Diesel engines are rugged, durable, and capable of doing a lot of work, but in the winter, they can cause a hassle. Compared to gasoline engines, diesel engines suffer from a lot of issues that gas ones don’t when the temps start to fall. If you’ve had a diesel truck for a few years, you know what to expect when winter hits. Proper preparation and maintenance are the key to helping your truck survive winter and low temperatures. Even though modern trucks come out of the factory well equipped to deal with winter, there are some tips for winterizing a diesel truck engine that will make life a little bit easier this year.
Cold starts are the enemy of diesel engines. Everything begins with the battery, and an unreliable one can leave you stranded. The falling air temperature cools the battery and slows the chemical reaction that creates the charge. Check your battery to make sure it creates a charge and still is in good shape. If not, get a new one as soon as possible.
Glow Plug Inspection
Other than battery failure, the leading cause of diesel engines not starting is glow plug failure. A glow plug heats the combustion chamber of the engine for cold starts. The plug threads into the cylinder with the tip going into the pre-combustion chamber. Once activated, it heats the chamber and essentially kick starts the engine. You won’t know the plug failed in warm weather, so check them the day it’s starts to get cold with a glow plug tester.
Change the Engine Oil
Oil is the life blood of any engine, whether it’s gas or diesel. You need to take the condition and type of oil you run seriously. When it gets extremely cold, oil can thicken; this means it won’t flow as easily and doesn’t protect vital engine parts. Some manufacturers recommend switching to a more winter friendly motor oil like 5W-40. 5W-40 flows better in the winter compared to 15W-40, but it has the same properties once it warms up.
Diesel fuel has paraffins (wax) in it. The paraffin has a very high freezing temperature that can cause the diesel fuel to gel in the cold and turn the liquid fuel into a solid. That leads to a clogged fuel filter, fuel lines, and an engine shutdown. You can use fuel additives to prevent this, and you should keep a spare fuel filter on hand to keep your engine running. Dry the fuel system before winter arrives with additives that will remove any water in the fuel that might freeze up as well.