P0087 SAGA

Diesel World - - Q & A -

I just re­turned to Illi­nois from Quartzsite tow­ing my 12,000-pound fiver. I have 123K miles on my ’09 LMM Du­ra­max at this point. I had no prob­lems go­ing south in Jan­uary, but the truck ex­pe­ri­enced sev­eral P0087 episodes on my re­turn to Illi­nois last week—usu­ally on the big­ger hills, a cou­ple hours into the day, and with a lower fuel level in the tank (the usual cast of char­ac­ters, ev­i­dently).

This is an ab­so­lutely stock truck that is reg­u­larly ser­viced by our lo­cal Chevy dealer. I have faith­fully used Power Ser­vice fuel treat­ment since day one in ev­ery tank. I’ve also equipped the truck with aux­il­iary fuel fil­tra­tion al­most from day one. Both the aux­il­iary and stock fuel fil­ters have been reg­u­larly ser­viced at their rec­om­mended in­ter­vals.

I’ve spent a lot of time on­line do­ing re­search on the trou­ble code P0087 look­ing for any pos­si­ble short-term or long-term so­lu­tions. In get­ting home, the last 1,000 miles was a big prob­lem. I tried to keep post-turbo EGTS in the 1,000-de­gree range, and never let it ex­ceed 1,100. I used that as a proxy for the tem­per­a­tures the in­jec­tors and in­com­ing fuel might be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. I op­er­ated the trans­mis­sion in man­ual mode, which al­lowed me to se­lect trans­mis­sion gear­ing on hills, which al­lowed for bet­ter man­age­ment of ex­haust tem­per­a­ture.

Since re­turn­ing home, I re­turned the truck to my dealer and they found noth­ing wrong. The in­jec­tors tested solid (as they did just be­fore I left). No codes were re­main­ing, of course. Ab­sent the load from tow­ing a heavy trailer on hills for hours on end while hot, there was no way to get their equip­ment to con­firm my truck’s prob­lem. In ad­di­tion, at my re­quest they in­spected all fuel lines (ap­peared solid or had al­ready been re­placed), the fuel cooler was clean, and they found no fuel leaks any­where.

These are two guys who have known the truck since new, have ser­viced it thor­oughly and reg­u­larly, and oth­er­wise have my full con­fi­dence. They did men­tion that free­ing up the ex­haust might help keep over­all ex­haust tem­per­a­ture down and thus keep the re­turned fuel cooler. Com­ing from a deal­er­ship, I found that in­ter­est­ing. For now I guess I’ll keep driv­ing care­fully and see what the fu­ture holds.

Any thoughts on the ex­haust change? How about my strat­egy of us­ing EGT as a proxy for fu­el­ing per­for­mance? Or for that mat­ter, on any other re­cent de­vel­op­ments on this P0087 code prob­lem for medium-age trucks that work hard?

Rich Phillips

Via Email We’ve re­ceived quite a few queries through­out the years ex­press­ing dis­may or some­times even anger over the pos­si­bil­ity that the in­jec­tors needed to be re­placed in the 100-150K mile range.

It’s never con­ve­nient or pleas­ant to think about re­plac­ing the in­jec­tors. Right or wrong, most own­ers be­lieve the in­jec­tors should last for as long as they own the truck. This bristling re­sis­tance to in­jec­tor re­place­ment hap­pened a lot less of­ten with 6.5L diesel own­ers, largely be­cause the

in­jec­tors were/are a tenth the cost. 6.5L in­jec­tors needed to be re­placed when en­gine rough­ness, start-abil­ity, fuel econ­omy, or per­for­mance said it was time, which usu­ally wound up be­ing in the 100-150K mile range. Whether they em­ploy cur­rent tech­nol­ogy or are old-school, all diesel fuel in­jec­tors wear out with time and miles.

The OBD-II ex­pla­na­tion for this trou­ble code in­di­cates that the “Fuel-rail Sys­tem Pres­sure is Too Low”, mean­ing the fuel rail pres­sure is be­low what the pro­gram­ming ex­pects. P0087 will set if the ac­tual fuel rail pres­sure is 20MPA be­low that com­manded by the ECM. Due to a va­ri­ety of pos­si­ble rea­sons, the high-pres­sure CP3 fuel pump sim­ply can’t pro­duce the pres­sures.

