Getting Ready For Sub-Zero° Temperatures
Cooler temps are slowly creeping into our lives up here in the Pacific Northwest and if you happen to be an essential part of the workforce like we are, the winter is not going to be a break for you. As a diesel owner that’s not retreating to summer homes further south, it’s going to require some attention so you can get to work. Before it gets too cold, it’s time to be proactive and prep our diesel trucks.
Performing key tasks while the temperature is still manageable will keep your diesel running strong through the entire winter season. We’ll be sharing a few of the precautionary steps we perform up here in the Cascade Mountains every winter so our Dodge trucks run strong and are ready to rip come spring.
Starting Your Cold Diesel Engine: What You Need To Know
During the cold winter, snow-covered, several layers of clothing to stay warm weather is upon us it’s time to prepare for what's coming. The typical issues that arise during the chilly months are gelled fuel and electrical problems and of course the cold starts and issues that come with owning a diesel engine vehicle.
Don’t Second Guess Your Warm-Up Time
The health of your diesel engine depends on being properly warmed up. Running your engine a minimum of five minutes should be routine on cold mornings. You’ll know if you haven’t let it warm up properly by the amazing sounds that will be ever-present as you start to drive to work.
Exhaust Fluid Is Not A Joke
Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is a 32.5% Urea / 67.5% deionized water solution tossed into your exhaust for most modern diesel trucks for emission's sake. However, it does little to help if it is frozen. Keeping the DEF at a temperature above 12° will keep it usable for your exhaust system.
Freezing Temps = Heating Options
Heating your diesel truck's engine block should be considered during any weather (thermometer temp) below 35° Fahrenheit. But freezing temps occur at 32°, right? You would be correct but the wind will most definitely bring the temps below freezing and then it’ll be too late and far more difficult to warm your engine block.
- The most common form of warming your engine block is installing an electric block heater. Heating up your in-line coolant will therefore warm your engine block and assist in smooth starting and running first thing in the AM.
- Over the course of 10+ years living in a cold environment, most of us never use our block heaters and have zero issues starting our Dodge Trucks
- Glow-plugs will ignite cold fuel in conjunction with Ether shots to get that cold engine warmed up easier.
- A battery tender should always be considered during the winter months. Batteries of all flavors do not enjoy cold weather so don't forget to keep them warm and charged. Weak batteries will quickly become useless as the temperature drops
- If you’re not in an area where electricity is readily available we suggest a diesel-powered coolant heater.
Where The Warm Engines Are
Even during the most frozen areas of the country, simply keeping your truck indoors from the winter weather, behind a wind-break, or even inside a shed can be the temperature difference that your diesel engine could need to stay warm. At freezing outside temps every degree matters.
Frozen Fuel Doesn’t Work Well
Wax crystals or gelled fuel can dramatically hinder the ability to start your truck. Commonly referred to as frozen fuel quite literally means that your once liquid fuel has now become a less liquid form. Keeping your fuel warm is often overlooked and can clog fuel filters and fuel lines preventing the starting of your diesel truck.
Using a winter blend diesel fuel is one way to keep the crystals from forming and there are a handful of fuel additives on the market to aid in prevention. The process of keeping your fuel “warm” is not actually heating your fuel but lowering the temperature at which the freezing wax crystals form.
A Full Tank Goes Further
Keeping your fuel tank full before bedding down for the night in extremely low temperatures keeps condensation at bay. Condensation will build up in a tank that has air space in it and can be just as much of an issue as gelled or crystalized fuel. Keeping your tank topped up and using fuel additives will help against this issue.
Using An Anti-Gel Diesel Fuel Additive
The Cloud Point of your fuel, the lowest temperature in which the fuel can operate, is the turning point before the diesel fuel begins to gel. Fuel quality is a major factor in how low your cloud point is. Consistency and quality fuel across the U.S. is lacking so it’s hard to determine which refinery or company delivers the best quality diesel fuel with a specific gel point.
A good rule of thumb is around -18°C or 20°F. Depending on which region you live in will determine if you’ll need an anti-gel additive or not. It’s a good idea to add this solution to your fuel if you regularly receive below-freezing temperatures and live in cold climates. (32°F or lower)
Some key components to a valuable anti-gel agent for your diesel fuel systems include:
- Water dispersion
- Be compatible with (ULSD) Ultra-Low-Sulfur-Diesel fuel
- Raises the level of Cetane
- And of course, provide Anti-Gel properties
Emergency Use Products
If your diesel engine is already frozen have no fear products do exist to un-freeze your fuel system. These 911 emergency situations are the only time you should use these types of agents and should not be regularly used.
Fuel Filter Replacement
One of the most common freezing points in your fuel system is your fuel filter. This is in large part to the small quantity of fuel within the filter housing. As we mentioned before it’s best to keep your fuel tank filled before shutting your rig down for the day to minimize condensation and use the quantity of fuel to your advantage.
This is difficult to do inside your fuel filter. The next best option is to replace your fuel filter whenever possible. This is not to say replacement is necessary throughout the winter, but it is highly recommended before the cold months are upon you and is a worthwhile investment.
Replacing your filter before it gels or freezes is mostly a reset maneuver to have the confidence that you do not in fact have a clog already. It’s better to do prior to freezing temperature unless you just happen to enjoy freezing cold maintenance.
Heavy Weight Oil Bogs Down Your Engine
Switching from your heavy-weight motor oil to a lighter synthetic oil could be just what the motor ordered when it comes to colder temperatures. 15-20 weight motor oil is at the opposite end of the spectrum for cold weather oil recommendations. Your engine will thank you as you roll through the winter months.
The Sweater Weather Conclusion
Whether you’re in sub-artic conditions up north or the temps that are just below freezing along the Oregon Coast, it’s safe to say everything operates differently in colder temperatures. Your diesel engine is no different.
Preparing for the winter begins before the cold temps arrive. A block heater, oil change, filter change, glow plug check, and anti-gel additives will keep the damage causing freezing temperatures at bay.
Take care of your engine and your engine will take care of you for many years to come.