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Old 01-20-2019, 05:20 PM   #1
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Do I Need To Start My Bus Every Day?

Ok. Could be a dumb question, but i don't know the answer so I'm asking anyway.

We got significant snow last night, and I don't really have the urge or need to go anywhere, so rather than dig the bus out, I just... didn't. I usually drive every day but generally I have a reason, and today I don't.

The thing is, I've always been told to start a vehicle every day when it's cold, especially an old one. My father used to say it was something to do with the battery but my father was definitely NOT a car person. More logical to me would be that driving it a little would evaporate any condensation or whatever but in that case you'd really have to go somewhere, not just fire it up, right?

I also feel pretty strongly that my cold start issues are related to the glow plug relay still not really functioning right, a problem I will hopefully be able to correct this week as the part is under warranty. So, does it really make sense to make the glow plug system go through all that to start up for no reason, just for the sake of starting it, when I don't even have anywhere to go? I'm not talking about letting it sit for a week, just a day.

My bus always runs great once it's going; starting up is nearly always fraught with stress now that it's winter. So do I really want to put the bus (and me) through that on days when there's nowhere to go? And if the answer is yes, how much do I need to drive it for this to be beneficial? I can't imagine idling is going to do much - though my father swore by 10 minutes of idle time before driving, I'm thinking the engine isn't getting up to temperature unless it's actually working, so if I do start it up I always make sure to at least drive around for 10 or 15 minutes. Then again, I know nothing. Am I wrong about this?

P.S. Bear in mind this is my only vehicle.
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Old 01-20-2019, 05:37 PM   #2
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Cold weather strains your battery, so starting it during cold weather is to have the alternator top off the battery. Some alternators don't charge at idle. So it isn't a concern with the vehicle so much as the battery. If you have good batteries in your bus, no need to start it everyday. Worse thing is you may have to put the charger on. You might hook the trickle charger up if expecting cold weather.
Cold temps alone will effect the battery, add on top of that how thick all the fluids are you are trying to move in 30°- when starting and it adds just that more strain to the battery.
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Old 01-20-2019, 06:04 PM   #3
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Cold weather strains your battery, so starting it during cold weather is to have the alternator top off the battery. Some alternators don't charge at idle. So it isn't a concern with the vehicle so much as the battery. If you have good batteries in your bus, no need to start it everyday. Worse thing is you may have to put the charger on. You might hook the trickle charger up if expecting cold weather.
Cold temps alone will effect the battery, add on top of that how thick all the fluids are you are trying to move in 30°- when starting and it adds just that more strain to the battery.
I do have good batteries but my thought was that the amount of cranking required to get going in the cold would strain them even more than the temperature simply being low. I will definitely put the charger on.

I just saw on the news the temperature for tomorrow is predicted at 6 degrees. I'm guessing that when I'm out there shoveling in 6 degree weather (with -11 wind chill) that I'l be wishing I'd just done it today.

Since I still only have the stupid oil pan heater and not a real block heater (hoping to rectify THAT this week, too) I don't have high hopes about starting up tomorrow at all. Is there a temperature at which diesel gels to the point of just not being able to start at all?
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Old 01-20-2019, 06:14 PM   #4
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I just did a search that said that diesel gels at 10 to 15 degrees. I have been using an anti-gelling additive in there but I don't have a clue how effective that is. It's my first diesel winter.

If I go out and start the bus right now (it's 24 degrees), that's not really going to save me from the temperature tomorrow, is it? If my fuel gels, what do I do? Wait for the temperature to rise? How will I know if it's gelled? I haven't really found a definitive answer to either of these in my googling.
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Old 01-20-2019, 06:19 PM   #5
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​“Modern diesel engines start in cold weather with very little effort.” The problem is that diesel jells at low temperatures. Below about 40°F, certain hydrocarbons in diesel turn gelatinous. ​“Since an engine depends on aerosolizing fuel, you don't want goopy fuel." Quote from Argonne National Laboratories

Do block heaters heat the block enough to warm the oil? The pan heaters keep the oil warm and thin. Is the block heater designed to keep the top end warm, or just the coolant inside it.
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Old 01-20-2019, 06:22 PM   #6
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One indicator of gelling is that your engine won't start. Or...it may barely start but not be throttle responsive and run up & down erratically.



But...the way to be 100% certain is to just pull a fuel filter off and take a look. "Gelled" diesel looks just like it sounds. Like really thick Vaseline instead of fluid. Nasty.
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Old 01-20-2019, 06:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by o1marc View Post
​“Modern diesel engines start in cold weather with very little effort.” The problem is that diesel jells at low temperatures. Below about 40°F, certain hydrocarbons in diesel turn gelatinous. ​“Since an engine depends on aerosolizing fuel, you don't want goopy fuel."

Do block heaters heat the block enough to warm the oil? The pan heaters keep the oil warm and thin. Is the block heater designed to keep the top end warm, or just the coolant inside it.
I'm assuming by "modern diesel engines" nobody is referring to my 1991 IDI.

As to the block heater question - I don't know for sure, never having had one, but don't they heat the coolant and circulate it throughout to keep everything warm? I do know that a standard block heater is 1000W of heat that is going SOMEWHERE - as opposed to the 200W on my oil pan. It has made a minute difference, if any, in my ability to start in the cold.
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Old 01-20-2019, 06:28 PM   #8
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Quote:
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I'm assuming by "modern diesel engines" nobody is referring to my 1991 IDI.

As to the block heater question - I don't know for sure, never having had one, but don't they heat the coolant and circulate it throughout to keep everything warm? I do know that a standard block heater is 1000W of heat that is going SOMEWHERE - as opposed to the 200W on my oil pan. It has made a minute difference, if any, in my ability to start in the cold.
I'm not familiar with block heaters. My experience with heaters was back before 1975 in Ct. where dipstick heaters were a norm and worked well.
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Old 01-20-2019, 06:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by firebuild View Post
I just did a search that said that diesel gels at 10 to 15 degrees. I have been using an anti-gelling additive in there but I don't have a clue how effective that is. It's my first diesel winter.

If I go out and start the bus right now (it's 24 degrees), that's not really going to save me from the temperature tomorrow, is it? If my fuel gels, what do I do? Wait for the temperature to rise? How will I know if it's gelled? I haven't really found a definitive answer to either of these in my googling.

Your diesel additive for your fuel should be fine for the temps you have mentioned.
To be sure, use your oil pan heater overnight and probably a slow charge in the morning to war those batteries up nice and toasty. That will give you power enough for starting tomorrow.
Snow does not always relate to cold. And sometimes it does.
We got our first snow, about 12" but drifted in to 3 and 4 ft drifts here. Temp dropped to -31F windchill so not particularly nice. Very hazardous driving even though the roads got plowed well, whiteout conditions.


To check for gelling, the old clean dowel trick down the filler pipe if it will go down. Wipe with a clean rag first.

Insert and remove and see what comes up on the surface of the stick. If the consistency of honey, you are gelling. If just wet, stained, you are good to try starting.


I doubt very much you will see the low sub zero temps where you are living.
Watch the back shoveling, slow and easy, take breaks.


John
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Old 01-20-2019, 06:32 PM   #10
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"Block Heaters" warm the coolant in the engines' water jacket but there is no circulation. They are just glorified versions of those little heater thingies you plug in the wall and stick in a cup of coffee or soup. But...they actually work fairly well down to around 20 degrees or so. More intense cold requires more heat and preferably some kind of circulation.
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