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Old 12-29-2008, 05:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
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diesel winter problems

i know diesels are not very common here, but i'm still hopeing to get some usefull advice.

to keep it short it's been freezing for the last two weeks or so and my girfrields ford fiesta 1.8 diesel won't start, it cranks slowly, but won't start.

replaceing the battery didn't cure things, and while i initially thought the starter might be fauly i think it's just the cold playing tricks.

is there anything i could to to cure this... thus far we've had to tow it to live, but obviously that's no option...

since it will be parked outside at ther workplace things like blockheaters are not an option

so i'm thinking the following

check the glow plugs?
build in insulated undertray?
insulate the battery...relocate to the trunk--> winter
fuel additives?
thinner oil?

sell the car for something that will start when it's freezing?

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Old 12-29-2008, 08:17 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Thick oil could cause slow cranking and also water in the fuel may make it not start if it's icing up.
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Old 12-30-2008, 04:31 AM   #3 (permalink)
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It could be the glow plugs or just cranking speed due to thicker oil/less power available from the battery in the cold. After cranking, touch the battery cables. If either power or ground is warm you should clean the connections and could stand to go w/ a larger cable size if that doesn't help. For more cranking power put two batteries in parallel, make sure the glow plugs work so that ya know it's getting heat, and switch to synthetic oil to minimize drag from the cold oil. If all else fails check if timing is set right, if it's getting fuel in the first place (maybe it's cold enough the hoses/seals may contract to the point where the injector pump looses it's prime?) or if the starter (bearings?) needs some attention.
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Old 12-30-2008, 05:58 AM   #4 (permalink)
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we managed to get the car some shelter this night and this morning it would start after quite some cranking...
as far as i understand,the glow plug itself shuts off when the glow plug light goes out right?, so what i did was turn on an off the ignition 3 times before actually starting, waiting each time untill the light went out, assuming that this would cause the glow plug to heat up more... is this good practice or will this make no difference?...
the car still require quite some crank time so i don't think it would have started had it been outside

outside temps are about -8°C for the last two weeks, that's a bit colder and longer than what we're used to.

i'll have a look at the plug and the oil thickness

searching the internet it seems this is a common issue with this car and other diesels of the same age. one forum post talked about fitting a "hand primer" or a one way valve in the fuelline, not much details where given as to how and where this should be done but the poster was fairly confident that this would cure the problem.

roflwaffle; when you talk about
Quote:
it's cold enough the hoses/seals may contract to the point where the injector pump looses it's prime?
you seem to refere to the same problem?

so is it really a combination of the temps and the fuel system design that enable the fuel to flow from the fuellines and the pump (wich i believe might be mechanicaly driven by the engine?) is turning to slow to get the thick fuel back
i've towed the car to a start a couple of time as that goes really well, and once it's running it doesn't seems all that bothered by the weather.

so perhaps some sort return valve or simple pump could help me there, but how should i go about this?

it would be nice to have a winter "button" or trick that would get the car going anyway.
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Old 12-30-2008, 07:30 AM   #5 (permalink)
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It may be the glow plugs that do not heat enough. Under 8°C mine are switched longer and in this case I switch them 2 to 3 times before starting the engine.
Does your glow plug light is lightening longer than during a hot weather ?

A 10w oil should be enough as it should work for -17°C (0°F).

I have found that high grade diesel make the start easier, but I have only -3 to 3°C (27 to 36°F) temperatures.

My battery is new. May be yours is telling you that it's too tired for such a cold weather.

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Old 12-30-2008, 09:02 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lunarhighway View Post
to keep it short it's been freezing for the last two weeks [outside temps are about -8°C for the last two weeks] or so and my girfrields ford fiesta 1.8 diesel won't start, it cranks slowly, but won't start.

replaceing the battery didn't cure things, and while i initially thought the starter might be fauly i think it's just the cold playing tricks.

<snip>

since it will be parked outside at ther workplace things like blockheaters are not an option

so i'm thinking the following

check the glow plugs?
build in insulated undertray?
insulate the battery...relocate to the trunk--> winter
fuel additives?
thinner oil?

sell the car for something that will start when it's freezing?
If relocating the battery to the trunk results in much longer battery cable runs, then it's a very, poor idea. In any case it's probably pointless.

It's always a good idea to check glow plugs on diesels, but unless one is severely shorted, they're unlikely to affect cranking speed. And from your description, slow cranking speed seems to be the main problem.

An insulated undertray will probably have near zero effect after the car has sat in the cold for 8 hours.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lunarhighway View Post
outside temps are about -8°C for the last two weeks, that's a bit colder and longer than what we're used to.

i'll have a look at the plug and the oil thickness

searching the internet it seems this is a common issue with this car and other diesels of the same age. one forum post talked about fitting a "hand primer" or a one way valve in the fuelline, not much details where given as to how and where this should be done but the poster was fairly confident that this would cure the problem.

<snip>

i've towed the car to a start a couple of time as that goes really well, and once it's running it doesn't seems all that bothered by the weather.

so perhaps some sort return valve or simple pump could help me there, but how should i go about this?

it would be nice to have a winter "button" or trick that would get the car going anyway.
Diesels are more fussy to start in cold weather than gasoline engines. But 8* C isn't any sort of stretch.

When you towed it to start, did it start as soon as it was dropped into gear?
Or did you have to pull it 10 or more meters down the road after dropping into gear before it would start?

