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Tips for starting a diesel tractor in cold weather

Post in 'The Gear' started by leftyscott, Jan 31, 2010.

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  1. leftyscott

    leftyscott Member

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    I store my tractor in a barn without any power outlets. I know engine heaters would work if I had power. Anybody have any tips/tricks to starting in cold weather? It was 35 deg. today and I could not get it to start. Need to blade my driveway's 6 " of snow before Monday.

    Thanks in advance.

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  2. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Honestly, if it won't start at 35 then your glowlugs must be dead. You need to troubleshoot the GP system. My diesel truck easily starts in 20 degree temps and the tractor is the same way. If the GPs aren't working, I have had the GP relay go bad, then it won't start at all at 35.

    If I were you and needed to do some work then I would run a genset out there to run the block heater. If you don't have a block heater then run a propane or electric heater to heat the tractor/barn to high enough temp to start the machine. May as well run a battery charger while you have the genset running. We've started cold blooded motorcycles by aiming the exhaust pipe from an RV mounted genset at the engine block.

    You need heat to fire a diesel.
  3. moosetrek

    moosetrek New Member

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    Agreed - our diesel pickup starts in -15 no probs (not happily, but it starts). Glow plugs (if it has them) wil help, good batteries are essential. You can always bring the batteries in at night before you need it, but is it cranking and not starting (fuel gelling - but prob not @35F) or not cranking?
  4. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    Old timers would start a small fire under the tractor to warm the engine for cold starts. Probably not a good idea in the barn though.
  5. Monkey Wrench

    Monkey Wrench Feeling the Heat

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    It was 35 when you tried to start it. But how cold was it at 3AM. And how long since you last had it running?

    Do you treat your diesel fuel? I run Power Source the White bottle all year to prevent Gelling.
    If your fuel is already Gelled you need to get the RED bottle called 911. This GD new diesel fuel will gell at 35 if you still got summer blend in it. You can also cut your diesel with Kerosene.
  6. BucksCoBernie

    BucksCoBernie New Member

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    When I had a diesel Benz I had a hard time starting it when it was below 60! haha Changing the glow plugs should fix your problem, it did for me. I wouldnt recommend starting a fire under the tractor...ive seen videos of people doing it with their cars and the car went up in flames. But I have to admit I dont know anything about tractors.
  7. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    When I managed a trucking company we went through starting either by the pallet in winter starting our diesel tractors in winter. But you need to have someone turning the engine over while you spray a short burst so that you don't dick up the glow plugs.
  8. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    On pipeline construction we often had to start very cold engines. Usually we threw a tarp over the tractor and put a few propane tiger torches under it. Sometimes a bit of raw propane in the air intake was enough.

    Loggers put quick couplers on their tractors in the bush and do a transfusion of hot antifreeze from a running pickup.
  9. 'bert

    'bert Minister of Fire

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    Switch to full Synthetic Oil will also help.
  10. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    Extension cord
  11. savageactor7

    savageactor7 Minister of Fire

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    Switch to full Synthetic Oil will also help.

    That will make a big difference and give the starter the spin it needs to fire up the engine.

    All good advice about treating fuel and possible bad glow plugs too.
  12. sapratt

    sapratt Feeling the Heat

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    Another thing you could do is give it a shot of ether. It works best with two people One person turning the engine over the other person putting quick shots of
    ether into the air filter. What kind of tractor is it?
  13. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    If the diesel fuel is gelled, the only way its going to start is to warm it up so it ungells. A salamander and a tarp does wonders (but needs juice), once its running add in some fuel treatment to keep it from regelling.
  14. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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  15. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    A nice big cable from the battery to the starter and a good ground strap helps as well.
  16. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

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    100 watt incandescent bulb (or less) drop light on the engine and throw a horse blanket over the whole engine and bulb, worked for my uncle in northern MI.
  17. YZF1R

    YZF1R New Member

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    Be careful with ether if you have glow plugs. I have never tried it on a motor that had glow plugs, especially if they come on automatically. I was always worried of ether hits glow plug and BOOM. Cracked head or something. Apparently though it can be done while cranking according to BrotherBart. Can you run an extension cord to a block heater for an hour or so before starting? Or in the future install a block heater? Ether is a violent way to wake up a motor. I know a lot of people do, but it's not good practice to use it all the time. I only used it on my Cummins a couple of times. Like say the breaker tripped for whatever reason and I ended up starring at a cold motor in the morning.

    Steve
  18. Monkey Wrench

    Monkey Wrench Feeling the Heat

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    One Big Question.

    Is This A GAS or DIESEL Tractor?
  19. mainstation

    mainstation Feeling the Heat

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    I seem to recall from my winter pipeline days just leaving the Cats running 24/7 and having the fuel truck routinely keep them filled up. -52C in T Bay winter of '96 for 5 days straight.



    I agree with the strong battery suggestions too...+1 to the extension cord and propane torch idea if you can do it safely.
  20. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    The topic header was for a diesel engine so we can assume a diesel tractor. The OP's sig line shows a late 70s ford so we can assume "basic" technology and possibly low compression from an older engine. He lives in Arkansas so we can assume reasonable temperatures and fuel gelling is unlikely.

    We just have a cold engine with weak electrical. It works fine when warm so we know it isn't a turd.

    If you don't have any other way to heat the machine then use a metal trash can lid or even a big cast iron skillet and fill it with charcoal like for your BBQ. Once the coals are burning well but not flaming, slide it under the oil pan and let the rising heat warm the oil, fuel, and block. It will take some time but until you can iron out your GP issues, this will get you started with minimal risk of burning down the barn.
  21. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    Where to plug it in?
  22. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    Ja, one Winter I worked as swamper on the fuel truck. It was mostly the airtrack compressors that ran out of fuel cuz they often parked them at such a bad angle that we couldn't fill both tanks. I not only had to restart them cold but I also had to bleed the injectors cuz they'd run out of fuel. It sure was cold on the bare fingers getting freezing cold diesel fuel on them while bleeding the lines.
  23. 'bert

    'bert Minister of Fire

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    Have you considered putting a wood stove down in the barn?
  24. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    As posted, might need new battery, fuel gelling? maybe, wouldn't hurt to keep a little conditioner in it. Use Synthetic oil also, world of difference, turns over faster.

    Try to stay away from either, but you may have to use it. This will wear the valves, it will take a lot of time to do so, but once you get the tractor addicted to either, you'll have to use it all the time. But I've had old tractors(v-8 perkins diesel) that i used for yrs and had to use either most of time starting it.

    Quite frankly, if i had a tractor that wouldn't stsrt at 35f, i got problems. thats not cold enough to really bother it. New battery, synthetic, and good to go. In the extreme cold i will hook a good heavy set of cables(welding lead gauge) from pickup to tractor, wait 5minutes, start. it's a good way to help, because if the machine doesn't start the first time, wait till spring.

    But, it's monday and he hasn't reposted. Must of got it going.
  25. colebrookman

    colebrookman Minister of Fire

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    My Allis manual says to use either under 40. All set up for the either spray can but you must see vapors from the exhaust while turning the engine over. I would think long and hard before using either on glow plugs unless you enjoy big expensive noises. Be safe.
    Ed
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