Can starting a diesel vehicle in the winter damage the engine? How cold is too cold?

I live in Ohio and I have a 1985 Chevy Diesel pickup. The problem is that I need to leave it sit for about 10 hours while I am at work and I will not have the option to plug it in during this time (like I do when it sits at home over night). I’ve heard that starting a diesel in cold weather can damage the engine if it is not heated. Do I need to be concerned about doing damage to the engine when I start it after work? At what temperature might I have to worry about this? At what temperature does diesel fuel start to jell?

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15 Responses to Can starting a diesel vehicle in the winter damage the engine? How cold is too cold?

  1. shfincter S November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    There is no reason to be concerned about starting a diesel engine in the cold. It may be a little more difficult to light it off, but once it is running, it is really no different than a spark ignited engine.
    It is true that standard number two diesel fuel will gel at very cold temperatures. However, most diesel fuels today that you buy at your local gas station are blended to match the local weather conditions. As long as you keep th fuel in your tank current, it should not gel. If in doubt, ask at the counter before filling up or add an anti gel agent.

    Doctor Ratz
    Engineering manager, Engine development
    For a major engine manufacturer

  2. luv78779 November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    you need need to worry about damaging the engine, the problem is that without plugging it in, it might be very hard to start. make sure your batteries are fully charged. also, diesel fuel can gel when its cold, make sure you have an anti-gel additive in your tank.

  3. notaclue November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    Poppy seeds! Diesels can start at any temperature as long as they are willing to!
    There are a couple of things you need to know. First being diesel engines do not use spark to ignite but rather compression! Diesel gels at certain temperatures and it is imperrative that you use additives to avoid this. Glow plugs are nice but not necessary and can sometimes be a bigger problem than they serve. If you have good compression and treated fuel it should start. If not, might have bad injectors or a million other things.
    But as far as cold starting, it’s nothing more than here say!

  4. marky213 November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    first off depends how cold it is at winter where you are,in the uk it gets to around -8 to 10 at its coldest,unless your in scotland,and diesel wont freeze.just make sure you make good use of the heater plugs.turn the ignition on and off a few times before turning the engine over.

  5. powerstroker_18 November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    Personally when I can’t plug in I let the glow plugs cycle 2 or 3 times and then start. Make sure your batteries are in good shape and I generally let it idle until it’s somewhat warm. The thing that’s hard on diesels is running them hard when they are cold. Most places where you buy fuel do add winter additives but it still doesn’t hurt anything to add your own. On that note in my opinion I would rather have a gelled up truck than use any Power Service or Power Serv brand treatments.

    In my experience diesel gels only when it’s extremely cold. I would carry a spare fuel filter if you’re that worried about it. On my trucks they have gelled in the filter first.

  6. whtsthislif4 November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    IF YOU WAIT FOR YOUR GLOWPLUGS TO CYCLE AND START THE VEHICLE WHEN THE GLOW PLUG INDICATOR LIGHT GOES OUT YOU’LL BE FINE.BUT DO ADD A DIESEL FUEL ADDITIVE TO KEEP THE GELLING TO A MINIMUM.
    ALSO I KNOW THEY HAVE THESE ON BIG DIESEL TRUCKS BUT NOT SURE ON YOURS… YOU MAY HAVE A FUEL WATER SEPARATOR ON YOUR TRUCK THAT MAY NEED THE WATER DRAINED FROM IT.CHECK AND SEE.
    There is also a product on the market for people that live in really frigid climates like Alaska. In extremely cold weather the oil in your oil pan will thicken so much the car may not turn over, This is usually what you heater plug is for. They make a heated dip stick that attaches to your battery to keep the oil thin enough to turn over your car.
    Just anther piece of info I thought you should have

  7. polyesterfred November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    a diesel has a glow plug as you probably know already that heats to the point where it is safe to start. as for the engine being cold, i fail to see how it could be different for deisel than any other metal machine that operates in extreme cold. make sure you let the engine warm thouroughly before driving

  8. nbr660 November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    Hey that diesel will start anytime if the batteries are up & the fuel is not gelled. If posible at work, just kinda try to park it away from the north wind. You won’t harm your engine by cold weather starts. At 32 degrees you fuel starts gelling so make sure you run anti gel in your tank.

  9. Sweptwing57Dodge November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    It should not cause a problem! you have glow plugs to heat the fuel for starting! heating the engine only keeps the cracnkcase oil thinner so the starter doesn’t have to workso hard to turn the motor in cold conditions! Once it starts it warms up pretty fast

  10. George K November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    No In a diesel you have a fuel preheating unit.it also pre heats the cyclenders.

  11. Lindsay J November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    The good thing about diesel fuel is it won’t freeze unlike gas. It will not hurt the engine, but it may take longer to start.

  12. Dane W November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    when the oils have frozen that is how cold to cold is apart from that dont worrie

  13. mama3_vh November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    The only thing I can think of is to start it during your breaks at work and let it run for a bit.

  14. bren November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    As long as it goes you are laughing. If it is too cold you’ll know, she wont start. Fuel additive should already have be added at the pumps so as not to gel-up in the tank. If the cranking amp. of your battery is low or the battery is weak, then that might give you some trouble. Make sure to always let your vehicle warm up thoroughly and drive easily when starting out to let other moving parts ease into movement.

  15. bill f November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    hay, keep some diesel fuel de- gel-er conditioner and follow recommended mix ratios lots of luck:)