Diesel engine servicing – should you do it yourself?
12 March 2021
While DIY can be a cost-effective way to complete work, missing or incorrectly completing important steps can have costly consequences. Here Pete Trueman explains why DIY might not always be the best idea, particularly when servicing diesel engines
LOCKDOWN MEASURES greatly restricted business operations, yet DiPerk has experienced extremely high numbers of orders for replacement Perkins parts. It poses the question, are diesel engine operators, like homeowners, turning to DIY during the pandemic? And, if so, will it be a lasting market shift?
Some business owners see engine servicing as an unnecessary expense — particularly if they are paying to service a back-up generator, they may never use. However, if owners do not take care of back-up generators and a power outage occurs, they cannot guarantee that they’ll have a reliable power supply.
After the pandemic, completing engine servicing in-house may seem like a good option because it would mean your business does not have to pay for an engineer’s time. Carrying out maintenance yourself may seem more cost-effective – why pay an engineer when you can do most of the tasks yourself?
However, businesses need to factor in the revenue lost when their employees are not working on their core activity. For example, if a maintenance tasks takes a staff member two days to complete, that is two days that they are not working on their usual tasks. An outsourced generator servicing expert is likely to be able to complete the task in significantly less time than someone with an untrained eye, getting things up and running quicker.
DIY home improvements are only cost effective if done correctly. Mistakes might lead to accidental damage, an insurance claim and more time and money to fix the problem. The same can happen with diesel engines.
During lockdown, engine operators may have felt confident to complete routine engine maintenance tasks, such as maintaining coolant levels, topping up oil or replacing filters. Some may even have felt that they can complete more complex tasks.
However, if an operator takes on a task and discovers that they cannot solve the issue, it will take longer to return the system to operation compared with regular servicing by an expert external engineer. The resulting equipment downtime can impact the business’ productivity.
If an important part of maintenance is missed or a repair does not meet specifications, the engine could fail during later use, causing major damage and costing time and money for more repairs and equipment replacements. In addition, for those with new engines, the DIY approach could render the warranty invalid.
DIY servicing is particularly popular in industries that have relied on diesel generators for decades, such as construction and agriculture. Operators feel confident attempting repairs because they have worked on diesel engines for decades. However, diesel engines from 20 years ago are very different to generators today.
Diesel engines used to be fairly basic mechanical pieces of equipment. Now, as manufacturers add more electronics and sensor technology to engines to increase machine capabilities and meet legislation, the equipment is far more complex. For example, engine manufacturers are now integrating after-treatment devices, such as selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology to reduce emissions in line with Stage V legislation.
Choosing to complete smaller maintenance tasks might become more difficult because operators will have to work around this new, complex equipment. Because of this, we expect that in the long term, operators will leave maintenance tasks to trained servicing engineers with more expertise.
Diagnostics has also become an important part of engine technology, which requires operators to access and connect to specialist software. An engine operator is also unlikely to pay the software licencing fee, meaning many tasks will need to be outsourced.
Lockdown restrictions in early 2020 meant that a lot of businesses had to cancel or postpone any non-essential work. In the short-term servicing diesel engines may not seem to be an essential activity. This might suggest to businesses that, if they can go a few months without servicing, regular maintenance is not required as often as they pay for.
While servicing may not be a short-term necessity, neglecting regular maintenance can cause long term problems. Not completing important maintenance tasks such as maintaining kit or changing filters can cause long term damage. It’s better to invest in regular maintenance and catch issues before they cause costly problems.
While confident operators can save money by completing small, manageable tasks, themselves, they should still consult servicing companies to ensure an engine is always ready for safe and effective use.
DIY will always be a popular way to get work done, but we expect the trend will be short-lived when it comes to diesel engines — leaving important tasks to the professionals will help to save money in the long term. As the nation eases out of lockdown, we expect relationships between engine operators and servicing companies to blossom once more.
Looking for help with your Perkins engine? DiPerk engineers can visit your site to ensure engines are well maintained, while observing all hygiene, PPE and social distancing advice. If you’re looking for advice on effectively maintaining your engines, visit www.diperk.com.
Pete Trueman is service delivery manager at DiPerk, the UK and Ireland’s Perkins engines expert