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My diesel truck hates the cold weather. Glow plugs?

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  • My diesel truck hates the cold weather. Glow plugs?

    SO.

    I bought a '99 F250 with a 7.3 two years ago. It's a great truck, had low miles (124k when I bought it) and everything I needed.

    I got it from a crappy used car lot and had to do a lot of upgrades pretty immediately- new tires, new ball in my GN hitch, wiper blades, lightbulbs... little things they should have changed but didn't.

    We waded through the first winter pretty well. I got in the habit of plugging it in when I needed it and since I'd never had a diesel before figured it's issues were standard. Mostly- it REFUSED to start if not plugged in or jumped and took forever to warm up. 20+ minutes. And I live in TN, so we're talking 30's overnight, 50's during the day.

    This winter I finally realized what I was dealing with was NOT standard and now have a new alternator and two good batteries. Fuel additive whenever I fill up. It starts on the first or second crank this time now. Super exciting!

    However, it still takes foreeeeevvveeeer to warm up. I was at a show last weekend with a friend who drives a '97 version of the same truck. Hers would be ready to go and mine took a good 15 minutes more.

    I *think* my oil is too cold? If I try to drive it before it's warm it feels like it's "sipping". It is better if plugged in, but I'm plugging in when other people with diesels are not...

    Could I need new glow plugs, perhaps?
    Big Idea Eventing

  • #2
    What are you plugging in?
    (seriously confused)

    Not sure what to tell you. It's not cold yet, the truck should not give you that much trouble.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      The truck? I think it's actually the block heater? I'm not mechanically inclined. All I know is my truck has a cord hanging out of the front of it and I'm supposed to plug the sucker in in the winter.
      Big Idea Eventing

      Comment


      • #4
        Glow plugs only aid in starting; they do nothing for getting the vehicle up to temperature once it starts. Unfortunately I don't know much about the 7.3... but if you're starting fine it's definitely not glow plugs.

        If the engine temperature is indeed staying low you may have a sticking thermostat. There is a little valve in your water (coolant) pump that slows the flow of coolant through the engine to help it warm quicker (and stay in the ideal operating temperature). These valves are designed to fail "open" - so this is a common sign.

        How do you know your engine isn't warming at a normal pace? My first check would be for someone with an engine scanner to get your actual engine temperature. You can't tell much with the gauge on your dash. If your thermostat is stuck open your engine will run cool even after it has "warmed up".

        Comment


        • #5
          and what do you mean by sipping? do you mean slipping? as in the transmission? That's a whole new can of worms, but clarifying may get you better answers.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Alagirl View Post
            What are you plugging in?
            (seriously confused)

            Not sure what to tell you. It's not cold yet, the truck should not give you that much trouble.
            Those of you with newer models might not know, but yes, you plug in older diesels. Trucks or tractors, doesn't matter.

            Yes, OP, something is up with your truck, that's not normal. What I would do, if you're not inclined to bring it straight to a mechanic, is to go to a Ford (or at least diesel) specific truck board, where those in the know will have tons of helpful suggestions, I'm sure.

            It almost sounds less like a temperature issue and more like a power issue...IE, something, somewhere, is not getting enough power, or power at the right time.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by dearhusband View Post
              Glow plugs only aid in starting; they do nothing for getting the vehicle up to temperature once it starts. Unfortunately I don't know much about the 7.3... but if you're starting fine it's definitely not glow plugs.

              If the engine temperature is indeed staying low you may have a sticking thermostat. There is a little valve in your water (coolant) pump that slows the flow of coolant through the engine to help it warm quicker (and stay in the ideal operating temperature). These valves are designed to fail "open" - so this is a common sign.

              How do you know your engine isn't warming at a normal pace? My first check would be for someone with an engine scanner to get your actual engine temperature. You can't tell much with the gauge on your dash. If your thermostat is stuck open your engine will run cool even after it has "warmed up".
              That is good to know- thanks. I need to just bring it in and get it looked at, but I'm lazy and all that jazz.

              The only reason I don't think it's warming at a normal rate is because I have three friends who are also driving older Fords (+/- 2 years) with the same engine- we drive the same distance to horseshows, drive to the same hotel, park the trucks and if we start at the same time- they're ready to go a few minutes later and mine still won't go above 25 mph- it makes a "sipping" noise and is quite lazy. When I have it started and idling to warm up it also sounds odd- almost like is cycling low and then high? Not really sure how to describe it. But I'm around lots of diesels and they don't do these things.
              Big Idea Eventing

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by eponacowgirl View Post
                The only reason I don't think it's warming at a normal rate is because I have three friends who are also driving older Fords (+/- 2 years) with the same engine- we drive the same distance to horseshows, drive to the same hotel, park the trucks and if we start at the same time- they're ready to go a few minutes later and mine still won't go above 25 mph- it makes a "sipping" noise and is quite lazy. When I have it started and idling to warm up it also sounds odd- almost like is cycling low and then high? Not really sure how to describe it. But I'm around lots of diesels and they don't do these things.
                I've got a 1997 F-250 7.3 L and until recently, it only had a few functioning glow plugs. It was tough to start and occasionally wouldn't, but it ran fine once it was going. It absolutely did NOT behave like what you describe above. What you are describing sounds seriously wonky and I would get it to a good diesel mechanic--leave it with him overnight if you have to, so he can see what it's doing when it's cold.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by eponacowgirl View Post
                  That is good to know- thanks. I need to just bring it in and get it looked at, but I'm lazy and all that jazz.

