 1968.
Few know that the first Hilux was not strictly a Toyota. In the 1960s, Hino was one of the first Japanese companies to enjoy some success in the commercial and bus field, challenging entrenched Western attitudes that the Japanese couldn’t build a serious work vehicle.
Toyota took over Hino and in the process inherited the Hino Briska, which quickly evolved into the Toyota Hilux to become one of the most successful light commercials ever.
Later diesel 4×4 versions became the definitive Australian farm and contractor’s vehicle. And as it became more refined and better-equipped with mainstream western styling, it was perfectly placed to exploit Australia’s transition from a single-vehicle household economy.
The Hilux soon played a critical work and recreation role in booming multi-vehicle households after the economic woes of the early 1990s.
This shift in vehicle ownership also coincided with strict new child restraint laws that ended the family transport role for most local utilities. For many parents in single and two-parent families, a Hilux twin-cab and its rivals immediately became a mandatory purchase for those who had to transport their kids in a working vehicle.
The Hilux also gave birth to a new class of 4×4 multi-purpose vehicles with the 4Runner wagon. Since replaced in the local Toyota range by the Prado, the concept has been kept alive locally by the Nissan Pathfinder and Mitsubishi Challenger.
Private imports of the ‘Surf’ version of the 4Runner have generated such a separate and loyal following that if Toyota chose to return with a replacement Hilux-based wagon, there has been little loss in continuity.
Wide body = wider appeal
Limited up to this point by the 1700mm width restrictions of the Japanese market, local tariffs and unfavourable yen exchange rates, the Hilux was given a new lease on life in April 2005 with the all new wide-body Hilux series.
It was not only a half size bigger, but also sourced from Thailand. Along with the more favourable exchange rates, it also escaped import duty thanks to Australia’s free trade agreement with Thailand.
The increase in sales was dramatic, as it now had the width to accommodate three full-size Aussies across the cabin at a time when equipment and pricing became more competitive. It rapidly became the new benchmark for this segment.
Following a major upgrade in Australia’s diesel fuel quality after mid-2006, its powerful diesel engine quickly replaced the later V6 petrol engine as the premium engine of choice.
This new generation Hilux was also given the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) treatment, with a powerful forced-induction 225kW/453Nm version of the 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine in 2008. In hindsight, it might have achieved more than its limited sales if it had the LandCruiser’s 4.5-litre V8 turbo diesel, with its 195kW/650Nm under the bonnet.
This current Hilux generation has since received two facelifts, including the latest MY12 upgrade styled in Australia with a new grille that shares a family resemblance with the locally-upgraded Aurion.
New and used, the Hilux has always been slightly more expensive than its Japanese rivals but its solid reputation, longevity and reliability have proven to be worth the extra investment – especially if your business depends on it.
Yet it’s fair to say that in late 2011, the Hilux has never faced such tough and competent competition in its entire history, which can only work in favour of the buyer.
While surveying service centres to investigate what goes wrong with a particular model, it’s not often that you get the blank look that occurs when you mention ‘Hilux’. However, the latest examples have generated some new compromises (see below) in its evolution from a compact no-frills work vehicle to a bulkier dual purpose passenger vehicle and work ute.
For used buyers who need a hard working vehicle or a cheap to run and practical runabout, there should be a Hilux model and generation that covers a range of body styles and sizes to fit your budget.
RN10 series, additional grille above quad headlights. 1.5 litre, 82bhp/61kW (below).
RN13, RN16, as for 1970 model with fine grille bars, pokier 90hp/67.5kW 1.6 12R pushrod engine.
RN20, RN25, new model with single full-width grille, separate twin slots below grille. Same 67.5 kW 12R engine (below).
Facelift, lower grille surround extended towards bumper concealing twin slots of previous model.
RN27 LWB half-tonne recreation pick-up. 2.0 litre 18R overhead cam engine. Styling as for 1975.
