Rudolf Wouldn’t Recognize These Diesels

As I was reflecting back on my college days studying diesel technology in the 1970s, it struck me how much diesel engine technology has advanced since then. I thought, “Wow,” Rudolf Diesel would probably not even recognize today’s modern version of his invention.


Diesel’s original 1897 engine on display at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Diesel engine technology has advanced dramatically since Rudolf’s demonstration of a single-cylinder diesel engine in 1897. And while significant technology advances were made to the diesel engine over the past century, the most significant advances have been made in the past 20 years.

Diesel engines have advanced from mechanically-controlled systems with zero sensors, to electronically-controlled engines and aftertreatment systems with 30-plus sensors to monitor and control engine operation. In the 1980s, Fuel injection pressures were in the 2000-3000 P.S.I. range, whereas today’s diesel engines develop injection pressures in the 30,000-40,000 P.S.I. range.

But it doesn’t end there. More technology advancements are on the way to diesel engines. Some of the newest or developing advancements include:

Remote diagnostics – making it possible to begin failure diagnosis as soon as a failure occurs, before the truck even arrives at a repair center.

Over air programming – will make it possible to remotely flash engine (and vehicle) controller updates over the air without the need for the vehicle to go to a repair center.

Over air parameter adjustments – Truck manufacturers are even developing systems that may one day make it possible for automatic “on the fly” parameter adjustments. One example would be changing a truck’s governed speed limit to as it enters a new state.

Engine downspeeding – By reducing engine operating speeds, there is reduced internal friction, resulting in increased fuel economy and improved fuel consumption. For instance, with a typical linehaul truck operating at normal highway speeds, for each 100 RPM drop in engine speed, fuel economy is improved by approximately one percent.

As diesel engine technology advances, it’s important for techs to keep up to date. Resources like Mitchell 1 TruckSeries provide information needed to help you diagnose and repair advanced truck diesel engine technology.

About the Author

Curtis Bogert

Curtis (Curt) Bogert joined the Mitchell 1 Commercial Vehicle Group as an Associate Editor in 2013. His previous experience includes more than 35 five years in the commercial truck industry as a service technician, truck dealership service manager, factory service rep for a major commercial truck manufacturer and a commercial truck sales person. He has over 25 years as an ASE Certified Master Medium/Heavy Truck Technician, Master Truck Equipment Technician, Advanced Level Diesel Specialist and School Bus Technician. Curt also holds an Associate of Science Degree in Heavy Duty Transportation Technology from San Diego Miramar College.