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  1. #1
    COcummins's Avatar
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    starting your diesel in sub zero temps

    what tricks are out there?
    I was parked over night at keystone with temps down to -15F and my old pig wouldn't start, even with 3 batteries and some anti-gel in the tank.
    One guy up here recomended using a coffee can with charcoal under the engine which sounds easy and cheap, but what other tricks are out there?

    Block heaters are not an option.
    96 Ram 2500 CTD 4x4, 5spd ext. cab, 270k miles, garage art under construction.
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  2. #2


    and


  3. #3
    Synthetic oil. At least that's the ticket for Powerstrokes.

    Mark
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  4. #4

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    2 or 3 cycles of the heater grids before I try to start mine when I'm out in the cold and no chance to plug in the block heater and has never failed to start.
    '97 Dodge Ram 4x4 CTD

  5. #5
    Chris Halvorson's Avatar
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    That is the same thing I do, cycle the grid heaters 3 times, fires right up. Works like a champ during late hunting season.

    Was the truck not even acting like it wanted to start or ???
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  6. #6
    VortecCJ's Avatar
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    My 06 cummins started last year when it was 10 below and the heater grid wasn't working at the time. Started right up, smoked for a few seconds and then ran fine.
    1986 CJ7 60/14, 6.0, th350, Atlas
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  7. #7
    powerservice + a couple of cycles on the glow plugs for the really cold mornings. If your getting gelling with b20 steno under the tank for 5 minutes.
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  8. #8
    Orin rockenbronc's Avatar
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    get the Power Service Diesel 9-1-1 it is their only product made to ungel the others are to prevent gelling, My truck was gelled for 5 days, tried everything but fire, put in the 9-1-1 and she was up and running in 10 mins

  9. #9
    COcummins's Avatar
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    for me the engine wasn't really wanting to turn over, like the whole thing was frozen up, I only cycled the heater grids once. This was with a one day old 31 series 950CCA battery(1st gen dodges only had one battery). I then ran jumper cables to the two 850CCA batteries for my slide in camper and had the same results. I tried pouring boiling water over the injectors, injector lines and injector pump in case the antigel i used didn't work, still no luck. I had to get a jump from another truck and it still took close to 10 minutes to get the engine to crank at normal speed and finally fire up.
    On a normal day this engine will start in a single revolution, unlike my '96 which takes two or three revs to fire. I am planning on finding a place to add a second battery, just haven't had the time to do so yet. and i'll also be switching to something other than 15w40 rotella for the winter, probably not a synthetic just because this truck likes to leak oils.
    Last edited by COcummins; November 26th, 2010 at 10:47 AM.

  10. #10
    look at your battary cables if poor replace with fine strand welding cables w/crimped & correct cable ends

  11. #11
    ok, dumb question. I'm looking at a diesel in the possible near future, and have no idea what you guys mean by heater grids. What are they? Are you talking about the glow plugs?
    06' LJ 2" spacers, 1.25" BL, 1" MML, homegrown front bumper, 33" BFG AT's
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  12. #12
    Some (maybe all??) of the Cummins trucks use a heater grid instead of glow plugs to warm everything up.

    Given all of the extra space in trucks, I wonder if it would be possible to rig something up where the block heater is actually powered by a separate battery system that is still charged by the alternator? Have it so you can set a timer to come on 3-5 hours before you need to start the truck and then use the truck's main batts to actually fire it up.
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  13. #13
    Trango's Avatar
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    Heater grid is a big zigzag of resistor wire in the intake manifold that warms the incoming air and makes it suitable for compression ignition.
    Making progress on the big build.

  14. #14
    COcummins's Avatar
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    Big dave; i had thought about something like that, a couple deep cycle batteries and an inverter. ran this idea by my father who is pretty good with numbers and the result is that with as much juice as the block heater takes, the batteries wouldn't last very long.

    there is another product i found for the dodge cummins that is a small diesel burner system that taps into the upper radiator hose. burns a very small amount of fuel and uses a tiny bit of the battery, but heats and circulates the coolant. i couldn't find a price but would guess atleast $500.

  15. #15
    Captain Radon Steve's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by COcummins View Post
    there is another product i found for the dodge cummins that is a small diesel burner system that taps into the upper radiator hose. burns a very small amount of fuel and uses a tiny bit of the battery, but heats and circulates the coolant. i couldn't find a price but would guess atleast $500.
    I don't believe you need anything like that. When I had my CTD and I'd take it elk hunting, I never plugged it in or ran it for a week. Even when it got down close to -20 I'd cycle the grid heater three times and it would start right up. No anti-gel in the fuel either.

  16. #16
    COcummins's Avatar
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    Steve; what year was your CTD?
    I agree that I don't need anything like the product I mentioned above, there seem to be much easier and cheaper ways to negotiate cold weather starting.
    This has just proven to be a problem for me with my 12 valves while parked on cold days at Keystone. I also had my '96 refuse to start a few years back after being parked up there for a couple days, though I think that was more of a gelled fuel issue.

