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August 2, 2008

Fuel filter blues

Posted: 03:42 PM ET

The old Nissan diesel engine in the Scout had, as of Friday morning,  taken us about 1,200 miles without incident. Unfortunately, the incident we were already wary of happened just as we were attempting to leave the ranch at Grand Canyon West: Our fuel system clogged up.


Our broken down Scout in Grand Canyon West, Arizona.

One of the issues with using biodiesel in high concentrations is its tendency to act as a powerful solvent on the various engine components it touches. This leads to premature breakdown of anything made of rubber, and on top of that, it cleans out your engine and fuel tank of any gunk that might have built up over its life as a diesel.

In our case, we seem to be suffering more from the fact that the previous person to install fuel lines on the Scout decided to use that stretchy surgical plastic tubing, which our biodiesel made short work of. It turned into goo from the inside out, and the goo went straight into our fuel filter.

We thought we were prepared for this. We had enough fuel line of decent quality to replace the surgical tubing. The four spare filters we have with us should have provided an easy way to fix the rest, but we soon found out that they were all the wrong size - much to our chagrin.

Thanks to the extremely helpful staff and maintenance crew (especially Dave), we were able to change the deteriorating fuel lines and do as thorough a cleaning of the fuel filter as we could. Things seemed to be working great. It was time for a big ranch lunch.

After lunch, we set out again to leave, only to make it a few hundred feet before running smack into the same problem. Dave from maintenance towed us to their shop, and we spent another hour or so cleaning the fuel filter and cracking injector lines and wishing and hoping. We left there, fingers crossed, and made it halfway down the road out before the great clog returned again, with a vengeance.

We then rather frantically researched ways to resolve this situation. Our first thought was to join AAA, and we did. As it turns out, they refuse to tow from where we are. A nice waste of time, effort and money that was. The only local wrecker service we could get in touch with demanded $800 in cash. So instead we got a ride with our new buddy Dave, who was going home by way of the nearest city.

Which brings us, eventually, to our current locale: a motel in Kingman, Arizona. We have a new mission now, which is to get the Scout running again ASAP. We desperately need to find a new fuel filter, and we'll probably have to rent a car to do it.

Though this turn of events is unfortunate, I suppose it's a good thing that it didn't happen in the middle of the desert. The road trip must continue!

- Brian

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Filed under: environment • Road trip

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S Callahan   August 2nd, 2008 4:28 pm ET

Boy -Do i feel like this is a movie i saw in the forgive me for having a laugh...
In my world this is called Murphy's of good cheer and let nothing disturb you, all this will pass.

Just a thought...this would be a good time to rent the electic car (who knows you might have to travel 100 miles for THAT filter to fit:-)

I am thankful for you that you had someone nearby to help and all will work out I'm sure ..and if you keep checking this blog I'm sure lots of folks will give you helpful ideas to solve your problem.

Happy traveling Cody..and gang...

Gene   August 2nd, 2008 5:00 pm ET

Ahem. Nothing like a learning experience to open ones eyes.

nisroc   August 2nd, 2008 5:01 pm ET

oh noes, scout cat is in your engine, stealin' your hosez! >:)

Franko   August 2nd, 2008 5:41 pm ET

As the Chinese say, crysis is opportunity,
Stories of helpful, or not, the reality of hitting the road.

One snafoo after another, time for green pizza and green bio-beer.
Served by a waitress in green algae bikini.

Gene   August 2nd, 2008 7:19 pm ET

Scylla and Charybdis await. Where be our Thetis?

Aha! I spy an Orator. Mayhaps he shall strike a deal with the monsters?

Aye! Your soul for a barrel!

Shannon   August 2nd, 2008 7:59 pm ET

Head over to the Brunswick Hotel in Kingman for a cold brew. And ask them to give you a set of earplugs. Wherever you're staying tonight, you'll not be far from the train tracks.

Fred   August 2nd, 2008 8:56 pm ET

Not to sound too silly, but isn't there any way that you can get a new fuel pump and clean it out prior placing it back into the Scout? There has to be somewhere where you can pick one up....

I really enjoy reading about your road trip... Keep it up!

Golfman   August 2nd, 2008 10:44 pm ET

I'm sure you're learning a are we. Reminds me of some of the cars we had when I was a kid. At least you don't have to go to the office Monday.

ET   August 3rd, 2008 12:55 am ET

Oh man you are bringing back memories of old cars and road trips. If it makes you feel any better, I bought a state-of-the-art diesel in 2001 which promptly burned through three of it's state-of-the-art transmissions and fried two sets of its state-of-the-art injectors. All of that while running on filtered, standard, diesel fuel.
I have repeatedly had the experience of standing alongside the dead horse, throwing on a helmet, and thanking myself for having the foresight to throw my Mountain Bike on the rack. I will never travel in my 1500 mile-wide territory again without these necessities and two gallons of water.
Keep your dead parts, drop them on someones table someday, and figure out what went wrong. Your trip is now a science experiement. And a good one at that.

Franko   August 3rd, 2008 8:41 am ET

Instead of Blue, emotionally confused, try hopefully Green, and Yellow warm.
Spike the fuel with Chlorophyll additive, paint the Scout fluorescent yellow,
Then ponder, emotionally uplifted.

Sandra, Wadley Ga.   August 3rd, 2008 9:22 am ET

Brian and Cody:

Good morning? Yes the road trip must continue. I am getting ready for church and will keep you both in my prayers. Godspeed!!