In the first case (started as soon as dropped into gear), the problem is just slow cranking speed. 1) Check oil viscosity. 2) Diesels require more robust starters and batteries than gasoline engines. Be sure the replacement battery is the correct rating for your diesel engine. 3) Check/clean all battery/starter cable connections. 4) Have a shop check how many amps the starter is drawing when the engine is cold. (Worn starter bushing can cause excessively slow cold cranking.

If the later case (had to tow it a few meters after dropping into gear before it would start), you're loosing the fuel prime. Don't know anything in particular about 1.8L fiesta diesel injection systems, but I wonder if the "one way valve" isn't a check valve that's already a standard part of the system but which has gone bad allowing the diesel to drain out of the fuel lines back into the fuel tank.

AFTER you've fixed the slow cranking speed issue!!!
(But possibly before you've got the possible lost fuel prime issue taken care of.)
Many pieces of Caterpillar heavy equipment come standard with a starter fluid injector system for easier starts in frigid climates. (I think those systems are probably a little pricey). Over the road truckers in the northern US usually carry a spray can of starting fluid for use in very cold weather. If you decide to try the spray can of starting fluid, use it sparingly. Just one little squirt (1/2 second OR LESS) at the intake and then crank engine. If the engine doesn't start after cranking 2 seconds, just one more little squirt. If you spray bunches of the stuff in - particularly with glow plugs - you run the risk of an explosion damaging the engine!!! Large amount of starter fluid spray also wash the film of oil off cylinder walls and causes excessive wear.
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Old 12-30-2008, 09:28 AM   #7 (permalink)
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TestDrive

thanks for the thorough explanation...

when towing the car it did indeed start right when i let the clutch out...
whe the car has driven it will restart pretty well too, so if I add all that my best option is to give it an oil change to something a little thinner than what's in there now?

i suppose i'll give that a try...My girlfriend is not to much into technical stuff... i know the car has had maintenace a few months ago before going to tech inspection, and i would assume that included an oil change, but perhaps not or maybe they put in the wrong grade of oil...

i'll see if i can find what ford sugets, and than perhaps back it off a little? it might be a daft idea but there wouldn't happen to exist something i could safely add to the oil to make it more suited for these temps... than again i'll probably be better off replaceing the whole lot anyway.

lets hope that sorts it
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Old 12-30-2008, 10:12 AM   #8 (permalink)
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If you could clutch start it immediately when towed/pushed it's probably not fuel. A decent test for this w/ a mechanical IP (If it's electronic look for how to prime it some other way) is trying to start it w/ the pedal to the floor since that's the fastest way to prime the fuel system if it's lost pressure. Barring fuel I'm guessing it's cranking speed/glow plug function. Glow plug function does not strictly correspond to the indicator light function IME, but it could be different for different vehicles so you'll have the check. Determining if the GPs are good shouldn't be too hard, just check the voltage/current for whatever values the Fiesta has. Take the battery inside so it's warm before starting to see if you can get a large enough increase in current to raise cranking speed sufficiently to start it. If a warm battery doesn't get it started and the glow plugs are good I would try synthetic oil since it's cheap to see if that can help out enough w/ cranking speed to start it, and/or putting another battery in parallel if you can get a used one for cheap.
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Old 01-10-2009, 04:26 PM   #9 (permalink)
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How's it going with the car, lunarhighway? My Pontiac 6000 had a v-6 diesel, and had TWO batteries to start it with - from the factory. If I did NOT have the block heater plugged in, when below 0 degrees C it cranked slowly - with two good 500+ amp batteries! (10-30 in winter, 30 weight in summer... over a quarter-million miles!!!)

Part of the hard starting trouble when cold is that when the engine block is so cold that the fuel just doesn't get hot enough from the compression to ignite, even with the glow plugs.

I would cycle my ignition a few times when I forgot to plug in my block heater, but once in a while I would have to replace a glow plug. On that car you could read the glow plugs with a voltmeter to see if they were any good. (Would read open or a lot higher resistance - connector to ground - than the others.)

Without the availability of power for a block heater, you may want to go with two batteries, to get the amperage you will need. Maybe larger diameter cables, too... :-)
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Old 01-11-2009, 03:13 AM   #10 (permalink)
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my girlfriend had didn't have to work for most of the week so on friday she took the train... wich painfully pointed out that cold weather is the enemy of all transport... and now shes off to work with my car... all of this to say the car is still pretty stubborn.

this is what we've tried so far:

since the starter always felt a bit slow, but consulting some mechanics with speciffic experience with the car they said it most likey needed some relubrication so that's what my dad kindly did... it cranked much faster after that but after a day in the cold it still wouldn't come to life. my dad also had a look at the glowplugs... he took out the two that where easiesest to get to and they where fine, so we're asumeing the rest should be ok to. also we've taken out the battery and charged it overnight.

last thing we did was tow it to live again, take it for a ride, and it would start after that (but that was never the issue) it's parked inside now, and i think it'll start, but with temps going below -10 day and night for the last week, i think a couple of hours outside will be enough to leave us stranded again

the only thing i might still try is toss a little petrol in the tank... my dad tells me the engine is unrefined enough not to be damaged by that, but other than that i'm a bit puzzled at what i could try next.

i'm starting to think about getting het a saab 900... she likes those cars and it's supposed to be our wedding car...they where designed in scandinavia so i think it should staty now but despite their good reputation that would still be a high milage old car...

and i'm not the person to just give up when a problem seems persistent

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