Cold Weather Diesel Truck Maintenance
March 1, 2021

Cold Weather Diesel Truck Maintenance

Written By: ProSource Diesel

Diesel truck maintenance tends to be different from the maintenance on gasoline engines. To start, there are a number of differences between the two types of engines. For example, many diesel parts are not found in gasoline engines, like glow plugs and dual batteries. The same is true in the reverse. Diesel engines don’t have spark plugs or distributors among other parts found on gas engines.

When it comes to diesel engine maintenance, there are different considerations for both general maintenance and seasonal maintenance, such as in the winter. Diesel maintenance in the winter is especially important as diesel engines need some extra care to run well in the cold.

1) Check the Block Heater

A block heater is one of the most important diesel truck parts for winter running. Many diesel trucks come equipped with them, but if you don’t have one, you can get one to make your winter driving easier. The block heater warms your engine block to make starting easier in cold temperatures. You can test it by using a multimeter set on ohms. A reading between 9 and 25 indicates that your heater is working properly.

2) Test the Batteries

The average battery lasts somewhere between two and five years. Did your battery endure a hot summer? High temperatures cause fluid evaporation and corrosion. When winter comes, you may not have enough cold cranking amps. Test your batteries with a multimeter. If it’s fully charged, it should read at least 12.6 volts. If it’s under 10, then this is a good sign that your battery is on its way out. Remember to always replace both batteries in your diesel truck at the same time.

3) Add Anti-Gel To Your Fuel

In severely cold temperatures, even winter blend diesel can reach cloud point and start to gel up. The variations of fuel quality across the country and different levels of individual vehicle exposure mean that there’s no exact temperature of gelling for diesel fuel. A general rule is that most diesel fuel reaches a cloud point between 20 degrees Fahrenheit and -18 degrees. This is why it’s almost always a good idea to use an anti-gel additive during the winter unless your winters are very mild.

4) Inspect Glow Plugs and Intake Air Heater

Another important winter-running part to check is your glow plugs, if you have them. All Duramax and Powerstroke engines come equipped with glow plugs. These parts aid cold starts. The mistake some diesel truck owners make is to neglect the glow plugs when the truck is starting fine during the warmer months. Duramax engines especially are known for glow plug failure. It’s never a bad idea to get new glow plugs at the beginning of the cold winter months either. The intake air heater control helps combustion when starting in cold temperatures. If the intake air heater relay is bad you’ll experience harder starts and white smoke at start up in cold weather.

5) Change the Engine Oil and Oil Filter Regularly

Changing the engine oil and oil filter on a gasoline engine is one of the most important maintenance items, but it’s even more critical on a diesel engine. This is because diesel engines run at higher temperatures. Diesel engine oil works a lot harder than the oil in a gas engine.

If you live in a place with very cold temperatures in the winter, then you might consider switching to a lighter-weight synthetic oil to improve cold-temperature flow. The average 15W-40 conventional oil may not build enough oil pressure following a cold start.

6) Change the Fuel Filter

Another important cold weather consideration is your diesel fuel filter. It’s the most common freeze point for diesel fuel. Changing your fuel filter before cold temperatures set in can help alleviate gelling issues. Diesel fuel filters are generally more prone to clogging versus fuel filters on a gas engine. Depending on how much you drive and how you drive, diesel fuel filters should be changed every 10,000 to 25,000 miles.

7) Monitor the Coolant

As mentioned earlier, diesel engines run at high temperatures. Keeping an eye on your coolant is even more important than it is in a gas engine. When coolant breaks down, it becomes acidic, which can damage diesel engine parts. Check the acidity of your coolant on a regular basis, and change it if necessary. A few important facts when it comes to coolant:

  • Don’t mix coolant types
  • Don’t add water unless it’s an emergency
  • Always use OEM recommended coolant for your truck/engine

8) Check Gaskets

Diesel truck engine gaskets operate under extreme conditions and should be inspected regularly. Check the mounting bolts and look for leaks. If you find a leaking gasket, it’s important to replace all of the gaskets at the same time. Generally, if one gasket is leaking, then it’s likely the others will start to leak soon.

To Sum Up

These general maintenance tips for diesel engines are important in all weather conditions, but they’re especially important in the winter for smooth running. Follow this quick guide if you live in a place with extremely cold temperatures during the winter:

  • Use your block heater to avoid cold starts
  • Check and replace your glow plugs before the temperatures plunge
  • Switch to lighter oil weight to keep adequate oil pressure
  • Use a diesel fuel additive to avoid gelling
  • Make sure your coolant is in good shape
  • Test your batteries and always replace both at the same time
  • Don’t accelerate hard until your engine reaches operating temperature

Find all the necessary maintenance and repair parts for your diesel truck at ProSource Diesel. We have a wide selection of hard-to-find Duramax parts, Cummins parts, and Powerstroke parts as well as diesel kits and diesel accessories. ProSource Diesel is where diesel repair shops shop for diesel parts.

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