                  The only reason I don't think it's warming at a normal rate is because I have three friends who are also driving older Fords (+/- 2 years) with the same engine- we drive the same distance to horseshows, drive to the same hotel, park the trucks and if we start at the same time- they're ready to go a few minutes later and mine still won't go above 25 mph- it makes a "sipping" noise and is quite lazy. When I have it started and idling to warm up it also sounds odd- almost like is cycling low and then high? Not really sure how to describe it. But I'm around lots of diesels and they don't do these things.
                  Hmmm...this suggests a transmission issue. If you're luck it just needs fluid. Have you ever had it drained and flushed? If not I'd put that HIGH on your list.

                  I agree on the thermostat issue.

                  G.
                  Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'm comforted that your problem is with engine power and nothing in the transmission. The next step is to find out if the problem is actually your engine being to cold, and then going from there depending on what you find. What you've described really has two explanations that come to mind, and a third that's possible but not likely:

                    1) the engine is actually too cold. Thermostat stuck open would be my first guess.
                    2) Something with your fuel system. Your engine can be the same temperature as your friend's, but when it's just warm and not "hot" issues with the fuel system present more dramatically. Diesels depend on heat for ignition unlike gas wich depend on spark. My first move if you rule out temperature above would be a new water separator/fuel filter, followed by a look at the injectors for spray pattern.
                    3) I would rate this as very unlikely given your mileage, but low compression is another possibility. It would be obvious to someone that knows something about diesels by looking for excessive blow-by at the crankcase vent.

                    I think you're probably lucky. That you describe the problem going away after it really "warms up" takes a number of more costly things off of the table (like injector pump, etc). A thermostat if that's the problem is not the end of the world.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      We have a 99 F350 with the 7.3 and nope, we don't have your problems. I agree with DH and G...

                      You might check out the ford enthusiast board and go in to the mechanic somewhat informed; you can lose a lot of money in a hurry with a diesel mechanic. See if you can get someone to JUST run the codes. That can point you in a direction. We found a local guy that would run the codes for free-we checked it with the guys on FE and did the fix ourselves and saved $1800.

                      Is this an automatic, I take it?

                      Does the HEATER warm up? The gauges for engine temp ect are mere decorations; never trust the factory gauges.

                      Cracks me up that someone may not know what "plugging in" is... we have a block heater on ours too. We hit -40 here and our truck growls and pops and takes forever to wake up but once it's warm it's good to go, no herky jerky. We put it in neutral to warm up but really I don't think that's your problem.
                      “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by dearhusband View Post
                        I'm comforted that your problem is with engine power and nothing in the transmission. The next step is to find out if the problem is actually your engine being to cold, and then going from there depending on what you find. What you've described really has two explanations that come to mind, and a third that's possible but not likely:

                        1) the engine is actually too cold. Thermostat stuck open would be my first guess.
                        2) Something with your fuel system. Your engine can be the same temperature as your friend's, but when it's just warm and not "hot" issues with the fuel system present more dramatically. Diesels depend on heat for ignition unlike gas wich depend on spark. My first move if you rule out temperature above would be a new water separator/fuel filter, followed by a look at the injectors for spray pattern.
                        3) I would rate this as very unlikely given your mileage, but low compression is another possibility. It would be obvious to someone that knows something about diesels by looking for excessive blow-by at the crankcase vent.

                        I think you're probably lucky. That you describe the problem going away after it really "warms up" takes a number of more costly things off of the table (like injector pump, etc). A thermostat if that's the problem is not the end of the world.
                        Thank you! Guess the next step is a mechanic visit. It hauls great all the time when it's not cold, so it never occurred to me that it could be a "big deal." I appreciate your help!
                        Big Idea Eventing

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by cowboymom View Post

                          You might check out the ford enthusiast board and go in to the mechanic somewhat informed; you can lose a lot of money in a hurry with a diesel mechanic. See if you can get someone to JUST run the codes. That can point you in a direction. We found a local guy that would run the codes for free-we checked it with the guys on FE and did the fix ourselves and saved $1800.
                          Also a good idea. I think I can get someone to run the codes, I will work on that.

                          Is this an automatic, I take it?
                          Yep!

                          Does the HEATER warm up? The gauges for engine temp ect are mere decorations; never trust the factory gauges.
                          The heater warms at about the same rate as my cars, so I believe that is fine. My temp gauge will be at "normal running position" and the truck still not warmed up, so I don't use that for much.
                          Big Idea Eventing

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            My old Diesel hate the cold too! Ask your mechanic to add http://www.revxoil.com/applications....Truck&B=Diesel now or at your next oil change made a HUGE difference in my truck.

