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Old 10-15-2007, 11:51 AM   #1
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Plugging in during the winter?

Forgive my novice question, but I'm about ready to buy a 1992 Chvy Carpenter cut/away. It's a diesel and a friend of mine thinks these have to be plugged in during the winter. I hope not as that would be a deal breaker winse I have no way of doing that at the storage place I have worked out. I do recall driving by school bus lots and seeing orange extension chords coming out the front end. Fact or fiction? Thanks in advance!
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Old 10-15-2007, 12:13 PM   #2
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Re: Plugging in during the winter?

Most school bus's do not have glow plugs like you would find on a modern diesel pickup truck. Instead they have engine block heaters. Basically these are small plugs (usually 1 or 2) on the engine block which heat the engine coolant/oil/engine block, before you start the motor.

Since diesel engines have no spark plugs (to create spark/combustion) the fuel has to be super heated to 1300 1650 F for it to ignite. When it is cold out it is hard to initially super heat the fuel enough to ignite. On a cold start if equipped, your engine block heater should be plugged in for an hour or more (depending on how cold it is) before starting the engine.

When I first got my bus & left it plugged in for 2 weeks in December. The electric bill that month was $50 higher than expected. I only plug mine in an hour or so before I plan on starting the engine in cold weather.

Some engines start easer than others in cold weather. I think I remember 2 members on here with the Ford 6.6 said they could start at temps below freezing without plugging in... this was after a lot of cranking I'm guessing though. My 5.9 Cummins hates cold temps, it's very hard to start without plugging in when it's 40 or below... worse when colder.

In most cases you can use ether as a starting aid... Just be sure you don't have any kind of electric heating elements, such as Glow plugs, or grid heaters in the intake manifold on your engine before you use it.

Depending on how cold it gets where you are and how hard it is for your engine to start in cold weather you might not need to plug it in at all. If you do, get a generator or something so you can plug it in for a while before you start.
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Old 10-15-2007, 01:21 PM   #3
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Re: Plugging in during the winter?

Not a big deal if you live in a southerly state. In Nashville they never plug the buses in.
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Old 10-15-2007, 03:00 PM   #4
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Re: Plugging in during the winter?

Most engine block heaters are 1000 watts at LEAST! That's a lot of juice on the electric bill. Heat takes a lot of energy. If you are keeping your bus at a storage lot, you'll have a hard time plugging it in, but it still may not be a big deal. I've started my bus when it was 15 degrees out and it hadn't ran in two weeks. I have the 7.3L International motor. I really wouldn't worry about it if I were you. Buy the bus. Diesel is the way to go in these things! It may give you a hard time cranking when it's REALLY cold, but there's plenty of ways around that. You could even get a little propane heater and put it under the engine for 20 minutes and let the heat rise up like that. I've done that before and it worked.
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Old 10-16-2007, 06:43 AM   #5
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Re: Plugging in during the winter?

Great replies. And yes, the 6.6 is a glutton for punishment. Mine will start right down to 0 degrees as long as the batteries have a decent charge. It's cranky, but it does it. I just prefer the idea of heating either electrically or with the propane heater a little (yep, I've done that too) just to get the oil flowing since the turbo is just about the highest point on a 6.6's oiling system.
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Old 10-16-2007, 08:03 AM   #6
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Re: Plugging in during the winter?

that 6.6 i used to have was a great cold starting motor. IF the temps were down near zero it would take a lot of cranking, but she always started.

my new dt360 isn't as cold blooded. It'll start when it's cold, but it seems that first one cylinder starts to fire, but i have to keep crankign or it'll stall. Then a 2nd cylinder begins to fire and she'll almost keep herself running, then finally she'll take off for me. UGGGG

i've also done the small propane heater under the oil pan before....i think that's a good idea. My electric block heaters always seem to go bad not long after i buy a bus.

oh yeah!, when this dt360 starts and it's cold, say below 40, she smokes like a destroyer until she warms up a bit. Must be a lot of unburned diesel fuel pouring out the exhaust.
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Old 10-17-2007, 10:13 AM   #7
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Re: Plugging in during the winter?

How often do you plan on using it during the winter?
I always thought a 6.2 and a 6.5 in gm trucks started pretty good in the winter. I'd say buy it anyways and buy a small generator to power the block heater to start the bus if needed.

Myself I just put a new block heater in my bus cause the old one wasn't working right. I don't use it during the winter but if I have to it will be nice to have it there if I need it.
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