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Preparing Diesel Fleets For Cold Weather


In Texas, we aren’t used to getting the type of winter temps that our more northern neighbors deal with every year. That said, February 2021 proved that we aren’t immune to extended periods of freezing weather. And we learned that temperatures like that can wreak havoc on just about everything they touch - including our diesel engines. You’ve already put time and money into your diesel engine, so taking the necessary steps to prepare for winter is an investment you should be willing to make. 

Purchasing a diesel engine makes sense. The pros are numerous, including better power, less maintenance and more. One of the things that makes a diesel engine better than it’s gas counterpart is better fuel economy, however the ability to get higher fuel economy hinges on the diesel engine’s use of compression to find the heat to operate vs. the spark plugs of the gasoline-powered vehicle. Ironically, this advantage can cause the diesel engine to be a little trickier when operating in colder temps. The good news is that today’s diesel fuel options, plus your own pre-winter maintenance, can almost eliminate these issues. Let’s take a look at some of the winter issues facing your diesel engine and what you can do now to prepare.

Battery Bummers

If you have any experience at all with diesel equipment, you already know that batteries get finicky when the weather gets cold. If your diesel engine is running on an older battery, you may have noticed a little slower start during warm months. That changes when it gets cold, at which point your older battery will give up the ghost and refuse to work at all. 

Most diesel engines have two batteries. It’s recommended to change them both if they are older - prior to getting stuck on a freezing morning, if possible!

Fuel Filter Maintenance

Having a dirty fuel filter is a problem all year round - but it gets worse in winter. It’s the most common reason for stalling and no-starts during winter months. A dirty fuel filter will trap water, which, in the right conditions, will turn to ice - effectively creating a barrier that nothing can get through. You should not only plan to switch out your fuel filter prior to winter, it’s recommended to keep an extra one in case of emergencies.

Glow Plug Problems

Specific to diesel engines, this handy little device can help warm up the compression chamber to make starting up easier in cold weather. With a typical life of 100,000 miles, these plugs should last you a long time. But if they start to go bad, you’ll notice it's harder to start your diesel engine in cold weather. You may also experience engine stuttering. One thing that can contribute to the plug’s demise is using a battery charger with a too-high amperage. Make sure you are using the correct battery charger for your engine, or better yet, choose a “smart” charger, which can tell how much is too much. 

The good news is that replacing your diesel engine glow plugs is relatively easy and cheap. You might want to check them before winter hits, just to be on the safe side.

Heater High Notes 

Again, for the most part, diesel engine owners in South Texas probably won’t have too many opportunities to use an engine or block heater, but it’s good to know that the option is there if you need some help on a cold morning. Those who regularly drive up into the frozen tundra will also want to make use of their block heater, so they aren't stranded.

Most diesel trucks come with a connector that can be simply plugged into an outlet - generally overnight. It keeps fluids from congealing and gelling - which can be a problem with diesel engines in cold weather. Alternatives include heating blankets and battery warmers.

Preventative Maintenance

So far, we’ve talked about some of the reasons your diesel engine can be harder to start and run in the cold months and what you can do about those things. There are also many good products on the market that you can use to your advantage to not only keep your diesel engine in good shape year round, but especially during the winter. At Bear Oil Company, we have come to rely on the full line of Power Service diesel additives. When it comes to treating and maintaining your diesel fuel, Power Service has the solution.

Water in the Tank - Time to Clean!

Most of us shudder at the thought of water in our diesel fuel and what that can do to our diesel engines. Today’s fuel has improved a lot of the problematic issues caused by diesel engines, such as a higher concentration of harmful emissions released into the atmosphere. But along with those improvements have come some challenges, including a higher concentration of water, which, at certain low temperatures, can separate from the diesel fuel solution, wreaking all sorts of havoc on the engine, including:

  • Freezing in the fuel system
  • Corrosion and rust in the fuel system
  • Premature erosion in fuel system components 

Luckily, there are some fuel and tank cleaner products on the market that come with good marks to alleviate the problem. This is an issue that should be addressed all year, but especially before winter hits. Always purchase your diesel engine additives from a trusted source.

Power Service Clear-Diesel is designed specifically to clean your fuel and remove water and slime. It also helps to disperse contaminants and stabilize your diesel.

Power Service Diesel Kleen

Products to Prevent Gelling

All of the things that make your diesel engine a good choice can also be their downfall when temps are very low. Temperatures in South Texas aren't likely to hit the below 40-degree mark that causes one of diesel fuel’s most egregious problems - fuel gelling - but you can still make sure your diesel engine doesn’t succumb to this problem in cold temps. Some experts recommend treating your engine in any temperatures that fall below freezing - especially for extended periods. Protecting your diesel engine in cold temperatures is exactly what Power Service Diesel Fuel Supplement + Cetane Boost is designed to do. It prevents fuel gelling and protects against fuel filter icing.

A good fuel supplement and booster hits crystals where it hurts - making them small enough to continue passing through the fuel filter, instead of gunking things up in freezing temps. Using the right products also protects your fuel filter and the other important diesel engine parts. If your diesel fuel has gelled or your fuel filters have iced, Power Service Diesel 911 to the rescue. It will restore the flow of diesel and get you back on the road.

Being Prepared

When it comes to your expensive diesel-powered engines, being prepared is always better than being surprised. Because we cannot really know what Mother Nature has in store for us this winter, taking the time now to get yourself and your equipment ready is a smart step. At Bear Oil Company, we stock a large inventory of Chevron, Shell, Warren and Power Service products for your diesel engine. Contact us today to learn how we can help you make the right choice.

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