It's no joking matter when you need to start your vehicle on a cold winter morning, particularly a diesel powered engine. Cold weather starts on a diesel vehicle can be especially tough. Starting a diesel engine depends upon three things; the flow of diesel fuel, heat at the point of combustion, and a battery with enough cranking power to turn over the engine. All three elements are tested by cold weather.
The free flow of diesel fuel is critical for each, and every start. In the mid 30s Fahrenheit, diesel fuel that is not treated with an additive will begin to gel. You cannot start an engine if the fuel won't flow. Make sure to put additive in your fuel when the weather begins to chill in the fall, and don't forget. Most diesel fuel sold in cold climates is already treated, but the additive is still a good idea.
All diesel engines have a glow-plug system to heat the point of combustion in the engine cylinder. Make sure to give the glow plugs the necessary time to heat up before trying to start the engine. Any competent diesel mechanic can check glow plugs for proper function, and good preventive maintenance for the Winter months.
If your diesel is equipped with a block heater, plug it in overnight to avoid hard starts. Hard starts drain the battery power quickly, so avoid "grinding it out". The alternative is to put the car in the garage overnight so that it is not as cold for the first start of the day. Even a few degrees difference in the temperature is important.
Cold weather also affects the cranking power of a battery, so a good battery with a full charge is important. Not only does the battery perform less efficiently in cold weather, the oil is thickened by the cold which causes the engine to require more power to crank.
Every component in your diesel vehicle is stressed by cold temperatures, but none of these items should cause you undue trouble if your vehicle is in good working order. If it is not up to optimum specs, be sure to have it serviced before the weather starts getting colder. That will save the headache of a cold weather failure, which is never fun.
By the way, gasoline engines start harder in the winter as well. Those who want to laugh at the diesel owner's cranking their engines on cold mornings would do well to remember that diesel power moves the world's goods, more efficiently and more economically than gasoline engines. That includes trucking your gasoline to the local gas station via diesel power rigs.
One thing for sure, if you are the one having trouble getting started, it is certainly not a laughing matter. Do yourself, and your family members a favor by preparing for cold weather with your diesel-powered vehicle.