5 ways to prepare your diesel for winter

snow ice road
(© Ilhan Balta – stock.adobe.com)

1. Check/test your glow plugs

Let’s start off with diesel specific tasks that will keep your truck running through the winter months. If you didn’t know, a glow plug heats your diesel’s combustion chamber during cold starts. One end of the plug is threaded into the head of the engine, and once energized, the plug can heat up to over 1800°F and kick start your engine to life. On colder temperatures, your diesel may have trouble starting due to a failing glow plug that you may have not noticed during the warmer seasons. Have a certified technician check out your plugs, or even purchase a glow plug tester which will indicate whether or not the plugs are failing.

2. Test your battery

Test your battery before the winter months. You don’t want to be literally left out in the cold! Car/Truck batteries use chemical reactions to generate electrons and during the winter months, the chemical reactions are slowed down, which leads to less current output when you need it most. Any shop and most auto parts stores will be able to check your battery’s life, along with your alternator to make sure your system is properly charging.

3. Check your belts and hoses

Once again, winter is the worst time to get stranded.  Taking a few minutes to check your belts and hoses will save you the headache of being stranded off the side of the highway in freezing temperatures. Take a look at your belt(s) for any signs of cracking, wear or tears. It is highly recommended to replace your belt(s) if you see any significant evidence of wear. Hoses are also prone to cracking, especially older OEM hoses that have been through countless heat cycles. If you spot any signs of suspicious wear, we recommend replacing the OEM hoses with silicone hoses for greater resistance to heat and winter conditions.

4. Test or flush your coolant

The only thing worse than getting stranded is if it leads to expensive repair bills from permanent damage. Allowing your coolant to freeze during the winter months can do exactly that. Diesel engines are designed with press-fit plugs, also known as freeze plugs, that are designed to rupture if the internal fluid freezes over. When a plug ruptures, your coolant system will leak. To top it off … if a plug does not function correctly, the freezing water can potentially cause damage to your diesel engine.

With that in mind, be sure to check your entire cooling system. Make sure it has a good mixture of water and antifreeze and a sufficient amount of coolant. If you haven’t flushed your coolant in a couple of years, it may be a good time to flush it out to get rid of all the sediments and particulates in the coolant to improve cooling efficiency. We recommend the use of Liquid Chill which is formulated for both gas and diesel engines in all varieties of environment temperatures.

On the other side you also want to make sure you don’t overheat your diesel engine and the easiest way to ensure you are treating your engine properly is an aluminum radiator for your truck, as it will reduce air intake temperatures and ensure you don’t overheat when the weather starts to warm back up.

5. Change your oil

Many diesel owners will change their oil to 5W-40 during the winter months as the oil weight will provide better flow during colder temperatures when compared to 15W-40 oil. Be sure to check your owner’s manual before making this switch. Not only will 5W-40 allow for greater flow, it will also reduce wear on your fuel injection system, starter and battery.

Additionally, during winter, trucks with forced induction may be more prone to oil blow-by so we recommend an oil catch can for your truck, which can capture the blow-by before it is deposited into your engine’s valves.

Story by Eric Zuo


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