                            Also make sure your using an anti gel fuel additive and one that has cetane boost. My mechanic (solely works on diesels) recommended this brand Silver for warm temps and white (Arctic version) for anytime temps get low http://www.powerservice.com/dk/

                            Oh almost forgot USED one treatment of the Red ^^ I think its called Diesel 911 first if its not starting /it lacks power. Same product line

                            Advanced Auto , and other Auto Part stores all seem to carry all 3 versions.

                            Good luck my <3 truck is a 03' with 136k on her. Just needs a little extra love lately.
                            "I would not beleive her if her tongue came notorized"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              For the 7.3 PS you need to have the glow plug relay checked. They tend to burn up after a bit. I am on my 3rd after 250,000 miles. Also check that both batteries are in good condition and the alternator is good, as you have.

                              All of these together will get the truck to start even in the coldest weather. My record without plugging the truck in is 30 below 0.

                              It takes about 20 minutes to swap out the relay. It is $100 from the dealer. DON'T get one from an auto parts place. They are crap. It is easy to check if the relay is bad. You should hear it click when the key is turned and the glow plug light is on. You can also use a standard volt meter to check. It should be 12.5V or so between the two large posts on the relay.

                              The relay is on top of the engine, to the left of the fuel filter/high pressure oil pump and ahead of the starter relay. They both look the same as they are the same part.

                              Replace glow plugs is expensive and a pain. You have to basically tear down the top of the engine to get to them (there are 8).


                              Originally posted by eponacowgirl View Post
                              SO.

                              I bought a '99 F250 with a 7.3 two years ago. It's a great truck, had low miles (124k when I bought it) and everything I needed.

                              I got it from a crappy used car lot and had to do a lot of upgrades pretty immediately- new tires, new ball in my GN hitch, wiper blades, lightbulbs... little things they should have changed but didn't.

                              We waded through the first winter pretty well. I got in the habit of plugging it in when I needed it and since I'd never had a diesel before figured it's issues were standard. Mostly- it REFUSED to start if not plugged in or jumped and took forever to warm up. 20+ minutes. And I live in TN, so we're talking 30's overnight, 50's during the day.

                              This winter I finally realized what I was dealing with was NOT standard and now have a new alternator and two good batteries. Fuel additive whenever I fill up. It starts on the first or second crank this time now. Super exciting!

                              However, it still takes foreeeeevvveeeer to warm up. I was at a show last weekend with a friend who drives a '97 version of the same truck. Hers would be ready to go and mine took a good 15 minutes more.

                              I *think* my oil is too cold? If I try to drive it before it's warm it feels like it's "sipping". It is better if plugged in, but I'm plugging in when other people with diesels are not...

                              Could I need new glow plugs, perhaps?

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Are you using "warm up" to describe the length of time it takes to get running properly or do you mean that it is literally taking 25 minutes for the heater to blow hot air = engine to operating temperature?

                                Our '97 can be a beotch to start and they've either tucked the plug up in the frame or it was sold to a warm climate home, but once it starts it's warm pretty quickly. In both senses - heater working and engine running happily.

                                Some good advice here.
                                Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                                Incredible Invisible

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Epona,
                                  I had the same issue with my 99 350. It felt like it was not shifting properly after it was warmed up. It was the injectors. Take it to someone you trust and have them check it out. I had 2 replaced and it has run perfectly ever since.
                                  Good luck!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by eponacowgirl View Post
                                    Thank you! Guess the next step is a mechanic visit. It hauls great all the time when it's not cold, so it never occurred to me that it could be a "big deal." I appreciate your help!
                                    My question stands on the tranny. When we had a '92 7.3L F350 we went through four trannys in 105,000 miles. We solved the problem by installing an auxiliary transmission oil cooler. I then went almost 50,000 more without issue.

                                    If you've never serviced the tranny then I'd do it. If you have (and it came up clean) then I'd just check for fluid level. It's not expensive and the consequences of a failure are dramatic (in terms of dollars).

                                    G.
                                    Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      A few suggestions (and yes, I know what plugging is ):

                                      -Get the transmission flushed and the tranny filter changed.
                                      -When warming it up, put it in neutral. That starts things moving in the transmission. It doesn't, when you're in park.
                                      -Use winter oil in the engine. It is thinner at cold temperatures than summer oil, thus making the engine easier to start.
                                      -Check the thermostat.
                                      -Flush the radiator, if you're not getting much heat in the cab.
                                      My Equestrian Art Photography page

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        For anyone looking for a good Ford diesel forum: http://www.thedieselstop.com/forums/ Very helpful people post there.

                                        I have a very old ('92) F205 7.3 but it has pretty low mileage (160k+). I love that forum, though. They've helped me out with some weird problems I've had over the years.
                                        "Dogs are man's best friend. Cats are man's adorable little serial killer." -- theoatmeal.com

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