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How to Start a Diesel Truck

Knowing how to start a new or used diesel truck isn’t the same as knowing how to start a gas-powered engine. A gas engine starts when the spark plug ignites the fuel, whereas diesel engines rely on heat created by compression. During cold snaps, diesel fuel sometimes needs help from an external heat source, and there are three ways to make that happen:

  • Using an Intake Heater
  • Using the Glow Plugs
  • Using the Block Heater

Starting a Diesel Engine Using an Intake Heater

Air intake heaters heat the air as it’s drawn into the engine cylinders. This is an easy process that eliminates the white or gray smoke commonly produced during a cold engine startup.

You should:

  • Turn the ignition key, waiting for the glow plugs to warm up before you go further.
  • Turn the key again to start the engine. Intake heaters use power from the battery for heating.
2019 Ram 3500

Starting a Diesel Engine Using the Glow Plugs

This is the most common method of starting a diesel engine. Like the air intake heaters, glow plugs operate from battery power to bring air in the combustion chamber up to the proper temperature.

You should:

  • Turn the key. The Wait to Start Light should illuminate on your dash. Glow plugs take around 15 seconds to warm up.
  • Once the Wait to Start light goes out, try cranking the engine.
Glow plugs

Starting a Diesel Engine Using the Block Heater

If the intake heater and glow plug methods don’t work, you can use the block heater to heat the engine block.

You should:

  • Plug in the block heater. Look to your manufacturer’s guide to find out how.
  • Allow the truck to sit for at least two hours.
  • Start the engine.
Engine block heater

Should You Still Choose a Diesel Engine?

Don’t let the prospect of cold weather diesel truck start up issues turn you off diesel engines. Once you compare diesel vs. gas, you’ll find the former offers:

  • Strong fuel efficiency throughout Chicago
  • Higher torque ratings for powerful towing
  • Superior long-term reliability
2019 Super Duty Platinum Crew Cab

Our Diesel Inventory


Find Your Next Diesel Truck at Badger Truck & Auto Group!

You’ll find a wide selection of new trucks with top-of-the-line diesel engines at Badger Truck & Auto Group, as well as all the information you could need on the benefits of diesel engines. To find out more, simply contact us today or visit us near Madison and Green Bay.


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