  17. #17
    Captain Radon Steve's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cocummins View Post
    steve; what year was your ctd?
    2001

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by COcummins View Post
    I tried pouring boiling water over the injectors, injector lines and injector pump in case the antigel i used didn't work, still no luck.
    FYI- heating up gelled fuel doesn't "un-gell" it. It's kinda like Jello in that regard. I've never microwaved gelled fuel like you can do with jello though...

    One trick I use when the batteries are low (and require a jump) is to wait until the glow plug relay, or heater grid relay, or whatever your model has, actually cycles OFF (not when the light goes out, wait for the relay to click) then crank it over. That takes some of the load off of the batteries.

    One disadvantage to plugging your truck in at home- when you are away and can't plug it in- you'll find problems you didn't know you had.
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  19. #19
    al24's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PovertyByJeep View Post
    FYI- heating up gelled fuel doesn't "un-gell" it.
    Do it all the time with the big trucks. Use a torpedo heater under the truck to warm the crossover line and the filter and lines up to the pump.
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  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by al24 View Post
    Do it all the time with the big trucks. Use a torpedo heater under the truck to warm the crossover line and the filter and lines up to the pump.
    I was basing my input on actual experience as well (before the internet). This INCLUDES big trucks, but mostly heavy equipment. I have never had success ungelling fuel with heat. I have personally seen filters DESTROYED after trying to get a loader with partially gelled fuel to fire and run. Torpedo heater and a weed burner in use.

    But, I conceed- you are correct. According to my dead nutz accurate Google search- most fuel will supposedly ungel above 80 degrees.

    I would still bet most success stories with heat are a direct result of the "it's cold and this thing won't run- fuel must be gelled" mentaility when in reality- it's just cold and it won't start.

  21. #21
    [Qfor me the engine wasn't really wanting to turn over, like the whole thing was frozen upUOTE][/QUOTE]
    sounds like the engine isn't turning over very fast
    possible starter issues ??
    Last edited by lj06; November 30th, 2010 at 11:54 AM.

  22. #22
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  23. #23
    COcummins's Avatar
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    PovertyByJeep: you have a good point as well, the wait to start light doesn't even work on my '93 so i've just been going off of the voltage gauge in my dash to know when the relays kick off.

    lj06: you're right, i just used poor wording, the engine was just turning over REALLY slow. as far as i know the started is in good condition, I've never had an issue with it before. I did find that the possitive cable wasn't perfectly tight in the battery terminal clamp, and it's been fixed.

    Mudbug63: that's the exact gizmo i mentioned before.
    Last edited by COcummins; November 30th, 2010 at 08:42 PM.

  24. #24
    With your refined explanation, it sounds like poor battery connection was your issue all along. Often time with jumper cables, connections are sub par as well. Just out of curiousity, what size is your B+ to starter cable? I know mine is about the size of a nickel, biggest I've seen on a pickup. Cranking speed is the single biggest factor in the diesel engine start...

    Also check the function of you KSB or cold timing advance, keeping in kind the non IC 1stgens are wired opposite of the IC ones. Timing has a huge affect on the cummins cold start abilities.
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  25. #25
    COcummins's Avatar
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    mobcore911: I'm not sure of the guage wire to my starter off hand but IIRC it's about 1/2" thick without the insulation. when i got the truck i had a cable was clamped to the battery with a pair of vise grips, hence the cheap vatozone clamp and loose connection that i have/had now.

    I've also changed my oil to a mix of 8qts 10w30 synthetic and the remainder is standard 15w40. the owner's manual for my '96 said that for the temps i was in without a block heater that 5w30 synthetic should be used. If I still have starting problems on my next trip in January after the lighter oil and better battery connection i'll be looking into a second battery and a thicker battery to starter cable.

    I'll also be double checking voltage to my KSB when time permits. I had checked into it at one point to insure i didn't have voltage to it when the engine was warm when i was fighting other electrical problems but never checked to see if it was coming on at all.
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    Last edited by COcummins; December 5th, 2010 at 01:47 AM.

  26. #26

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    Just to add an example of how important a good battery and the connections are: my FIL has an '04ish TDI jetta and he has had on and off hard starting when it's below 30F. I replaced all the glow plugs and replaced the glow plug harness (both known issues with these cars). Seemed to help, but the car left my wife and I stranded at DIA when we got back from las vegas. It had sat all weekend and when I tried to start, it spun over maybe 1-2 revolutions and that was it. Nothing after that. Come to find out, the battery in the car was about 4 years old. I replaced the battery and voila, it spins right over now and fires up with no issues, even when it's been sitting out overnight.

    A good battery (or even two) is a must when firing off a stone cold diesel, no matter what the brand. FWIW, my '03 cummins has never had an issue with cold starts. One cycle of the heating grids and she lights right off. It has two big arsed batteries (what the factory installed when new). I run 5w-40 full synthetic.
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