Here’s a list of the pos­si­ble causes of a P0087 code:

1. Plugged fuel fil­ter through con­tam­i­na­tion or gelled fuel in cold weather.

2. Plugged vent in the fuel tank cap caus­ing ex­ces­sive vac­uum.

3. Kinked hose in the fuel sup­ply (near the tank or near the en­gine).

4. Worn in­jec­tors, which by­pass more fuel back to the fuel tank through the fuel re­turn lines than the high-pres­sure pump can keep up with. 5. Worn high-pres­sure pump, which can’t gen­er­ate the nec­es­sary pres­sures.

6. De­fec­tive fuel pres­sure reg­u­la­tor (FPR).

7. Dirty or oth­er­wise ob­structed fuel cooler, which is lo­cated just ahead of the fuel tank. This cooler is there to re­duce the tem­per­a­ture of the hot re­turn fuel be­fore it en­ters the fuel tank. 8. De­fec­tive or in­cor­rectly oper­at­ing pres­sure re­lief valve in the fuel rail.

We spoke to a guy a few years ago who had a 2009 model that he used to pull a 5ver that was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the P0087 code prob­lem... un­til he in­stalled a large aux­il­iary fuel tank in the bed of the truck. He ran a fuel trans­fer sys­tem that cy­cled fuel through the aux tank and his frame-mounted tank. This ended his P0087 prob­lem. Hot, thin fuel, as he dis­cov­ered, was a key fac­tor in his P0087s, or at least cooler fuel masked the root cause.

Ad­di­tional cool­ers, aux­il­iary fuel tanks, and other less costly at­tempts to solve the prob­lem might help in the near term, but they may not be a long-term so­lu­tion. Any­time you en­counter a hot sum­mer day while tow­ing a heavy load, and the fuel heats up as the day pro­gresses, you may see the dreaded code re-ap­pear.

There’s a per­cent­age of own­ers who sim­ply trade their trucks in for a newer model when faced with the same sit­u­a­tion. That’s one way to deal with it. An­other way to deal with the shock of re­pair costs is to ac­quire an af­ter­mar­ket en­gine war­ranty, be­fore you need it, that cov­ers the

fuel in­jec­tion sys­tem once the fac­tory war­ranty ex­pires. This could be the best way to deal with the specter of a breath­tak­ing re­pair bill. In­sur­ance cov­er­age that cov­ers the fuel in­jec­tion sys­tem won’t be cheap, but it’ll be eas­ier for most own­ers to deal with than drop­ping a thick stack of $100 bills on in­jec­tor re­place­ment.

A small num­ber of ven­dors have been ex­per­i­ment­ing with ECM pro­gram­ming in an ef­fort to deal with P0087, try­ing to widen the win­dow of ac­cept­able fuel rail pres­sures to be­yond the 20MPA GM chose as ac­cept­able, to com­pen­sate for lower-than-ex­pected rail pres­sures due to the heat and/or worn in­jec­tors/pumps. This isn’t an easy task, and the pro­gram­ming changes have pro­duced vary­ing de­grees of im­prove­ment. Con­tact Kennedy­diesel.com for pro­gram­ming op­tions that are de­signed to deal with P0087.

As equipped from the fac­tory, none of these Du­ra­max-pow­ered trucks run with an elec­tric fuel lift pump. In­stead, the Bosch high-pres­sure pump lo­cated in the en­gine val­ley pulls fuel all the way from the fuel tank, through the lines, and through the fuel fil­ter be­fore reach­ing the high-pres­sure pump. This gen­er­ates 3-5” of vac­uum or even more if the fuel fil­ter is par­tially clogged. Some Du­ra­max own­ers and af­ter­mar­ket ven­dors feel an elec­tric fuel lift pump can help re­duce the oc­cur­rences of rail pres­sure trou­ble codes. A num­ber of ven­dors ad­ver­tis­ing right here in Diesel World carry lift pump kits.

As to whether a per­for­mance-ori­ented ex­haust sys­tem could help lower ex­haust tem­per­a­tures, we ac­tu­ally per­formed an ex­ten­sive test some years ago us­ing a Du­ra­max-pow­ered truck to help an­swer that ques­tion. Here are the re­sults from that tow­ing test (tow­ing a 7,000-pound trailer on a 6% grade). The ex­haust tem­per­a­ture re­mained the same for each run, though there was a mea­sur­able im­prove­ment in per­for­mance.

Stock power w/stock ex­haust: Boost 21 psi, EGT 1,275 de­grees, speed 62 mph in 4th gear.

Stock power w/mag­naflow ex­haust: Boost 21.5 psi, EGT 1,275 de­grees, speed 64 mph in 4th gear.

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