4 Tricks To Starting Your Diesel Truck in Cold Weather

Cold temperatures and diesel engines don’t mix very well. As winter weather sets in, you might find it challenging to start your cold engine. Going out to start your diesel truck on a cold morning and finding it dead or unable to start sounds like a nightmare to most diesel owners. But don’t worry, there are a few handy tricks you can use to keep you from getting stranded. Here are the top four:

1 – Refill your truck with winter diesel fuel

A yellow Chevrolet truck buried under a pile of snowy in front of wintery woods.
Snow-covered Chevrolet pickup truck | Randy Pench/Sacramento Bee/MCT via Getty Images

The diesel fuel for sale at the gas station is different in summer time and winter time. Summe diesel engine fuel can turn into gel at low temperatures, get stuck in your fuel lines, and leave you stranded. Winter diesel fuel is mixed with kerosene to keep this from happening. If your truck has been parked with a tankful of gas you bought last spring, try to burn through most of that and top it off with fresh fuel.

2 – Install an engine block heater

A gray truck driving down a driveway, between tall snowbanks, a house visible in the background.
Chevrolet pickup truck | Gordon Chibroski/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The proper way to start a diesel truck in extremely low temperatures is to use an engine heater. You plug an electric engine heater into an extension cord, and it keeps your engine block warm enough that your engine will start on your first try. Some diesel trucks come with an engine heater from the factory, others will need it installed aftermarket. According to The Drive, one significant benefit of an engine block heater is to warm the oil in your engine so it will turn over easier when you are starting it.

3- Park in the sunlight and open your hood

A Ford diesel truck plowing the main street of a small town on a cold winter day.
Ford plow truck | Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

So you have no engine heater or have no way to plug your engine heater in. Parking with your truck facing the morning sun will actually keep the engine a few degrees warmer when you go to start it. This works especially well if you have a dark-colored hood. But whatever color your hood is, you can even pop it open to let the sun shine directly on your engine and your batteries for an hour or two. These few degrees of temperature may make all of the difference.

4 – Use any heater to warm your diesel engine

A diesel truck driving down a snowy, deserted interstate on a cold winter day.
Truck on the highway | Davis Turner via Getty Images

If your engine is still too cold to start, there is no reason you can’t warm it by putting a shop heater beneath your truck. But you will want to first examine your engine for oil or grease deposits that could catch fire. You can also point a blow drier at fuel lines or your manifold where diesel may have gelled up in the cold weather. You won’t be able to warm up your batteries much with a heater, but you can always take those inside to thaw them out.

Next, find out if you’ll actually get caught for filling your truck with off-road diesel or watch the team at TFL truck try to start their Cummins diesel engine on Colorado’s coldest day in 32 years: