Video: Cold Starting a Diesel Without a Block Heater

Discussion in 'Diesel powered automobiles' started by seftonm, Jan 18, 2009.

  1. seftonm

    seftonm Veteran Staff Member

    Taking a bit of inspiration from Wayne's thread showing a Civic Hybrid starting in cold weather, I decided to film my car starting in winter. I didn't have a tripod available so apologies for the poor camera angle.

    Cold starting a diesel is probably a mystery to most people here so I thought it could be informative. I broke my block heater cord a week ago so this is a real cold start with no block heater assistance. The temperature that night was -19C, which is around -2F. I turned the key to "on" as soon as I got in the car and before the door even closed. This was to heat the glow plugs, which is required for diesels in cold weather. Total glow plug time was just over 10 seconds.


    My car used to start much better than this, usually within the first two cranks. I think my new battery is a POS and the glow plugs aren't getting as much voltage as they used to, reducing their heat output. Cranking is also slower than it used to be, which probably hurts starting performance as well. Still blows older diesels out of the water at that temperature though, and the newer engines are much faster than mine.
  2. Right Lane Cruiser

    Right Lane Cruiser Penguin of Notagascar


    Actually, that didn't sound too bad... but it definitely isn't what I heard when you were down here last!
  3. seftonm

    seftonm Veteran Staff Member

    Yeah the idle doesn't sound too bad -- a bit louder than usual with more clatter. But it's pretty agricultural for the first few minutes when revving up and moving.
  4. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi Sefton:

    ___She started better than I thought it would and thank goodness for Glow Plugs indeed :)

    ___Good Luck

  5. ILAveo

    ILAveo Well-Known Member

    Way better than the 2004 F350 diesel we have at work.

    One of the problems we've had is that our (former) oil change place didn't use the right grade of oil for winter temps.
  6. seftonm

    seftonm Veteran Staff Member

    I've seen a few other Powerstrokes try to start in cold weather and none did too great. I'm not sure why. The Dodge Cummins seems to do much better for some reason.

    Lol Wayne your "thank goodness for glow plugs" comment reminded me of once where I had to start my car at 0F without them. It took about 20 seconds of cranking to build up enough heat to finally get the fuel burning.
  7. Kacey Green

    Kacey Green Well-Known Member

    I think that's why that Jetta didn't start nicely the other day, I didn't give the glow plugs a chance to do their work.

    I cranked it for about 6 seconds and it started to limp to life, so I blipped the accelerator to 1/4 for a second and it came online.

    Nice vid by the way.
  8. seftonm

    seftonm Veteran Staff Member

    Cool, you drove a Jetta TDI? Sounds like you're right about not giving the glow plugs enough time. The key should be turned to "on", wait for the glow plug light to go out, and then fire it up.
  9. diesels rock!
  10. Maxx

    Maxx He who posts articles

    After a bit of pain last weekend (another breakdown - 1st gelled fuel incident), I got the fiance's 2000 TDI to a point where after the glow plugs cycle for 20 seconds in dead cold Connecticut, it starts after about 1 second of cranking. Just like new.
  11. kngkeith

    kngkeith Well-Known Member

    Good video Mike.

    About 0 F is the limit for my N-14. No glow plugs but a 4 battery system. My tractors with 3 batteries just couldn't spin fast and long enough to start when that cold.
    My '69 bus has a NH220 Cummins. It needs help starting when the temp drops below 50 F. The fascinating cold start system has a diesel fired "glow plug" in the intake plumbing but it doesn't work anymore. To start, I spray starting fluid in the air filter intake. Then push down on the decompression bar which pulls the valve train away. This allows the engine to spin freely saving battery power until the starting fluid makes it to the heads. I press the start button in the engine compartment. After 5-7 seconds I release the compression bar and the engine hopefully starts. Below 10 F, it runs only on 3-4 cylinders for about a minute and feels like it will shake itself apart. New diesels have definitely improved in cold weather starting.

  12. seftonm

    seftonm Veteran Staff Member

    Interesting Keith, I've always wondered how those tractors do in the cold. Does your N14 have any sort of engine heater? What do you do if you have to stop for a night and it's below 0F?
  13. kngkeith

    kngkeith Well-Known Member

    1500W engine heater. 2 hrs of preheating and it will start in below 0. Coldest I've had to start is -27F.
    Drivers idle the engine to stay warm while sleeping. Anti-idling laws, fuel prices have pushed the adoption of APUs (Auxiliary Power Units). Some are simple HVAC units. The better ones actually cycle the coolant to keep the engine preheated, so restarting the engine is not an issue.

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