New model RN30, RN40 and RN41 SR-5. Look for single round headlights in grille with four sections of six horizontal bars. Hilux has 1.6 12R pushrod, SR5 has 18R-C 2.0 litre overhead cam and disc brakes (below).
RN46 Hilux 4WD and RN41 2WD with 18R 2.0 litre 63kW overhead cam. 4WD has disc brakes, flared front guards, bolder grille with four framed sections of four horizontal bars.
LN40 Diesel 2.2 litre, 46kW belt-drive overhead cam introduced. All models gain chrome bumper.
Facelift. Square headlights, twin horizontal grille sections on 2WD models. Six vertical mesh grille sections on 4WD.
Double cab RN41 with 18R 2.0 litre petrol or LN40 with L 2.2 Diesel.
New model with new pushrod petrol and OHC Diesel engines. YN55 with 1.6 litre 1Y 55kW petrol, YN57 with 2.0 litre 3Y 65kW petrol, LN55 with 2.2 litre L diesel and LN56 with 2.4 litre 2L 55kW diesel. 4WD models become YN65 2.0 litre petrol and LN65 2.4 litre diesel. Look for 24 section grille on 2WD models, six horizontal mesh grille sections on 4WD models. 5 speed manual and 4 sp auto optional on 3Y petrol. 4 sp auto optional on 2.4 litre diesel (below).
L 2.2 diesel dropped.
YN67 4Y 2.2 litre 70kW petrol engine upgrade for 4WD.
Facelift. Look for 18-section grille on 2WD, four-section grille on 4WD.
YN55 1.6 IY petrol dropped. YN56 1.8 2Y 58kW petrol introduced with 4 speed column manual called Grinner.
New model. Grinner YN85 with 2Y engine, RN85 2WD and R105 4WD with 22R 2.4 litre overhead cam 75kW petrol, LN85 with 2L 2.4 diesel, LN106 4WD with 2.8 60kW L diesel. Look for single horizontal grille bar and moulded bumper style (below).
Power steering standard.
Facelift with rounded grille styles. LN85 dropped. 2.8 L diesel introduced to selected LN86 2WD models. Toyota logo in horizontal centre grille bar on 2WD. Forward sloping grille style on 4WD with large chrome grille logo (below).
Mild facelift. Vertical bar below centre grille logo on 2WD. Large full-depth centre vertical grille bar on 4WD.
‘Tamworth’ limited edition dual cab in 2WD and 4WD.
New series introduced with price cut. Look for the more rounded lines, sculptured front guards with reverse sloping front and separate grille. LN147R (4X2 dual cab) and LN167R (4X4 dual cab) gained Prado’s new 3.0-litre diesel with 65kW/197Nm. Petrol fours on other models included a 2.7-litre EFI with 108kW/235Nm or a new entry level 2-litre (EFI) with 80kW/166Nm (below).
Diesel boosted to 71kW/200Nm.
New petrol 3.4-litre V6 with 124kW/291Nm added to range.
V6 petrol now LPG compatible.
First wide body series GGN25R arrives. New 4.0-litre V6 petrol with 175kW/376Nm and new 3.0-litre turbo-diesel with 120kW/343Nm. New 5-speed auto option on upper levels. Early grille had fat centre bar with pillar under Toyota logo (below).
Diesel upgraded for new low sulfur fuel with 126kW/343Nm.
MY09 upgrade with single slat open grille.
MY12 upgrade with fine horizontal bar grille.
Some Helpful Hints
- Because the Toyota Hilux is exceptionally durable, its reliability is its main drawback as it can attracts owners who don’t fix anything until it’s broken. Many have not been taken off the road for regular servicing, which can later generate a list of problems. Parts are reasonably priced.
- Over the years, Hilux engines have changed dramatically as Toyota’s switch to front drive passenger cars has forced the development of specific commercial vehicle engines for load-lugging rear drive applications. 1Y, 2Y, 3Y and 4Y petrol engines were specially developed as simple, easy-to-maintain pushrod engines for commercial use. They are virtually maintenance free, but the hydraulic valve lash adjusters can suffer if oil is not kept clean.
