How Do I Get My Diesel Ready For Winter?
Diesel engines are known for being more powerful and effective than their gasoline counterparts. An unfortunate thing they are known for is being harder to start in the winter.
This is different for modern diesel engines. Because of the way older diesel engines operate, if they have not been very well maintained, there may be some trouble starting when the weather cools down for the winter.
Like modern gasoline engines, diesels have grown in complexity to enable them to produce more power and less emissions at the same time.
Diesel engines use glow plugs or intake heaters to warm the inside of the engine upon starting to help burn the diesel fuel. Since diesels don’t use spark plugs, but instead use heat and pressure to ignite the fuel. On a cold day, the engine needs to be warmed to help them start faster.
That is why in winter, especially on really cold days, you will see big semi trucks and even pickup trucks taking longer to start. They may even smoke out the tailpipe after they start. When it gets extremely cold, a diesel engine in perfect working order might take longer to start.
You may also notice diesel-powered vehicles with extension cords plugged into them when they are parked overnight or when they aren't being used during the winter. That is powering the block heater. A block heater is used to keep the oil, coolant, or both warm so that the engine stays warm and allows an easier start like it's a mid-summer day even when the temps outside are below zero.
Modern diesel engines start so well now that you won’t run into most of these issues unless you live in a very cold climate.
If your diesel is suffering from hard starting it needs to get checked out before winter really sets in. Glow plugs and grid heaters do fail from time to time, and that can cause some huge issues during the cold months. Diesel engines need to be taken care of just like a gasoline engine, but there are some things to pay extra attention to.
Oil choice during cold weather. Here in Oregon, we don’t have cold enough temperatures to make a difference, but again in those extreme climates, thinner oil in the winter might be recommended. Or if you are taking a trip into colder climates, it's something to think about.
Coolant condition needs to be checked. Diesel engine cooling systems are so much larger that making sure the coolant stays clean and at the proper level is vital.
Batteries and the starting system will work extra hard during the cold season, so make sure they are good to go with a system check and battery test.
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