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Old 12-19-2017, 12:19 AM   #1
danpaul000
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Default Considerations for very cold weather operation

Hi all,

I am taking my '05 2500 out to Utah for a ski trip at the end of this week. Overnight lows are expected to be as low as -20degF (possibly colder at elevation). In addition to stress testing my camper conversion heating/insulation system, I am wondering if there are any particular considerations to keep in mind for the vehicle operation itself?

I am not too worried about driving on snowy roads, I have lived my whole life in cold places. However this is my first winter with the Sprinter and my first diesel vehicle.

Things I am thinking about:

1) Coolant freeze

I recently changed out the coolant to 50/50 Zerex G-05. According to the mfr. spec sheet, this should be good down to -34degF freeze point. https://www.valvoline.com/our-produc...freeze-coolant
The ratio might actually be less than 50% coolant, so I might try to drain some and add straight coolant back in.

2) Diesel gel/freeze/cloud

I don't know of anything I could do to prevent/treat this, if the fuel in the lines gels overnight. I am told gas stations swap out for winter diesel during some months, is there any way to know what the particular fuel is rated for? Is there an on-the-fly remedy if I run into this situation? I saw a great clip in a BBC documentary a while ago of some guys in Mongolia or Siberia warming up their old soviet supply truck in the morning by holding a blow torch to the fuel lines.

I have less than a half tank of diesel in the van right now, going to fill up soon for the trip. Performance effect on gel temp of winter vs non-winter fuel?

3) Glow plug adequacy

2 of the 5 glow plugs have been throwing codes for as long as I've owned the van (~1 year). I have never had an issue starting up the motor on cold days with, presumably, only 3 plugs working. I DIY most work on my van, but the horror stories of cracked plugs upon extraction really put me off from doing this job. I am thinking I should have a pro do it. Possible to have an inability to start in extreme cold with 2 busted glow plugs? Or will it just be a really rough/smoky start?

4) Espar aux heater

My van has the under-the-hood coolant heater from Espar, original from the factory I think. I have only fired it up a couple times and didn't actually notice much of a difference. What is the expected behavior of this system? It is possible mine does not work. I push the aux heat button on the right side of the climate control cluster and the red light comes on, and then...? Is the correct behavior just supposed to get engine temp up to 180degF faster than I would other get by driving? Therefore I can just watch the engine temp needle gauge to know if anything is happening? How much time would it take for the aux heater to get the engine up to heat?

Or is the expectation that the needle temperature gauge will stay low but I will still be able to get hot air from the cab heat registers? Or something else?

5) What else am I forgetting?

------

Related to all my concerns, I am lucky enough to live just a few miles up the road from Dennis @ Linden Engineering. I am taking the van to his shop tomorrow morning for a safety check and to fix a minor (probably self-induced due to over-zealous DIY) coolant leak.

I have the same cold-weather questions for him, so will report back with any wisdom gained.

Pip pip and cheerio,
Dan
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Old 12-19-2017, 01:08 AM   #2
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Default Re: Considerations for very cold weather operation

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Originally Posted by danpaul000 View Post
...

I have the same cold-weather questions for him, so will report back with any wisdom gained.

Pip pip and cheerio,
Dan
Talk to Dennis when you are there. In my mind there's no reason to seek other advice.

Have fun.
vic

P.S. - Watch for the speed bumps when getting near the shop. They aren't well marked, but they are big.
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Old 12-19-2017, 01:31 AM   #3
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Default Re: Considerations for very cold weather operation

Oil pan heater!

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Old 12-19-2017, 01:32 AM   #4
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Default Re: Considerations for very cold weather operation

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Originally Posted by Aqua Puttana View Post
Talk to Dennis when you are there. In my mind there's no reason to seek other advice.

Have fun.
vic

P.S. - Watch for the speed bumps when getting near the shop. They aren't well marked, but they are big.
I certainly will talk with him. He is a BUSY man though. The few times I came in there in the morning, the phone didn't stop ringing and customers were filing through constantly. It speaks to the reputation of the shop, certainly. I wouldn't take the van anywhere else.

Thanks for the reminder on the bumps. I used to live in Golden for a few years.

D

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Old 12-19-2017, 01:48 AM   #5
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Default Re: Considerations for very cold weather operation

3 of 5 plugs *should* get you started at -20f. Remember that your engine will not be that cold, it will lag behind the ambient temp by 20f or more for an hour or two.

Your starting battery needs to be in good condition. If you can boost from the Aux bank, that makes a big difference in cranking speed. In cold weather faster cranking means better and easier starting.

I would make sure you have a 5w or 0W oil (0w-40, 5w-40) in the engine. The lower the number before the W, the less viscosity you gain at cold temps. Lower viscosity means better lubrication (when cold) and less resistance to cranking.

Being that yours is a 04-06 model, your plugs are easy to access, I would at least put a meter on the plugs to see which ones are toast. If you have the old style controller, you should just go ahead and replace when convenient. If you like, a moderate amount of torque can be used to see if the plugs are stuck. If they break loose easy, you may consider replacing them yourself.


The espar heater-booster will make a HUGE difference in cold starting (if functional). If you have the model without pre-heat, you can wire it up to do so. This will allow you to pre-heat the engine before starting, making the whole process painless. If you have the pre-heat ability, just hit the button 30 minutes before you need to start the engine.

The espar won't start unless coolant temps are below 167f? or so. The booster only option will only run with the engine on, and keeps the engine warm when idling (or slow driving) and ensures adequate cabin heat.

