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BillTex 02-02-2007 02:45 PM

Cold weather and diesels
I will be heading North this weekend for some skiing. Temps are forecast to be below zero at night, single digits daytime.
My truck does not have a block heater.
I will add some anti-gel to the tank, should I be concerned?
Dealer says block heaters are only needed in prolonged severe cold (think "Alaska").
I am not so sure, this is my first winter with the diesel, and up till now it has been mild...
What do you think?
Anyone been in below zero temps without a block heater?

Thanx, Bill

2airishuman 02-02-2007 03:13 PM

hi billtex...

define mild?

you are in rhode island...burr!

what weight oil is currently in the truck....

ford is 15w-40 generally and 5w-30 winter season.

because of so much towing i am now using 5w-40 syn for winter season...

cranking 5w vs 15w in temps below 20, the difference is apparent...

at 5 degrees or lower even more so...

will you be ok for a day or 2? more than likely...

but start up IS the hardest time on these engines...

so you could modify the current oil, throw a 'shop light 100w bulb' under the hood at night, park indoors or buy a cheapo dipstick oil heater....

don't know about the general's products, but the ford power stroke diesels all have the block heater (it's in the block already) even models "without" it.
those trucks actually just have the cord deleted...

adding a cord is easy; parts dept stocks them and you plug it it and zip tie in place. bingo block heater!


overlander63 02-02-2007 03:43 PM

Feel like getting up at night?
If you are worried about it, you cn get up around midnight- 2 am and crank up your truck. After it warms up, you can drive around the block a couple of times, bring it back into the parking lot, and shut it down. Park so the back of the truck is into the wind. If for some reason it doesn't want to start in the morning, pop the cover off the air intake, and spray some aerosol WD 40 in, and crank it up.
I have always been told to plug in the block heater when temps get to and below zero.

CanoeStream 02-02-2007 03:51 PM

I've always heard one should start it and let it warm before you put the engine under load. This is roughly equivalent to when the thermostat would open, allowing coolant to route to the heater core. It's a little tough to prove when a diesel is really putting heat out the vents though... 4-5 minutes should be enough. Newer diesels aren't supposed to be left running for prolonged times like in the olden days.

LI Pets 02-02-2007 04:48 PM

Without you telling us what you have it harder to answer.

You should have glow plugs, if so wait for the light to go off and start it.

Block heaters are nice but it isn't so needed over 10-15 degrees as long as your batterie(s) are good it should crank, after starting wait 2-5 minutes and drive.

Pick 02-02-2007 04:58 PM

You should be good down to "0" without a block heater, if you have a modern diesel. I run 5W40 all year round down here in Florida. Up in Ohio, I ran 15W40, with no problems during the winter, down to the teens, without plugging in, before 5W40 Mobil 1 became widely available.

Cracker 02-02-2007 05:15 PM

The only problem I've had with the diesel is that the heater has a rough time keeping the cab warm. As for starting, I use Mobil 1 (5W-40) synthetic, and have never experienced the slightest hint of a problem. Right now, I'm only using one half of the front end bra that GM provides for cold weather operation. If it stays in the teens, and below zero, I'll definitely put the lower half of the bra on for my next long trip - just to keep the wife happy. The truck spends most of its time in a heated garage - but even when we're on the road ovenight I've yet to use, or felt like I needed to use, the block heater. It's slow to warm up running solo - and, to date, we've never towed the trailer in the winter. I would definitely switch to a 5W oil for the trip - dino or synthetic.

ticki2 02-02-2007 05:29 PM

If you have the Duramax I'm almost positive you have a block heater . It is coiled up and zip tied to another wire down near the fender ,on the passenger side, under the hood of course . Just found one yesterday for a guy who swore he didn't have it.
If you have the winter front for the grill , put it on , it will help the cab heat greatly , don't need the bumper part. It won't over heat , I've driven at 60 deg. with it. It should start down to zero without pluging in , but you'll have no cab heat for quit a while . Have fun

Silvertwinkie 02-02-2007 06:15 PM

FWIW, we had a diesel a long time ago. We bought the fuel anti gel and put it in the tank as diesel fuel will gel. Block heaters are great too, keep 'em plugged in and warm(er) than it normally would be. Oil viscosity is a good thing to check following the owner's manual for the climate you expect to be in. Also, make sure your battery (or batteries) are in tip top shape as diesels are hard crankers to start out, with extreme cold they are even harder.

Regardless of gas or diesel, GM also has a TSB on the front differential stating that the front, in extreme cold (similar to where you are going) should be changed to synthetic, after making sure the vent plug was the correct type that was engineered for synthetic fluids. I have done this to my 3/4 ton Suburban per the TSB.

eubank 02-02-2007 06:20 PM


Originally Posted by BillTex
I will be heading North this weekend for some skiing. ... (snip) ...Dealer says block heaters are only needed in prolonged severe cold (think "Alaska"). ... (snip) ... Thanx, Bill

Think "Alaska"? Think "Angel Fire, New Mexico." We have diesel trucks here during ski season all the time, and without block heaters, they just won't start.

RDM16CCD 02-02-2007 06:20 PM

My Dodge Cummins came with the block heater installed, but without the cord which I had to add.

I really,really don't like the sound it makes when I start it cold (like teens or single digits) which I did as a test since I normally keep it plugged in. No question that it would start, and I don't have any way to tell if it hurts it to start when its so cold. But I really didn't like the sound of a near zero start.

I got a radiator cover (called a 'winter front') that improves driving in frigid climates much better in terms of engine warming up to full operating temp. Has 4 flaps that can be opened or closed. I've had all 4 closed since before Christmas.

