Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 11-16-2018, 09:42 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
firebuild's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Waltham MA
Posts: 120
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Lewis
Engine: Ford E350 7.3L Diesel
Rated Cap: 14
Glow Plugs Ticking - What's Normal?

Buster Lewis, my 1991 F-350 7.3L short bus, was easy to start when I bought it in California in the spring. but now I'm in Massachusetts, in the winter. It's not so easy anymore.

I've mentioned before that, almost as soon as I got here, the local Ford dealership filled Buster with gas instead of diesel and I drove it like that for about 30 miles until it broke down. In the months since that happened, Buster has spent almost all his time in the shop, as one thing after another has gone wrong (none of which can be proven to relate to the gas, but all of which COULD relate to the gas). In their attempt to fix the problem they created, many things have been tweaked and some parts replaced, including the glow plug controller, and all the glow plugs. I found out my buddies at the dealership aren't great with either diesel or vintage vehicles, but I had no choice but to let them do the work since they were doing it for free given that they caused it, and I can't afford to pay someone else. We finally reached a point where they said I needed to find someone who knows the vehicle better. I did, and now things improved tremendously. Buster has managed to stay out of the shop for a month!

I've gotten fairly good at starting up, but it takes longer and longer, which of course coincides with it getting colder and colder here. Though the "wait to start" light goes out fairly quickly, the glow plug controller (I guess that's what it is - I had never even heard of a glow plug before 3 months ago) ticks for probably close to a minute as the brake light flashes in unison.

My current mechanic tells me not to worry about it, to let the ticking cycle through and stop, then turn the key again and let it go through that cycle 3 or 4 times before attempting to start the bus. I do this, and it still ends up taking me 3 tries, usually, to start up, though so far it always does, even in freezing temperatures. I will eventually get a block heater installed but I can't afford that right now.

So my question is this: is it really OK that it's ticking like a clock, or more accurately like a turn signal, for almost a minute over and over again? Is that normal, or even somewhat normal? I can't find anything really specific about this looking around online. it seems weird to me that the parts would be new and this would be happening. But again, this is the first vehicle I've ever had that had glow plugs, so what do I know?

Once Buster starts up, he stays started and runs like a champ. It's just the start that's rough. But I worry that all this cycling and cranking is ultimately shortening his life or something. Please lay some wisdom on me.
firebuild is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2018, 10:24 PM   #2
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Georgia
Posts: 1,164
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: IH
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 14
The ticking probably is, in fact, a timer or clock. I believe the glow plugs cycle instead of heat the entire time (someone correct me if I'm wrong), accounting for the behavior you describe.
Brad_SwiftFur is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2018, 11:01 PM   #3
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2016
Location: Greater Boston
Posts: 243
I agree with Brad that it's probably okay - if its still starting hard, then the glow plugs haven't done their thing yet, and an extra cycle or two shouldn't hurt anything.

I'd also have the batteries checked - the cold, and lots of cranking, can be hard on them. It could be that simple.
Mark_In_MA is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2018, 11:04 PM   #4
Skoolie
 
firebuild's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Waltham MA
Posts: 120
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Lewis
Engine: Ford E350 7.3L Diesel
Rated Cap: 14
Thanks! Batteries are both only a month old, though, so I think I'm good there.
firebuild is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2018, 12:09 AM   #5
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Port angeles, Wa
Posts: 274
Year: 90
Coachwork: bluebird conventional
Chassis: international
Engine: dt466
Rated Cap: 72
The ticking is the glow plug relay. It will usually cycle for a minute or two after start up. You may still have a glow plug problem. Make sure the glow plugs are motorcraft or beru. Any other can fail in a hurry. An easy test is to remove all the glow plug connectors, attach a test lite to the positive of the battery. Touch the top of the plug, if it lights, it's most likely good. If not it's bad. Bet half of the plugs are burned out already.
bluebird90 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2018, 12:19 AM   #6
Skoolie
 
firebuild's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Waltham MA
Posts: 120
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Lewis
Engine: Ford E350 7.3L Diesel
Rated Cap: 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebird90 View Post
The ticking is the glow plug relay. It will usually cycle for a minute or two after start up. You may still have a glow plug problem.
So you're saying I might still have a problem because it's so hard to start? Or because it ticks again each time I cycle the key?

It would not surprise me if they are the cheapest, crappiest glow plugs on the market, given the way these guys have behaved through all this. I'll try the test.
firebuild is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2018, 12:57 AM   #7
Bus Crazy
 
joeblack5's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: pa
Posts: 1,079
Year: 98
Coachwork: 1. Corbeil & 2. Thomas
Chassis: 1 ford e350 2 mercedes
Engine: 7.3 powerstroke & MBE906
Both IDI,s I had were slow cold starters below 40 F. You can cycle the key to get more glow out of it but it will wear your glow plugs down twice as fast.
Best thing is to get a coolant heater and preheat your engine.


You do not tell what they changed on the engine after gasoline but I would think at least the IP. I would also do a compression test to see what the values are. Then the timing on the IP is pretty critical for cold start.


Good luck, J
joeblack5 is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2018, 01:45 AM   #8
Skoolie
 
firebuild's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Waltham MA
Posts: 120
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Lewis
Engine: Ford E350 7.3L Diesel
Rated Cap: 14
Fuel filter, fuel pump, injector pump were all replaced in the first round of trying to fix things. Then batteries, not because they were fuel related but because they got so worn out from all the cranking. Next came the glow plug module, then the glow plugs themselves. All separate breakdowns.

They say everything happens for a reason. Still waiting for the revelation on this one.
firebuild is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2018, 01:48 AM   #9
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Georgia
Posts: 1,164
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: IH
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 14
Typically when the 7.3 glow plug system is working perfectly, it goes something like this.


1. You turn the key on. The "Wait to Start" light comes on. The glow plug relay does its thing and makes the glow plugs warm up. Typically this takes just a couple seconds or so. Many have a temperature sensor that determines how long the initial cycle should be (colder = more time) then it cycles the plugs on/off to keep things warm where they are supposed to.
2. Once the "Wait to Start" light goes off, you turn the key to start. On a new/perfectly working engine, it should fire up fairly quickly. The glow plug relay should deactivate now that the engine is running.


On these engines (and others such as the Cummins 5.9 which uses a heater grid instead of glow plugs, but otherwise works on the same principle) you need a couple things to start. Diesel fuel is not ignited by spark plugs the way gasoline is. It is ignited by spraying vaporized fuel into really hot air. So to make a diesel start, you need hot air in the cylinders, and diesel that will burn at that temperature. The hot air is a combination of heat-of-compression, and whatever preheating method an engine employs (not all diesels have preheating systems). As the engines age and wear, they don't have as much compression so the compressed air isn't as hot. The glow plugs maybe don't heat as much as they used to ... you get the idea. The other side of the equation is the temperature at which your fuel will ignite. Get this ignition point lower (measured as a "Cetane" rating, higher rating = lower ignition temp) and it will make for easier wintertime starts. Many fuel treatments provide this (along with anti-gelling), which is one reason truckstops sell so much of it during winter months.
Brad_SwiftFur is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2018, 01:53 AM   #10
Skoolie
 
firebuild's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Waltham MA
Posts: 120
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Lewis
Engine: Ford E350 7.3L Diesel
Rated Cap: 14
Thank you! Any specifics on the fuel treatment to look for, brand name or anything? I will for sure look into that. Though it seems a block heater is in my near future.

The process you describe is how things started back in California. Wait to start light goes out, I turn the key, it starts. That's it! Not here, though.
firebuild is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


» Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:48 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.