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SteveLevin 12-17-2012 03:14 PM

Cold weather diesel management?
This winter will be the first time we've really exposed the DP to a cold environment; we are planning to be in Cheyenne, Wyoming for 3 weeks in February. So I'm expecting a serious cold soak on the engine and fuel (although we'll be staying in the coach, so it will be heated, for what difference that makes).

Hopefully we won't have to move the coach during that three weeks (although we might have to in order to refill propane if electric heat doesn't offset at least some of the propane burn).

Obviously, the coach batteries will be all charged up from being plugged into power. One thing my coach doesn't appear to have is a block heater :( (at least, I have no such switch, labeled or unlabeled, in the back of the coach and I don't see a circuit breaker labeled for it).

I'm guessing that the actual cranking process, while not ideal, isn't going to be the issue in and of itself -- certainly not something you want to do every day but doing it once, I would think, is not going to be that ugly -- but my concerns are about fuel gelling, etc., -- anything I haven't thought of since we've never done this before...

But any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Luckiest Dreamer 12-17-2012 03:54 PM

Lots of tricks are use to keep fuel from Gelling. The best way is to mix #1 and #2 Diesel in the same fill. You should not need to worry to much if you buy the fuel in the Northern climes they tend to have it mixed at the pump. Others have been known to mix in a gallon of gas in a 100 gallon fill. Can't say that I recomend that but it is done frequently. Some vehicles will have heated lines or heat the filter. You would need to check that out with the chassis Mfg. There are also additives that are available for the fuel as well. If the temps stay above 10 or 20 deg you should have little problems unless there is water in the system. Make sure you drein the water from your fuel filter if it has one.
On my coach and the previous one as well there was an electrical plug hanging free inside the compartment at the where the shore power cord was hooked and stored. It was not labeled but it was connected to a block heater.

Poptop 12-17-2012 04:18 PM

To keep the fuel from gelling I recommend you use a fuel supplement such as "Power Services Diesel Fuel Supplement + Cetane Boost". It comes in a white 80oz container and has directions for use on the back. (The silver container is the summer blend so don't get that). It protects down to -40 degrees which is more than enough. You can get it at Wally world for about $16 or at auto parts stores and/or truck stops for a dollar or two more. I find this easier to do than partly filling with #1 then finish filling with #2 diesel. Also, the #1 doesnt have the btu's that the #2 has so your mileage and/or performance may suffer. My home base is in Colorado and I have traveled back east in cold weather and haven't had a fuel gelling problem yet. Have fun in (windy) Cheyenne this February>:cool:

PDR John 12-17-2012 05:04 PM

I use what Poptop uses. Been in it at -7 F and never had a gelling problem. Don't forget to put some form of heater in your basement.

I think you should look all around in your engine compartment, it would be rare to not have a block heater.

If you truly don't have one you can always pick up a magnetic block heater from a farm and ranch store. They work much slower so you have to plug them in a full day in advance.

BFlinn181 12-17-2012 05:12 PM

x2 on looking for a block heater power cord dangling in engine compartment, you might have one. If not you might investigate getting one installed if it costs less than a service call. You could also perhaps aim a ceramic heater up under the engine the night before you decide to leave, being careful not to have it overheating any wiring or other components. When starting, turn ignition on, wait 10-15 seconds, then off. Then do it again. This will 'preheat' the grid heater and give enough heat for ignition. Also, don't try to start in the early AM, when everything will be it's coldest. It's usually not that hard to start a diesel in the winter as some make it out to be. I've had diesel autos and trucks for many years and run them all winter here in Ohio.

calhyatt 12-17-2012 05:23 PM

X2 on finding the block heater cord. Hard to believe there is not one. Add the diesel additive, put a magnetic block heater on the engine the day before and don't worry about it. It will start. I would be more worried about freezing up the water works. Put a heat source in the service bay to be safe. Have fun.

Dagwood 12-17-2012 05:31 PM

Untreated diesel fuel will begin gelling at 17 degrees. That is why the last fuel you buy shoulkd be from that area so the local fuel will be treated for the lowest expected temp. to avoid gelling. Be sure and buy from a volume supplier as there may not be much turnover at a small station. Yes the fuel treatments will work but I ran a truck up there for three years and never had a problem.

Kim98642 12-17-2012 05:34 PM

In a Dodge truck the cummins engines come with a block heater installed but they don't come with a power cord so we had to invest in a power cord and hook up to the heater ourself.

Dagwood 12-17-2012 05:36 PM

I almost forgot but do you have an exteded stay hose. You can hook up propane bottles rather than using up your big tank.

Ed S 12-17-2012 05:41 PM

Just a thought, are you going to need to use your gen set on the drive home for any reason? If so make sure you keep that in good shape as well.

SteveLevin 12-18-2012 03:29 PM

thanks for the tips! I will take a gander for the block heater; however, it wouldn't be the only oddity -- for example, despite being a Spartan Chassis with IFS, it doesn't have an air dump system (which seems silly, I know).

I'll be having a full chassis service done before the trip just to make sure everything looks good before we hit the road.


michelb 12-19-2012 06:34 AM

I just posted in another winter camping thread but 2 issues I recently had were that I only had summer windshield washer fluid and it froze in the tank solid and I put my slides out and snow / ice built up on the slide awnings and now they won't go back in.

Mike Canter 12-19-2012 08:14 AM

When you start a diesel in real cold weather it may just run on less than six cylinders and be real rough and will emit a lot of white smoke out the exhaust. Don't let it scare you and just let it run until it smooths out. After about five minutes all should be good and you can bump it into high idle and let it warm up. If it will not fire right away when you hit the starter then just let it keep cranking until it does. Do not run the starter for more than 15-20 seconds with out stopping and waiting for the starter to cool down before trying again. Shouldn't take too long to cool down in that weather. If you have a diesel generator then you might want to read the owners manual and switch to a lighter weight winter oil. You can do that without changing the filter. Mobil 1 synthetic oil is a good choice for the generator. We used that in our Onan generators at minus 30 degrees when doing Arctic ops in the Navy. At minus 30 degrees regular 10w-30 oil was almost solid and you could stand a screwdriver upright in it and Mobile 1 was still flowing. We did lots of experiments with oil at those temps because we were bored.

Libero 12-19-2012 08:47 AM

My RV's have been in some very cold places - I have used them i.e.-30C. Never without shore power or genny running for long because I needed to keep the water compartment and tank pad heaters on. I also plugged the coach block heater in as approproate. This just makes life so much easire for the coach to start and much better for the engine. (having the block heater on for an hour or so before starting is all I ever needed.)

ALWAYS have coolant in gen and engine protected to greater then -40. (C & F are the same @-40). I use multigrade oil all the time with synthetic transmission fluid. And indeed don't forget about WW antifreeze.

Try not to use hydraulic jacks if you can in extreme cold weather. They will go down OK but you may have trouble retracting and hydraulics can easily blow seals when very cold.

I always put a deisel supplement at every refuel. And if you get fuel in a cold place it will be Winter Treated. But if it was really cold, I put a little extra ice treatment in because of the potential for water in fuel.

Re slides, I used them sometimes but always made certain no snow or ice prevented from moving.

Hope my experience helps others.

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