Franko   August 3rd, 2008 10:28 am ET

"Birdsead for 5,000 miles on One bag"
All the energy in Birdseed. No wonder Birds can soar, migrate long distances.
New Physics here. Not a squirrel on NutPower generating in a squirrel cage.
How to harness BirdPower, what kind of circular cage ?
Carrot before the Donkey, new Detroit fuel efficiency secret ?

Drew   August 3rd, 2008 1:08 pm ET

You're stuck in the middle of nowhere and I can't say I'm the least bit sympathetic...To leave on a trip this long and in relatively remote areas without checking your vehicle out beforehand for possible problems is irresponsible to say the least...In your haste to 'go green' you failed to consider the possible consquences...

Dieselscout   August 3rd, 2008 1:30 pm ET

Here are part numbers of fuel filters that will work.

Nissan – 16444-99125
Baldwin – PF-861
FleetGuard – FF221

I think an old International number is 478037 C1
That IH number might be obsolete, but it you are at an International Truck Service Shop, they may have one.

I have one of the Nissan and one of the Baldwin filters sitting right in front of me as I type. I'm wishing I could get them to you quickly, but I am 1466 miles away.
If you need me to overnite one to you, send me an email at:
It may take more than a day, because I'm in the boonies here in Western Iowa.

Good luck on your quest.


Dieselscout   August 3rd, 2008 1:35 pm ET

If you have a spin-on Primary Filter (Located on the Radiator Support), it would be one of these:

Baldwin – BF-979
FleetGuard – FF5020
WIX – 33341

Baldwin – BF-984
FleetGuard – FF196
WIX – 33339

Again, good luck.


Rich   August 3rd, 2008 2:03 pm ET

seems to me the problems really started with buying a car sight unseen, then starting on a long journey within two days of taking delivery of a seriously old vehicle. throw some odd fuel into it and go. no shakedown cruise of any sort to work out the kinks. alternative fuels are not the cause of problems here. it's simple lack of preparation. I seriously do wish you guys a wonderful journey, but the lack of preparation for this venture really is a head scratcher.

weheritage   August 3rd, 2008 2:53 pm ET


"It's such a shame to spend youth on the young"

Have a great trip


Ed Lankford   August 3rd, 2008 3:54 pm ET

Are you running commercial bio or are you converting cooking oil ??
If you are running B-5>>>B99 in a vehicle that has previously been running regular diesel, of course your filters are clogging.
Bio is an extreme solvent that dislodges old oil build up in your tank and lines causing you to have to change filters until it is all cleaned out.
I now have 80,800 miles on my diesel jeep liberty and I constantly switch between low sulfur, B-99, B-10, B-20 and B-5. Same filter as new because I did not have a lot of gunk to clog the filter.
Replace the tank and entire fuel line system leading to the Filter and your problem is cured, otherwise you will end up towing that baby across America... Good Luck– Promote Bio...Ed

Ed Lankford   August 3rd, 2008 4:27 pm ET

I'm a Jerk– Shoulda read some of your blog before commenting. I see you are purchasing commercial Biodiesel and not running chicken fat.

James   August 3rd, 2008 5:38 pm ET

Real shocker...30 year old scout with surgical hose for fuel lines couldn't drive accross the United States on BioDiesel.

It's one thing to buy a vehicle sight unseen...but to not have it checked out mechanically before setting out on a long just dumb. I'm glad you both weren't out in the sticks somewhere when it broke down.

My wife and I live in Southern California...last year in April we bought a 2005 VW Passat TDI in Ohio. It was at a Ford dealer, and they were awesome to deal with...they put on new tires before hand, and then took it at our request to a local VW dealer to have a pre-sales inspection done...the vehicle checked out perfect.
We flew in, they picked us up at the airport....took us back to the Ford dealer...we test drove it, while they did the paper work. We were out of there in less than an hour. We planned out the whole trip to drive home on BioDiesel, and we called each of the fueling locations weeks in advance to get the days/times they're open, and if we needed a cardlock card or if it had public access, etc...
I picked up a spare fuel filter, and 505.01 oil at a VW dealer on day two...both of which you can't just get at any auto parts store...
Anyway, we drove 2300+ miles home over 7 days, through 9 states, and had a was a great road trip that we will never forget.
We totaled up that it took $183 of BioDiesel to get home...but it was a lot cheaper to buy BioDiesel a year ago. The car made the whole trip on B2-B50 blends of BioDiesel, even though it had 65,000 miles on it (miles using only petrol diesel), we never had to change the fuel filter.
We saved about $5000-6000 by buying the vehicle in took $2000 for the trip.
We would do it again in a heartbeat.
So with a little advanced planning, hopefully your next road trip will be a little smoother.
We do wish you the best...and hope the rest of your trip goes well

Brian   August 3rd, 2008 6:34 pm ET

I agree with Ed L., you should have done some research on biofuels before you just decided to use it. It does not work with older fuel systems that are not designed to run on it as you are finding out.
When this "experience" is all over please do not castigate biofuels because of your own ignorance in the required technology. I have a Chevy Silverado that was designed for biofuel and it runs just fine.

dave   August 5th, 2008 11:24 am ET

I'd bought a car wired with speaker wire and surgical tape once. It was still a good car, but I had enough sense to undo the crappy wiring and rewire it before I drove it. If your do a story on biofuel, upgrading fuel lines, and even splurging for a fuel cell (easy to remove and clean) would make sense, But hey- it's your knickel.

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