How to Start a Cold Diesel Engine in the Winter

February 13, 2020

For those planning to work throughout the winter months, it’s essential to learn how to start a cold diesel engine. Doing so is essential to keeping your engine in working order for seasons to come. For many, however, this can be difficult.

How to Start a Cold Diesel Engine in Winter

The top two reasons why individuals typically encounter difficulties with cold diesel engines are gelled fuel and electrical failure. So, before facing dropping temperatures, cold diesel engine-powered machinery must be properly maintained. With this in mind, here are six tips for starting a diesel in cold weather and maintaining your equipment over time.

1. Do Not Underestimate Warm-Up Time

Giving your cold diesel engine time to warm up is essential. Before operating, you should always allow your equipment to warm up for at least five minutes – this will allow the hydraulic oil to warm. Failing to do so can make the engine work harder than necessary.

2. Consider Heating Options

There are several options available to you when it comes to heating your machinery and keeping it running smoothly.

  • An Electric Block Heater: This can heat up the coolant in-stream, which in turn can warm the engine blog and oil in the crankcase. This facilitates the turnover of the engine.
  • A Diesel-Fired Coolant Heater: This heater can allow you to heat up your engine in an area where electricity may not be readily available.
  • Glow Plugs: These can help you ignite cold fuel, and ether can heat the fuel-air mixture inside of a large-sized engine.
  • A Battery Tender: The cranking amperage of machinery batteries tend to diminish under colder temperatures. While machinery is prone to this kind of breakdown, a battery tender will remain effective so long as it is at full charge. Before winter, owners of cold-diesel machines would be wise to monitor battery cables. Bad connections reduce a battery’s ability to start a piece of machinery.

3. Keep Your Diesel Exhaust Fluid Thawed

If you intend to add DEF to your machinery at a later time, make sure that it is kept at a temperature above 12 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent it from freezing. Freezing does not affect the uptime of your equipment, but having the DEF prepared can ensure that it’s ready to be dispensed when necessary.

4. Address Frozen Fuel

A more common barrier to the smooth starting of machinery is diesel fuel forming wax crystals during winter. This impaired fuel will clog fuel filters and the engine will not run. One way to deter crystals from forming in the fuel is by using winter-blended diesel fuel, which reduces the temperature at which these crystal form.

Similarly, in the event that your fuel has frozen or gelled together, you’ll want to change the fuel filter and warm the fuel before you start the engine, according to the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service. This will prevent the frozen fuel from blocking the flow from the tank to the injector pump.

5. Keep Your Engine in a Warm Area

If possible, store your diesel engine in a warm area where it will not be exposed to elements, such as sleet and snow. Keeping the engine in an area where the temperature is even a few degrees warmer can make it quicker to warm up.

6. Make Sure Your Fuel Tank is Full

Condensation in a fuel tank can eventually freeze and cause just as many problems as gelled fuel. Try to keep your fuel tank full to eliminate any space for condensation to build up in the cold weather. A winter diesel fuel additive can potentially reduce the risk of your fuel freezing up as well.

If you have any questions about John Deere equipment, you can contact your local John Deere dealer.

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