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The chart below shows the most common questions asked by owners of Detroit Diesel® engines 4-53 turbo when trying to troubleshoot why their engines underperform.  It categorizes areas of possible malfunction, likely cause and recommended action to bring your new, rebuilt or used  Detroit Diesel engine back to proper operation.  The chart will give you confidence when speaking with your Detroit Diesel engine mechanic or ordering parts.  As a quick reference guide only, the chart must not be thought of as a substitute for the use of your Detroit Diesel® engine 4-53 turbo Owner's operating or service manual.

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Engine will not start Lack of air intake or restricted air intake
Broken blower shaft  
Worn out blower shaft  
Defective fuel pump  
Defective starter  
Discharged battery  
High exhaust back pressure  
Black smoke coming out of engine Defective injector  
Contaminated fuel  
Broken or worn cylinder parts  
Engine overloaded  
Faulty intercooler or aftercooler (for turbo engines only)  
White smoke coming out of engine Broken piston ring  
Incorrectly installed ring set  
Defective injector  
Fuel quality or grade  
Long idle periods  
Broken or bent push rod  
Injector or governor improperly adjusted  
Low engine oil pressure Water in engine oil pan  
Fuel in engine oil pan  
Defective oil cooler  
Engine overloaded  
Crankcase overfilled  
Low engine RPM Improperly working injector  
Governor calibration  
Hi engine RPM Governor calibration  
Engine overheating Defective fresh water pump  
Defective raw water pump (marine engines only)  
Defective thermostat or thermostat seal  
Clogged radiator or heat exchanger (marine engine only)  
Grey smoke coming out of engine Long idle periods  
Defective intercooler or aftercooler (for turbo engine only)  
Restricted air intake  
Defective injector  
Contaminated fuel  
Blower or turbocharger seals leaking  
Geartrain makes noises Low oil level  
Engine driven accesories  
Damage main or rod bearing  

Detroit Diesel 4-53 Usefull Information 

We have an extensive collection of parts for the 4-53 Detroit Diesel, from blowers and cylinder heads to starters and seals. This classic and reliable engine has been in use for many years, and with the right parts, it can last for many more. That is why we at Diesel Pro only sell high quality parts that will last. Our new items are covered by a leading one-year warranty, a warranty that you will not find with many other dealers. That is because we are confident that our parts will perform, and know that you will be satisfied if you try us. We also offer multiple shipping options, so you will get the part you want, when you want it, at a price that you want. Need a part delivered quickly? No problem. We process orders within one business day, and can send most of our products by next-day delivery. Try us and you will see, Diesel Pro is a better way to buy parts online.

Unsure if this is your engine? Check the engine for the model number. This is an eight digit code that will be similar to 5042-5101. The first number should be a 5, indicating it is a part of the 53 series. The next two digits would be a 04, indicating it is a four cylinder. All 4-53 Detroit Diesel engines will start with 504 in the model number (504x-xxxx.) If the sixth digit is a 3, such as 5043-5301 then you have an engine with a turbocharger.

The engine will also have a serial number, which should contain a 4A. It will look similar to 4A 12345.

General Specs and Information

This engine is a 2 cycle engine with 4 cylinders and a total displacement of 212 cubic inches or 3.48 liters. The engine has a total of 5 main bearings. It has a bore of 3.875 inches or 98 millimeters. The stroke is 4.5 inches or 114 millimeters.

The cooling system has a capacity of 2.25 gallons or 8.5 liters. This engine should have a normal coolant temperature of 160 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit.

The minimum battery rating is 625 cold cranking amps (at zero degrees Fahrenheit.)

The lubricating oil pressure for the 4-53 Detroit Diesel should be 40-60 psi, and the minimum for safe operation is 30 psi. The temperature should be between 200-235 degrees Fahrenheit up to 2500 RPM and 205-240 degrees at 2800 RPMs.

Torque and Horsepower

All information based on performance in 85 degree Fahrenheit temperature, at an altitude of 500 feet. The 4-53 Detroit has the following torque, measured in Lb Ft, with a four valve head. Horsepower is measured as intermittent-continuous brake horsepower (BHP.)

Torque with N40 or N45 injectors: 238 at 1500 RPM, 230 at 2000 RPM, max of 221 at 2400 RPM.

Horsepower with N40 or N45 injectors: 64 at 1500 RPM, 84 at 2000 RPM, max of 101 BHP at 2400 RPM.

Boat Use, with N40 injectors (measured as Shaft Horsepower): 67 at 1500 RPM, 88 at 2000 RPM, max of 100 SHP at 2400 RPM.

Boat Use, with N50 injectors (measured as Shaft Horsepower): 72 at 1500 RPM, 100 at 2000 RPM, max of 128 SHP at 2800.

Fuel and Oil

For the Detroit 4-53, use lubricating oil with a viscosity of SAE 40 for most conditions. For higher temperatures, use a higher viscosity such as SAE 50, such as when the ambient temperature is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. For lower temperatures, such as below freezing, use 15W-40 or SAW 30 lubricating oil.

Oil changes should be done at least every 6000 miles, or less, with normal, continuous operation. With shorter trips, or less frequent use, these engines can go up to 12,000 miles between oil changes. For stationary units, marine units and industrial units, the oil should be changed every 150 hours. If it less frequent use, such as standby, then the oil can be changed every 150 hours or once per year.

Please note that higher fuel sulfur content can increase the frequency of oil changes. For example, if you use fuel with a sulfur content above 1%, then the lubricating oil should be changed every 2000-4000 miles, depending on whether the engine is used daily or just for short trips. For marine engines, the oil should be changed every 50-100 hours. For units that are only used as a standby generator, then the oil should be changed every 50-100 hours, or once every six months.

Use of fuel above 1% sulfur should be avoided, but if it is used, then be sure to also utilize a lubricant with a Total Base Number, or TBN of 10-30. The lower the TBN, the more frequently the oil should be changed when using fuel with a sulfur content above 0.5%.

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