- The overhead cam 18R/22R petrol engines are variations of early Corona/Celica passenger car engines and are not as simple or reliable. Can suffer from rattly timing chains, severe oil burning and oil leaks around the front of the engine. Head gasket failure is also common with these engines as they age.
- Unlike Toyota passenger car versions, certain Hilux 18R/22R engines do have valve clearance adjustment so it’s possible that noisy valve gear can be adjusted out.
- Diesels are exceptionally long lived, but early models were short on grunt and cam belt change intervals and regular oil changes are essential. The injectors can be reconditioned but the pump can cost big money. Accelerate up a hill and check if it belches smoke under load.
- This all changed with the later wide body series. Many operators found the bigger model to be less agile and more vulnerable to damage in tough conditions, which keeps pre-2005 models in steady demand. The later diesels are also far more sensitive to even slight variations in fuel quality and can generate five-figure repair bills if things go wrong.
- The later V6 petrol engine is also thirsty and needs a top quality LPG conversion if it’s not to give trouble.
- Concerns about certain Thai components across this market segment apply equally to the later Hilux, with some operators reporting that items such as clutches, shocks and other components are not as durable as they were previously.
- Over its model life, the Hilux came as a short and long wheelbase pick-up, a double cab, an extended cab (Xtra) pick-up and a cab/chassis with a variety of tray tops and other fittings. Load capacity also varied, so before purchase make sure that it will meet your requirements.
- The 3.0-litre diesel in the current shape HiLux is now known for fuel injector problems that first present themselves as excessive noise on start-up. As the fuel injector seals fail, they can cause such extensive damage that the entire engine will need replacing. In some markets, these injector seals are replaced as a pre-emptive routine maintenance item. Poor fuel has been blamed in some cases but it is worth monitoring developments with local Toyota dealers and HiLux diesel specialists if in doubt.
Hilux: Global View
Australia was one of the few mature automotive markets to experience a wide range of early Japanese utes and was in the box seat to watch the evolution.
There were several market niches waiting to be filled between the locally adapted versions of large full-chassis US pick-ups, the unique coupe-utilities based on Australian passenger cars and the pick-up version of the British Land Rover. The Japanese often used the Australian market as a test context before going global in the early 1960s.
The earliest Japanese utes were based on their four cylinder passenger cars, to slot under the Australian utes with price and some fairly optimistic payload figures as sweeteners. A claimed one tonne capacity for the tiny 1.2-litre Datsun Bluebird was typical.
Toyota also presented coupe utility versions of the Toyota Tiara and Crown, which were similar to Australian rivals as the styling and cabin were based on the sedans. The Crown found steady buyers with its full chassis toughness, but barely adequate power.
Both Toyota and Nissan also offered separate light truck ranges based on more substantial purpose-built four cylinder pick-ups with up to a claimed two tonne capacity.
The Toyota Stout and Nissan Junior (later renamed Datsun two-tonner) were not directly related to any current Japanese passenger car even if they shared some mechanical parts. These vehicles, despite their substantial payload claims that invited comparison with the truck-based pick-ups from Ford, International and Dodge, were much smaller.
Both did reasonably well, as they were much cheaper to buy and run and were much more robust than the passenger vehicle-based utilities, even if they too were underpowered.
As Japanese passenger cars grew in size and switched to unitary body construction, there was a point when the smaller Japanese utes grew closer in size to these heavier duty models and became redundant.
After the Hilux charted its own course between these two classes of Japanese work vehicles late in the 1960s, Japanese rivals soon started separating their passenger range from their work vehicles with purpose-built light trucks featuring cabins that had grown in size. They loosely followed the styling changes of the 1.5-1.8-litre sedans, but charted their own path with full-chassis construction.
Around the same time, new ute versions of smaller Japanese 1.0-1.2-litre passenger models were created to fill the gap at entry level. Today’s global one tonne ranges are the direct descendants of the larger 1.5-1.8-litre models following their complete separation from the passenger car ranges, most of which occurred in the early 1970s.
