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Seven Cold Weather Tips for Your Diesel Engine

Posted by Scott Goldfarb on

Have your fingers ever been so cold you can't seem to move them? They might still wiggle, but they move with less accuracy and much more slowly than when they are warmed up and pumped full of blood. Your diesel engine is just like your fingers. In extremely cold temperatures, it may take a little bit of time and work to get your engine up and running to its fullest capacity.

Modern diesel engines are designed to be used at extreme temperatures, so owning a diesel engine while living in a climate that gets cold is not impossible. However, taking a few smart steps to prevent potential problems from occurring can save you from an expensive issue later, though. Here are seven tips to help you keep your diesel engine running at its best during cold months.

1. Warm the Vehicle Before Using It

By allowing the engine to run for a few minutes prior to driving it, you allow the temperature of the engine to reach a level where it can perform at its best, and the oil can lubricate the entire engine correctly.

2. Use the Right Fuel

In the cold, diesel fuel is susceptible to gelling, in which the diesel oil partially crystallizes and solidifies. This thicker fuel and the crystals built up in it are not good for your engine.

You have a few options for improving your fuel during cold months.

    • Use Diesel #1D Fuel. Most of the year, Diesel #2D fuel is the best choice for your engine. It is the standard fuel recommendation for most diesel engines in regular conditions. In cold weather, however, the thinner Diesel #1D fuel is a better choice.
    • Use a Diesel #1D and #2D Blend. Some gas stations will offer a blended fuel, combining both Diesel #1D and #2D to keep the durability and stability the #1D offers while incorporating the volatility of the #2D that helps it ignite easier at lower temperatures.
    • Use a Winter Blended Fuel. Some fuel suppliers will offer a winter blended fuel option. This is different from the Diesel #1D and #2D combination fuel, and it is less likely to gel than non-treated diesel fuel.
    • Use a Winter Fuel Additive. You can find supplements to your fuel to prevent freezing and gelling in the engine and tank. Note that you should NOT add additives to winterized diesel fuel. It can be added to Diesel #1D fuel but winterized diesel fuel already has additives, and adding more may reverse the benefits of both. If you choose to add an additive to your fuel, the best time to do so is at the service station right after fueling your car on a cold day. The warmth the fuel still has from the pump allows the additive to mix with the fuel well.

3. Change the Oil Regularly.

When your engine is colder, the oil inside it becomes thicker. When the thick oil is used to lubricate the parts in the engine, it creates more resistance on the bearings and moving parts. Your engine is also working harder when it is cold outside, requiring more frequent oil changes. Staying on top of regularly changing your oil will prevent the oil from oxidizing, breaking down, and producing black engine sludge.

Check your manufacturer's recommendation, but typically during cold months using a lighter weight engine oil is a better choice to ensure the engine gets lubricated properly.

4. Shelter the Engine if Possible.

Whenever covered parking is available, keeping your vehicle in a sheltered location to protect it from the elements as much as possible helps keep your engine running at its best. Protecting it from snow, sleet, and cold wind can make a big difference. Every few degrees matter.

5. Use Glow Plugs or Block Heaters.

Glow plugs or block heaters can help heat the internal combustion chamber so ignition can occur more easily. If you use glow plugs, you may want to consider installing a second battery just for them, since they utilize a lot of power from your battery, and the cold decreases a battery's charge holding capacity.

6. Fill Up the Tank.

If your gas tank is full at the end of the day (or at any time it is left sitting in the cold for a long period of time), there is less room for condensation to form. Condensation inside of a fuel tank can freeze and cause many problems.

7. Change the Fuel Filter.

If you think your fuel may have started to gel, change the fuel filter as soon as possible so the flow of the fuel does not get blocked in the engine.

By being proactive, you can keep your engine running well regardless of the temperature. If you do find yourself in need of any parts for your vehicle, our inventory has everything from remanufactured diesel engines to delivery valves for sale.


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