Beating “Engine Killers”

New Method Promotes On-Time Freight Delivery


engine killers

EVERY FREIGHT TRUCKER knows that the longer a diesel engine runs, the more soot builds up from Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR). Eventually, that build-up can result in a huge maintenance bill and sometimes a catastrophic breakdown out on the road—every trucker’s worst nightmare.

The negative impact of diesel soot on engine performance can be minimized, and that’s great news for the transportation industry. Less contamination in critical engine systems means fewer breakdowns, lower maintenance costs, and more uptime—all of which make life a lot easier for freight brokers, shippers, motor carriers, mechanics and drivers.

Why do we need EGR when we know it spreads harmful soot that wreaks havoc on engine performance?1 Some Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are now testing even more EGR to meet the EPA’s tightened 2027 limits for oxides of nitrogen (NOx), which is what EGR is supposed to reduce.

EGR’s purpose is to cool the combustion process to help meet the NOx emission regulations. However, the exhaust soot particles at engine-out going into the EGR system are very sticky and abrasive. They immediately stick to each other, to intake plumbing and cylinder surfaces. They also get into the engine oil. As they thicken the oil, they cause turbocharger-bearing seizures and engine cylinder wear.

So, a maintenance bill can go as high as $10,000/yr. in repairing engine contamination damage and still comply with greenhouse gas emission standards. That’s just the cost of maintaining the engine itself—costs that often ripple through the supply chain and are passed along to brokers, shippers and other stakeholders.

Next, factor in Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR): this final after-treatment is also necessary to reduce the NOx that EGR misses. It also leads to higher maintenance costs due to contamination from urea deposits caused by dosing with Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) and by wear-out of its catalyst. What can be done about it by fleet owners, mechanics and drivers?

There are many ways to help freight haulers beat the engine killers. Among them are increased frequency of oil changes and more frequent cleaning and/or replacement of Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) soot filters—oil filters that employ centrifugal cleansing attachments—regular replacement of EGR valves and cleaning of EGR coolers, and routine cleaning of SCR dosing valves to remove urea deposits. The common denominator with all of these best practices is added cost and constant attention.

There are now several new methods to attack the above-mentioned challenges without constant attention and with no repetitive costs. The methods are effective on all diesels dating back to 2010:

  • Reduce the percentage of soot-laden EGR exhaust reentering the engine.
  • Reduce the need for EGR valve opening by cutting NOx in combustion.
  • Reduce the electronic demand for SCR by cutting NOx in combustion.
  • Cut overall net carbon emissions through improved fuel economy.
  • Increase engine torque and power.

SPI.Systems has succeeded in making these improvements in combustion, along with reductions in soot damage. That success has been measured in two years of road testing that included emissions and MPG measurements, along with DEF usage readings. It’s called the “SPIER System,” which stands for SPI Exhaust Reaction System. Here’s what has been achieved:

  • Soot generation reductions from enhanced combustion up to 50%;
  • NOx reductions at engine-out up to 20% = less DEF usage and less EGR;
  • Cleaner engine oil and cylinder walls = reduced engine rework and turbocharger failures, and longer oil life;
  • Reduced need for DPF cleaning and longer time between active DPF regenerations;
  • Improved horsepower and grade climbing through more efficient combustion;
  • Reduced DEF system and SCR maintenance, less downtime;
  • Lower maintenance and downtime costs;
  • Less annoyance for mechanics, drivers and freight brokers;
  • MPG improvements of 15-25% for the fleet owner; and
  • More on-time pickups and deliveries = increased customer satisfaction for shippers.

There is a relationship between reduction in EGR and improvement in fuel economy from enhanced combustion as a result of using SPIER. A road test report that includes tracking both EGR and fuel economy, factoring in terrain variations on a given route and load, showed that the overall savings potential with upfit of the SPIER System can amount to more than $23,000 per truck, per year:

  • Fuel Economy Improvement at 120,000 miles/yr. → $10,500/truck/yr.
  • DEF Usage Reduction → $968/truck/yr.
  • Reduced Maintenance → $11, 275/truck/yr.

Upfit installation takes about six hours, and once installed, no maintenance is required; the system is operational as soon as the engine runs.

For 3PL companies, these benefits mean faster and more reliable deliveries, reduced operating costs, more efficient technicians, and strong selling points for driver recruitment.

Here’s what drivers are saying they like about SPIER:

  • Added power (about 6%). “I felt it as soon as I began to drive.”
  • Fewer stops for fuel and DEF. “I’m running 15-30% longer between stops.”
  • Faster climbing of steep grades without losing speed or forcing downshifting.

“I climbed a 3% grade pulling 45,000 lbs. without a downshift at a steady speed.”

  • Faster accelerations without shifting. “This thing wants to GO. The torque is A+”
  • More on-time deliveries. “I’m no longer afraid of forced regens and stuck EGRs.”
  • Compliance with emissions regulations “At any port or inspection station.”
  • Reduced risk of unscheduled downtime or road failures. “None at 100,000 miles.”
  • No black smoke during power transitions. “The DPF is never overcome.”
  • Helping to save our environment. “Let’s open more cities and ports to diesels.”

For transportation professionals who buy, maintain, drive, and schedule the trucks that are vital to our economy, diesel engine performance is critical to success. At SPI.Systems, we are proud to play a role in revolutionizing diesel engines’ performance and offer solutions that help transportation professionals also perform at the highest level possible.

Jack Schickler is President & CEO of SPI.Systems Corporation, which he founded in 1992. Jack is a retired General Motors executive with over 55 years of emission control engineering experience. To learn more about the SPIER System, visit


1 How to Prevent Diesel Soot from Wreaking Havoc on Your Engine. July 19, 2021.