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Old 07-05-2011, 09:50 PM
topsites topsites is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Richmond Virginia
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Why my engine won't start in the heat after it's been running?
Could winter fuel affect my engine in the summer?

Vapor lock

Vapor lock is a problem that mostly affects gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines.

It occurs when the liquid fuel changes state from liquid to gas while still in the fuel delivery system. This disrupts the operation of the fuel pump, causing loss of feed pressure to the carburetor or fuel injection system, resulting in transient loss of power or complete stalling. Restarting the engine from this state may be difficult. The fuel can vaporise due to being heated by the engine, by the local climate or due to a lower boiling point at high altitude. In regions where higher volatility fuels are used during the winter to improve the starting of the engine, the use of "winter" fuels during the summer can cause vapor lock to occur more readily.

1] Causes and incidence


Vapor lock was far more common in older gasoline fuel systems incorporating a low-pressure mechanical fuel pump driven by the engine, located in the engine compartment and feeding a carburetor. Such pumps were typically located higher than the fuel tank, were directly heated by the engine and fed fuel directly to the float bowl inside the carburetor. Fuel was drawn under negative pressure from the feed line, increasing the risk of a vapor lock developing between the tank and pump. A vapor lock being drawn into the fuel pump could disrupt the fuel pressure long enough for the float chamber in the carburetor to partially or completely drain, causing fuel starvation in the engine. Even temporary disruption of fuel supply into the float chamber is not ideal; most carburetors are designed to run at a fixed level of fuel in the float bowl and reducing the level will reduce the fuel to air mixture delivered to the engine.

Carburetor units may not effectively deal with fuel vapor being delivered to the float chamber. Most designs incorporate a pressure balance duct linking the top of the float bowl with either the intake to the carburetor or the outside air. Even if the pump can handle vapor locks effectively, fuel vapor entering the float bowl has to be vented. If this is done via the intake system, the mixture is, in-effect, enriched, creating a mixture control and pollution issue. If it is done by venting to the outside, the result is direct hydrocarbon pollution and an effective loss of fuel efficiency and possibly a fuel odor problem. For this reason, some fuel delivery systems allow fuel vapor to be returned to the fuel tank to be condensed back to the liquid phase, or using an active carbon filled canister where fuel vapor is absorbed. This is usually implemented by removing fuel vapor from the fuel line near the engine rather than from the float bowl. Such a system may also divert excess fuel pressure from the pump back to the tank.

Most modern engines are equipped with fuel injection, and have an electric submersible fuel pump in the fuel tank. Moving the fuel pump to the interior of the tank helps prevent vapor lock, since the entire fuel delivery system is under positive pressure and the fuel pump runs cooler than if it is located in the engine compartment. This is the primary reason that vapor lock is rare in modern fuel systems. For the same reason, some carbureted engines are retrofitted with an electric fuel pump near the fuel tank.

A vapor lock is more likely to develop when the vehicle is in traffic because the under-hood temperature tends to rise. A vapor lock can also develop when the engine is stopped while hot and the vehicle is parked for a short period. The fuel in the line near the engine does not move and can thus heat up sufficiently to form a vapor lock. The problem is more likely in hot weather or high altitude in either case.

Gravity feed fuel systems are not immune to vapor lock. Much of the foregoing applies equally to a gravity feed system; if vapor forms in the fuel line, its lower density reduces the pressure developed by the weight of the fuel. This pressure is what normally moves fuel from the tank to the carburetor, so fuel supply will be disrupted until the vapor is removed, either by the remaining fuel pressure forcing it into the float bowl and out the vent or by allowing the vapor to cool and re-condense.

Vapor lock has been the cause of forced landings in aircraft.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Last edited by topsites; 07-05-2011 at 09:56 PM.
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