There are also engine heaters that you can put on the oil pan - they stay on with strong magnets - that you could consider if your Silverado doesn't have the block heater already installed. But if it does, you should definitely just add the cord. Remember to take a long extension cord....


JimGolden 02-02-2007 06:59 PM


I have a 2004 Ram with the Cummins. How do I tell if my truck has the block heater? Where is it? I know it doesn't have the cord, but did Dodge do like GM and put the block heater in all of them and just delete the cord? I bought my truck off the lot, but I saw on Dodge's site that the block heater is only a $20 option, so I figured maybe it was just the cord they deleted.


How often do you change your oil with the Mobil 1? I've run Mobil 1 synthetic in my cars for the last 18 years. But on the Dodge, I've been running Valvoline 15w40 because that's what the Cummins rep told me to run. I change it every 5000 miles. The thing takes like 14 quarts, so I was just wondering if you put $5.50 per quart times 14 quarts in every 5-7k miles, or can you go longer?

I have a Chevy Cavalier, a '94, that I use as my work commuter. It's had Mobil 1 run in it since right after break in. I'm about to tick over 180,000 miles. I hate that car, but it refuses to die. I'm convinced the synthetic oil really makes a difference.

My Ram only has 16,000 miles on it. I bought it new and figure it has to last at least 15 years to pay for itself. I'd like to do what I can to prolong its life. But $95 per oil change is a bit spendy.

thanks for the advice,

ticki2 02-02-2007 07:09 PM

FWIW---Be carefull which Mobil 1 you use in your diesel . The new Mobil 1 truck and suv is not rated for diesel . Mobil delvac 1 is diesel rated . They also make delvac in dino. Rotella synthetic and dino are both rated for diesel.

john hd 02-02-2007 07:14 PM

just make sure your batteries are in tip top shape.

i have started my '98 6.5 turbo in -22 degree weather without pugging it in.

if your glow plugs work it will start. if you can plug it in do so.

my truck is sitting until monday when the estimated low will be -15. i'll plug it in on sunday night at about 10 pm.

that is unless i decide to drive the gasser to work!


Silvertwinkie 02-02-2007 07:41 PM


Originally Posted by RDM16CCD
Remember to take a long extension cord....


...with the right gauge wire. :)

In regard to synthetics, I was a big Mobil 1 fan until I came across Amsoil. I've been far more please with Amsoil and in addition, if you pay $20, you get on their preferred customer list for a year and get a fair discount on most of their stuff.

One other reason I feel better about using Amsoil is that they are not raping customers and posting billions of $$$ in profits when folks are paying $2+ gallon at the pump...but who knows, maybe Amsoil buys their feed stocks from Exxon/Mobil...but that's my story and I'm stickin' to it! :D

sos10 02-02-2007 07:57 PM

Back in Europe I always had a Diesel.. when going in the Alps... over 2500 mtrs.. I would add just a little bit (less then 10%) of regular gas to the diesel... that's the easiest remedy.. actually Diesel sold in cold countries/ mountain resorts have already some gas mixed in (called Winterdiesel)

BillTex 02-02-2007 08:09 PM


Originally Posted by ticki2
If you have the Duramax I'm almost positive you have a block heater . It is coiled up and zip tied to another wire down near the fender ,on the passenger side, under the hood of course . Just found one yesterday for a guy who swore he didn't have it.
If you have the winter front for the grill , put it on , it will help the cab heat greatly , don't need the bumper part. It won't over heat , I've driven at 60 deg. with it. It should start down to zero without pluging in , but you'll have no cab heat for quit a while . Have fun

Thanx Ticki2, and everyone else. Truck is an 06 Duramax. Darn, I looked everywhere for that plug last week and could not find it, thats what caused me to call the dealer, who said Duramax trucks in New England don't typicaly get the plug??? I should have known better-I will look some more tomorrow.

I have the front cover, guess I can put that on too,it'll help keep the misses warmer.
I am running 5w40 syn, so I should be fine there. As noted, I will add some anti gel for the next few days.

Where should I look for that cord?
Is it black?
I thought I checked pretty good...

Thanx again, Bill

john hd 02-03-2007 12:09 AM


try looking around the frame by the steering box.


CanoeStream 02-03-2007 05:48 AM


Originally Posted by john hd
try looking around the frame by the steering box.

John, right ... but maybe not. Bill, we've got close to the same truck. The manual covers the engine coolant heater on page 2-25 -- says it "can help" at below zero and should plug in for minimum of 4 hours. I've been starting well without it this week. Thursday morning it was around 5 degrees in the garage and starting did sound a bit strained but it did okay. So I plugged it in Fri AM & this AM.

Finding my plug-in was a mystery. I've got an option package (snowplow) with dual batteries -- one on each side of the engine compartment. The plug-in was on the opposite (curbside) of the engine compartment, zip-tied up against the wheelwell at about the level of the frame.

It's 14 below here right now -- headin' your way!

Towdaddy 02-03-2007 07:43 AM

I have a 2001 7.3 Ford PSD. I have never had problems starting in temps down to -20. IMHO, the key points (of which several have already been made) are that the batteries must be in good shape and glow plugs must work. If you are buying diesel in winter in northern climes, you will get winterized diesel so gelling will not be as much of an issue. You may want to be careful if you are heading North and buy a tank full in a border state (I found the switch back to no. 2 diesel in southern Missouri) and then drive into a much colder area.

The switch to lighter oil can be a big help. I have found that running an additive is very helpful. I use the DFS in the white container that I buy at Wal-Mart. This raises the cetane levels, helps get rid of water, and helps prevent fuel gelling. This really reduces the tendency to romp when first cranked.

Hope this is helpful.


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