Preparing your Diesel Engine for Winter

Of all the seasons, winter is when we need our diesel trucks the most. Heavy-duty vehicles are in high demand due to the Alberta terrain, work, and weather conditions. Nobody wants to be stuck out in the cold with a truck that won’t start. In order to be ready for winter, it’s important to be proactive and make sure our diesel engines are in a good state of repair (visit for more information on our Cummins diesel repair services) and prepared for whatever Jack Frost throws at us. Here are some tips that are best applied before the snow flies.

Check your Batteries:

While the typical battery should last between two to five years, dramatic temperature shifts and heavy load demands can wreak havoc on our batteries. The heat of the summer can cause corrosion and fluid evaporation, and cold weather can be especially harsh as it diminishes cold cranking amp (CCA) capacity. Testing the battery and charging system is an important step in preparation for winter.
    1. Turn engine off.
    2. Clean up battery cables to ensure a good connection free of corrosion.
    3. Pull out your trusty multimeter and change voltage setting to above 15 volts.
    4. Connect to battery leads.
Fully charged batteries should measure 12.6 volts or higher, and once the engine is running, the voltage should climb to between 13.7 to 14.7 volts. Keep an eye on the meter as you’re cranking the engine over, though. If the voltage drops below 10 volts, this means your battery is weak. Alternately a battery load test can be performed; the batteries should maintain a desired voltage determined by the CCA of the batteries versus a certain time period. Lastly a diesel truck requires batteries of a higher CCA than a gas engine vehicle. Using batteries that are too low in CCA will ultimately over stress your batteries and shorten their lifespan significantly.
We also recommend testing the output from your alternator. A unit that can’t recharge your battery properly means that your truck won’t start. Not an ideal situation in the dead of winter.


Keep Your Block Heater Plugged in Below 16 degrees Celcius:

A block heater is required for cold climates, when the temperature dips down the battery capacity reduces and the oil thickens, a block heater is a must in these conditions. Failure to plug in causes undue stress on the batteries and starter as well as excessive wear on internal engine components. We recommend the following steps to make sure it still works correctly.
    1. Clean off the prongs on the plug.
    2. Set your multimeter to ohms in order to show resistance.
    3. Connect the leads to the plug prongs.
If the multimeter displays a reading of 9 to 25 ohms, your block heater is good to go. Anything lower is bad news, although the fix could be as simple as replacing the heater’s cord. Sometimes the wires can get pulled out of the plug when the cord is stretched too far in order to reach an outlet.

Diesel Fuel:

Today most fuel suppliers start blending diesel fuel in the fall as winter approaches so that by the time the cold weather hits the fuel has been changed to winter fuel. This fuel is thinner and has a reduced cetane value which flows easier but affects your trucks power and fuel mileage. Prior to cold weather we recommend having your fuel filter changed and your lift pump or supply pressure tested. Using fuel conditioners that improve cetane value will bring the fuel up to summer values as well as adding lubricity to keep your fuel pump and injectors healthy. Remember to avoid using conditioners that are alcohol based as these are too harsh on your fuel system.
If you have questions about properly preparing your truck for the cold feel free to give XL Mechanical Service Ltd. a call. 403-350-6840
 Tom Zelinka has been an Alberta Journeyman Automotive Mechanic and Interprovincial Red Seal since 1978. In 1981 he then received his Alberta Journeyman Heavy Duty Mechanic Certificate and Interprovincial Red Seal. He has received Certificates for:  Cummins engine certification on N855/N14/M11 Engines, Cummins B/C/ ISB Series Engines, Cummins B/C/ISB Series Engine Fuel Systems, and Cummins B/C/ISB Series Electronic Engine Controls.

Interprovincial CFC/HCFC/HFC certification, Alberta Liquid Petroleum Gas Certification, Alberta Certified Advanced Mobile Hydraulics, Alberta Certified Diesel Engine Control Systems.

As the technology and models change, Tom continues to stay on top of the industry to be sure that you are receiving superior service for your Dodge Cummins diesel truck.

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