As the Hilux has shown, the wheel is turning full circle as more passenger vehicle refinements are returned to the specification. TJ
You only have to talk to a mechanic or read a few internet forums to know that over the past few years a considerable number of diesel owners have experienced major fuel system damage, often resulting in extensive repairs to complex fuel pumps, injectors, filters etc costings thousands of dollars.
Surprisingly, many of the vehicles to suffer this problem have been well known, high quality brands. And relatively new models, with some of this damage occurring in vehicles with less than 25,000 kms on the clock.
So what’s going on out there? According to anecdotal evidence from mechanics we’ve spoken to and opinions expressed by various owners in public forums, the problem could be related to the type of diesel fuels being used and their compatability (or lack of) with modern engine technologies.
Today’s common rail diesel (CRD) engines feature levels of engineering refinement, performance and efficiency that are worlds ahead of diesel engines of the past.
The common rail design operates at much higher fuel pressures than older style diesels and therefore has much greater sensitivity to variations in fuel quality and cleanliness.
CRD engines are designed to run on today’s enviro-friendly, ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuels, which became mandatory for use in Australia from 2006 with a sulfur particulate limit of 50ppm (parts per million). This limit was lowered to 10ppm in 2009.
CRD engines can also run on biodiesel, which is a blend of standard petroleum diesel and non-fossil fuel compounds made from renewable energy sources such as used cooking oil, animal fats and other agricultural products.
These bio-diesel blends are readily available in Australia, in concentrations from five per cent biodiesel (B5) up to 20 per cent (B20) or more.
However, check the warranty statements made by numerous manufacturers about the use of these ‘green’ fuels in their vehicles. Most clearly stipulate that they must conform to the Australian Diesel Standard, which specifies an allowance of up to five per cent biodiesel content (B5). Here’s two good examples:
Toyota Australia: “In the absence of biodiesel blend fuel standards greater than B5 (5% biodiesel blend) and due to the many variations of biodiesel fuel blends under production in our market, such as B20 and B30 (biodiesel blend 20% and 30%) Toyota is not in a position to evaluate the long term effect that these varied biodiesel blends will have on overall engine performance, fuel injection equipment durability, fuel economy and exhaust emission compliance.
“This statement is provided to inform Toyota owners of Toyota’s position with regard to the use of bio-diesel fuels in its products and also serves to confirm that Toyota New Vehicle Warranty will not apply to any failures that are attributable to the use of such fuels.”
Mercedes-Benz Australia: “Daimler AG has determined that diesel fuel containing up to five per cent biodiesel blend, known as B5, which conforms to the fuel standard EN14214 (bio diesel) and EN590 (diesel) meets the technical specifications for all passenger cars and light commercial vehicles equipped with CDI (common rail diesel injection) engines.
“We must also stress that vehicle damage that results from misfueling or from the usage of substandard, non-approved or privately blended fuels may affect your new vehicle manufacturer’s warranty.”
So why are these well designed and precision engineered CRD engines, which are built to provide hundreds of thousands of kilometres of trouble-free service, suffering premature and expensive fuel system failures?
Are some diesel owners unaware of their vehicle manufacturer’s fuel recommendations and how they can affect their new vehicle warranty?
Are some diesel owners filling up with biodiesel fuel blends greater than five percent (B20, B30 etc) thinking they’re doing the right thing for the environment, but unknowingly destroying their engines?
Are fuel bowsers at some outlets incorrectly labelled, or labelled in such a way as to be hard for the customer to see when choosing which hose to stick in their tank?
Or have you just been unlucky enough to get a dirty batch of fuel, contaminated by water or goodness knows what else?
Unlike petrol, diesel fuel is susceptible to supporting organisms during storage which can be encouraged by the addition of bio-matter. Storage quality requires far more vigilance. Is every outlet doing what’s necessary to ensure clean, uncontaminated fuel?
We’d really like some owner feedback on this, to try and get a handle on what’s going wrong. ends..