Got My First Diesel. But...

by Englishman 15 Replies latest jw friends

  • Englishman

    I finally decided it was time to throw away my decrepit Austin Montego and get something for work that was a little less..well, tatty.

    I need to carry ladders and tools and things. However having had the experience of losing (stolen, actually) the tools from a van on 2 occasions, I know the value of having a car for work that has at least got a boot large enough to be able to hold my gear, without actually advertising the fact that, hey look, easy pickings!

    So, a car is what I needed. Eventually I plumped on a '93 Sierra with a certified mere 64,000 miles on the clock. 500 quid, quite a snip for a car in such basically good condition, plus it's got a turbo-diesel engine which is good for at least 55mpg.

    Only thing is, it's a bit of a bugger to start when it's freezing cold outside. It's got a gadget that is supposed to pre-heat the fuel oil, which shows itself by illuminating a little yellow light for around 10 seconds. At this point, once the light is extinguished, the engine should burst eagerly into life. Only it doesn't.

    What actually happens is that I sit with the starter motor churning around for at least 45 seconds every morning before the thing will catch and run. Once it's going it's excellent BTW.

    Any idea's, anyone? Any diesel specialists?

    Can anyone point me in the right direction to get this old banger to start easily in the mornings?


  • ballistic

    Hi Mike,

    If you have any idea how I can stop my arse sticking to the ice on the seat of my motor bike and getting frost bite every morning, I might help you.

    No, seriously, I don't know much about mechanics, but I did drive a P reg one of those for 4 years for the last company I worked for and never had that problem. In fact I never even waited for that light to go out, just turned it over for about 10 seconds. So I would say your problem isn't with the pre-heat or starter but somewhere else. What about getting a service, those carb settings and timing are all to critical? Just my ha'penny worth.

  • xjw_b12

    Eman. I don't know how cold it get's in your part of Britian, but here in the Great White North, once we get the diesel started, we don't shut them off until Spring. Good Luck !

  • Sargon

    We use a Diesel for work. My boss has a block heater installed. Just plug it in at night, starts up no problem in the morning. Ours is a ford 350 Laredo, you have to make sure that you turn the keyonly half-way at first, then turn it over after the light on the dash comes on or you could bugger up your glo-plugs, and those things cost an arm and a leg.

  • CoonDawg

    Okay...a little trucker wisdom here...

    Of course, the engines I'm used to are 500 H.P. Detroits or Caterpillars. But, the principles are the same. I would recommend using a really good diesel injector cleaner as well as (when the weather is cold) using a good anti-gel addative. This will definitely ease your starting troubles. An engine block heater is also a really good idea.

    Hope this helps some.

    Coon (the trucker dude)

  • Eric


    That little gadget is pre-heating the ignition plugs and the entire ignition chamber.

    Without giving you a primer on diesels, try this. When it is really cold, turn the key or push the switch that illumates the lamp for ten seconds twice before you crank it over. A nice warm head is required for diesel happiness.

    Never give a diesel any throttle before it is running smoothly.


  • outoftheorg

    Hey there Coon Dawg. I am familiar with Cat and IHC diesels. Worked on the engines. Cat has a preheater system called Flame start. It is an actual flame that fires up in the intake manifold for a few seconds to pre heat the incoming air for start up. This is in the last few years. This would be in the 3406E engines and others. About all I know about Detroit is the earlier 8V71 two stroke. I hated to work on them since they slobbered oil all over everything. We even had to put drip pans under the pictures of them.

    hope this helps EM

    Most smaller automotive diesels have a prestart glow plug system to preheat the combustion chamber. This usually is sufficient for start up in cold weather. The engine coolant warming systems will help and not hurt anything but are not usually needed unless one is in VERY cold weather. With glow plugs or a flame start system it is dangerous to use starting fluid and it will kill the glow plugs.

    If one has a fuel waxing problem due to VERY low temperatures there is also a fuel heater that uses coolant heat to heat the fuel and return it to the tank.

    EM I would look in your autos service manual or check with the dealer and find out just what kind of preheat system you have and go from there. The object is to preheat the air in the intake manifold or the combustion chamber itself. There are a few home grown fixes like using an infared lamp to heat the intake manifold by leaving it on all night and keeping the battery warm to get faster turn over of the engine. But I think the factory made systems are best.

    Another possible problem would be low compression problems due to piston ring wear and the associated problems. Diesel engines have a 12 to 18 to one compression ratio, where gasoline engines have around 7.5 to 9.0 ratio. Usually, there are always exceptions.

    Another possibility would be the starter not cranking fast enough due to poor connections or low battery voltage or starter needing repair.

    As Coon Dawg recomended it is good to keep the injectors clean by using a cleaner in the fuel. In an older engine the injectors are mostly fully mechanical and not electricly or hydraulicly triggered. Do you know what you have?

    Post again on this if I can be of more help.


  • JamesThomas

    I heard on the radio once how some fellows in world war II would get their diesels running in the middle of winter by having someone hold a burning newspaper over the carburetor intake while the other guy cranked the ignition. I wouldn't recommend it though. JamesT

  • Grunt

    Hi Englishman, Hi Englishman, I have a 6.2 in my GMC Suburban and have really enjoyed it. I always let the lights cycle off and on a couple of times in cold weather and never give it any fuel until it fires up. If you aren't careful you will burn up your starter. If your vehicle is like mine you have two batteries. If either is weak it can keep it from cranking well. A dragging starter can keep it from cranking well also. I would have my batteries checked, if they are ok then I would have the starter checked. I think your problem will be either the starter dragging or a weak battery. Diesel's are loud and nasty but I love mine. I pull a trailer with my jet ski hooked on the back of it and still get fair mileage. Good luck and may it run forever. Grunt

  • Jim_TX

    Hey there!

    A really cool thing about diesels... <grin> is that you can pour bio-diesel into them and they run great!

    I had a 1982 VW Rabbit Pickup - and ran it on homemade bio-diesel one summer. Smelled great - and ran great.

    I had fun that summer running my P/U on fuel I had made from vegetable oils.

    Right now, I have a 1998 VW New Beetle Diesel - and plan - someday - to be living at a place where I can make my own fuel again.

    *wide grin*



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