Make sure you have winter diesel (shouldn't be an issue in CO). It can't hurt to toss a bit of anti-gel in the tank (before your last stop).

Coolant that is below its rated freeze temp won't go solid like water. It usually turns to slush. Given that you wont be seeing -20f for more than an hour or two before sunrise, you don't have much to worry about. You can buy a antifreeze tester for 10$ at an auto parts store. it will have floating balls (basically a hydrometer). The number of floating balls indicates the coolant concentration and freeze temp.

Obviously make sure you have gear/food etc in the off chance you get stuck for a day in some ditch. Of course having a nice converted van makes that pretty easy.
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Old 12-19-2017, 02:16 AM   #6
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Default Re: Considerations for very cold weather operation

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Originally Posted by danpaul000 View Post
... He is a BUSY man though. ...
Yes he is.

What others said so far.

+

I'm convinced that Power Service Diesel Fuel Supplement with antigel (white jug) helps my cold weather starting. I glug it in for our winter months.

PS DIESEL 9•1•1 is said to work after the fact with gelling. So far using the PS Fuel Supplement has kept me from getting experience with 911.

The Espar heater will pre-heat the engine enough to help even if the dash coolant temperature doesn't show it. The engine is a big chunk of frozen metal. Even the 5kw of heat from the Espar takes some time to raise the temperature.

If you have 120 volt shore power available, an oil pan heater is relatively inexpensive, easy to install, reliable and effective. Around 5F and lower I plug mine in when I shut down the warm engine. Even my 120 watt pad heater helps. I think that 250 watt is common.

vic
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Old 12-19-2017, 03:58 AM   #7
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Default Re: Considerations for very cold weather operation

I was also having some problems with glow plug codes and smoky/slow starting in the mornings in cold temps. I was very worried about breaking a plug in the engine, so I sprayed some Kroil penetrating oil a few times on each glow plug over the course of a couple of weeks, and when I put a wrench to the plugs, they came right out.
If you need a new Glow plug controller, I bought a new one with the glow plugs from SD Europarts, but turns out the van I bought already had the new version installed, so I have a brand new unit never installed. I can sell it cheaply to you if you need one. Let me know.
Cheers!


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Old 12-19-2017, 06:33 AM   #8
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Default Re: Considerations for very cold weather operation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Midwestdrifter View Post
3 of 5 plugs *should* get you started at -20f. Remember that your engine will not be that cold, it will lag behind the ambient temp by 20f or more for an hour or two.

Your starting battery needs to be in good condition. If you can boost from the Aux bank, that makes a big difference in cranking speed. In cold weather faster cranking means better and easier starting.

I would make sure you have a 5w or 0W oil (0w-40, 5w-40) in the engine. The lower the number before the W, the less viscosity you gain at cold temps. Lower viscosity means better lubrication (when cold) and less resistance to cranking.
I replaced the starter battery earlier this year with a Duralast Gold from Auto Zone. I can over-ride the ACR to force short the house battery and starter battery together. They are linked via 2/0 AWG wire, so I can easily run a few hundred amps for a couple seconds to get extra motor crank if I need to.

I am running 5W-40 oil with 3,000 miles on it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Midwestdrifter View Post
The espar heater-booster will make a HUGE difference in cold starting (if functional). If you have the model without pre-heat, you can wire it up to do so. This will allow you to pre-heat the engine before starting, making the whole process painless. If you have the pre-heat ability, just hit the button 30 minutes before you need to start the engine.
Is there a sticky on how to re-wire the heater booster to run before I start the engine?
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Old 12-19-2017, 06:34 AM   #9
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Default Re: Considerations for very cold weather operation

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Originally Posted by sbdoug01 View Post
I was also having some problems with glow plug codes and smoky/slow starting in the mornings in cold temps. I was very worried about breaking a plug in the engine, so I sprayed some Kroil penetrating oil a few times on each glow plug over the course of a couple of weeks, and when I put a wrench to the plugs, they came right out.
If you need a new Glow plug controller, I bought a new one with the glow plugs from SD Europarts, but turns out the van I bought already had the new version installed, so I have a brand new unit never installed. I can sell it cheaply to you if you need one. Let me know.
Cheers!


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Thanks for the offer, but I replaced the glow plug controller earlier this year, thinking it was the cause for my glow plug fault codes. Looks like it is the plugs themselves.
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Old 12-19-2017, 06:42 AM   #10
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Default Re: Considerations for very cold weather operation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aqua Puttana View Post
I'm convinced that Power Service Diesel Fuel Supplement with antigel (white jug) helps my cold weather starting. I glug it in for our winter months.
Thanks, I'll throw some in when I fuel up later this week.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aqua Puttana View Post
If you have 120 volt shore power available, an oil pan heater is relatively inexpensive, easy to install, reliable and effective. Around 5F and lower I plug mine in when I shut down the warm engine. Even my 120 watt pad heater helps. I think that 250 watt is common.
I have internal 120 VAC running off my inverter, but not proper shore power. Not sure exactly where/how we will be camping for this trip. I just looked at a couple oil pan heaters on Amazon. How do you (or do you at all?) store the heater wire when you are driving? Do you remove the pad and have to re-adhere it everytime you want to keep the oil pan warm in winter? Seems like it would be quite the hassle if you had to slap that thing under the engine every night in the freeze. There must be a better option here, but how to keep the wire from dangling or getting caught in anything while driving?

Looking at this product (first one that came up in the search) https://www.amazon.com/Kats-24150-Wa.../dp/B000I8TQD6 it doesn't look like the wire can detach from the pad, so where does it live?
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