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Old 12-26-2007, 11:31 PM   #1
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What works to start a cold diesel engine??

After much study and many trials, there is no finite answer. The Crown Cummins engine do not take well to small electric heaters. I built a lower hose heater from a high wattage block heater. The device worked but after lots of time and dollars for power. Raising the temp of a big diesel engine from 20-30 degrees to just 50 degrees requires lots of watts. The engine is trying to cool at the same time thru the radiator. Over the road trucks use a block heater that heats only the block and the thermostat traps the warm coolant in the block. The factory location for a block heater is not a good place for a 80 degree tilt engine. A modern coolant heater will work great for starting a cold engine but the coolant heaters are very expensive at about $15-2300, and lots of labor. I'm about finished installing a unit in my Crown. I got my unit from a kid in Canada for about $800 plus $125 shipping. Most diesel engines are a bit fussy starting at low temps. The easiest and cheapest engine starting is with careful use of either or gasoline vapors. When desperate to start a cold diesel engine, get about a pint of gasoline and a large shop towel. Pour the gasoline on the cloth and saturate same. Have a helper operate starter. Place wet cloth near intake or air cleaner while slowly turning cloth to allow vapors to be drawn into engine. When cloth is removed from intake, engine may begin to cease running, so be prepared to place cloth near engine intake repeatedly. After a period, engine will continue to run without any aid. Never allow liquid gasoline to enter a dieselk engine, as the engine may accelerate to a very high RPM and self destruct. Frank
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Old 12-27-2007, 03:28 AM   #2
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Re: What works to start a cold diesel engine??

Good post. Have you ever tried the hair dryer technique? I've heard that this can help start a cold diesel. Basically you just pull the intake plumbing off and run the hair dryer in there to help it start. I personally haven't tried it. It's not going to save on wear, but atleast it might get it to start. Again though...that probably isn't a technique that lends itself well to a Crown.
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Old 12-27-2007, 09:50 AM   #3
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Re: What works to start a cold diesel engine??

though it's a pain to install, you just can't beat a 110 volt block heater! I find that an hour is usually plenty for a bus, i think they're pretty big amperage draw ie: 1000 watts or more. I put my new diesel vw on a timer to come on about 2 hours before i plan to start my day, but it has a much smaller current draw.

I had a mercedes diesel and installation of the block heater would require removal of the injector pump, so i never did it. I ended up just not driving that car in the winter because it was near impossible to start.

With the exception of my mercedes i've never had a diesel that wouldn't start in cold weather. If not using heat, or not much heat, then i like to put the 100 amp battery charger/starter on the bus before i even begin cranking. This helps her to turn over faster. You don't wanna leave 100 amps pounding into your batteries for very long...so don't turn that charger on until you're ready to begin cranking. I assume most everyone that has a bus has a big battery charger...

other things i've done to get my diesels to start in cold weather.....

small propane heater/stove like this one:



placed under the oil pan for an hour really heats things up quite well. doesn't use much propane either.

i've also used a salamander heater which uses a good bit of kerosene pointed at the bottom of the engine. building a little tent around the heater and the engine compartment on a front/rear engine bus was easy....not sure how things are setup on that mid-engine crown.



and lastly,,,,,there are magnetic engine heaters. They only worked marginally well for me, but prob because i didn't leave them plugged in long enough. They stick anywhere...like on the engine block and the oil pan. Mine were only like 200 watts if i remember correctly.

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Old 12-27-2007, 12:12 PM   #4
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Re: What works to start a cold diesel engine??

Why not heat the fuel? That's what needs the aid.
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Old 12-27-2007, 09:28 PM   #5
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Re: What works to start a cold diesel engine??

I'm in very warm weather, but it's cold now. Should I plug in my bus all the time in the winter or just before starting. I have a male 110 plug in my front bumper that I think is the engine warmer. Is that right? or does it have something to do with the glow plugs?
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Old 12-27-2007, 11:03 PM   #6
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Re: What works to start a cold diesel engine??

the 110 volt plug is most likely the block heater. It only needs to be plugged in when you're ready to start you bus...for perhaps an hour or maybe two. If you left it plugged in all the time it would prob cost 30-50 dollars per month. Prob takes 1 to 1.5 kw per hour, i'll let someone else do the math on what that would cost for 30 days straight.

the problem with only heating the fuel is that there is a very small amount of fuel and a lot of really cold steel in the engine. Even really hot fuel would be instantly cooled down as soon as it came in contact with the cold fuel lines, injectors, cylinder heads ect....if hot fuel were the solution i think the auto makers would design a system to pre-heat the fuel just before it entered the cylinders.
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Old 12-29-2007, 10:35 PM   #7
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Re: What works to start a cold diesel engine??

Quote:
I'm in very warm weather, but it's cold now. Should I plug in my bus all the time in the winter or just before starting.
You really shouldn't need any help starting. I wouldn't think you'd see much lower than the thirties, at least as I remember the weather when I lived there.
Mine cranks a little longer on these cold mornings, but starts fine with no help and we're on different sides of the same desert, but pretty much share weather.
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Old 12-30-2007, 12:30 AM   #8
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Re: What works to start a cold diesel engine??

For some reason it has a hard time starting in the morning when its been in the 30's at night. I plugged it in for a 1/2 hour and it started up fine. I think maybe my batteries are low on charge.
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Old 01-08-2008, 03:16 PM   #9
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Re: What works to start a cold diesel engine??

I have a 110V block heater factory installed 5.9 cummins. I live at 10K feet in the snow. When it's 0 F I have to plug in the heater for at least a hour if the motor will turn over, catches then stalls. If I do it 4-5 times it will start and run, rough as hell, smoky but gets there. Real tough on the starter. I have to plug it in for a good three hours to get to start smoothly, smokes but gets better. After about 6-7 hours I figure it get to it's highest temp and actually gets the temp gauge to register 90-100F.

A squirt of ether always does the trick as well, too much though and I believe "vapor lock" occurs. If I wait a bit it seems to crank again. I avoid it personally, it just doesn't seem to good to do all the time. Now I have a generator and can run the 110V block heater and typically remember to heat up, I also run veggie and heat is what it's all about.
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Old 01-08-2008, 03:30 PM   #10
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Re: What works to start a cold diesel engine??

So far I've been fortunate; my bus has started all the time. Mind you, I haven't been up north in the winter, so my temperature rarely gets below 30.

When I do have problems, I use either and my engine starts right up. The only thing I worry about is the damage I cause starting it in that manner.
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