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Old 01/16/07, 11:12 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Central Washington
Posts: 1,194
Diesel gelled in my truck - how to thaw?

I've got a 94 Dodge Ram 2500 4wd, Cummins diesel. Never had any trouble before (4+ years) with this kind of thing. Running about 50/50 bio & dino, no other additives, and it's been pretty cold here. 0 F 4 nights in a row, and has not been over 22 in more than a week.

The engine block heater has been plugged in, but Sunday while on the freeway, it lost power very quickly and died. Got a tow back home, and now it will not start, not even turn over so I believe the battery may be frozen also.

Any suggestions on how to thaw the fuel? The engine block heater is plugged in; we don't have a heated shop, not many people do around here. I read that putting kerosene into the tank at about a 1/10 ratio may work to thaw the fuel, any other ideas?
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Old 01/16/07, 11:42 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: WV
Posts: 529
Put bales of hay around the truck to keep the heat in and stick a heater under it. One of those propane torpedo heaters should do the job in a few hours.
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Old 01/16/07, 11:59 PM
mightybooboo's Avatar  
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: So Cal Mtns
Posts: 11,301
Originally Posted by happycat
I've got a 94 Dodge Ram 2500 4wd, Cummins diesel.
Lucky You!

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Old 01/17/07, 12:28 AM
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Idaho
Posts: 4,332
When my Ford gelled, the mechanic told me to put in Power Service additive, then turn on the key. You can hear the fuel pump running for a while. When it stops, turn off the key, then back on again. Keep doing that and it will eventually move the additive rich fuel thru the lines and start unclogging things. Mine had gone 60 miles that morning in sub zero temps when it finally lost power and stopped. Strange.
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Old 01/17/07, 12:40 AM
bare's Avatar
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Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 1,857
About the only thing you can do at this point is to warm the fuel tank. The bullet heater is a good idea, though the straw/hay is a bad combination. You can drape your rig in plastic or a tarp to contain heat from a torpedo heater.

If you don't have access to a torpedo, an old tried a true method is to take a barrel and cut the bottom 4 or 5 inches off, fill it with sand and kerosene/diesel, light it and slide it under the tank.

The flame is almost non-existant and doesn't get much higher than the side of the barrel, but I'd still keep an eye on it.

Once you get it thawed out, make sure to put winter blended fuel in until the weather moderates.
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Old 01/17/07, 02:54 AM
Posts: n/a
Add the white bottle of Power Service per instructions to every tank in the winter. Do not miss a tank.

Sometimes you can take off the fuel filter and fill it with PS and get it running. Even a little propane radiant heater can get it above 32 degrees if you out it down low and tarp the engine compartment.
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Old 01/17/07, 06:30 AM
michiganfarmer's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Near Traverse City Michigan
Posts: 6,590
I think I have the same trouble right now with my 97 power stroke, but Im lucky enough to have a brother with a heated shop who is close. When ai get home tonight Im going to use a tractor, and push it in his shop.When I was driving it all the time I kept power service in the tanks regularily. I dont drive it often anymore, and this winter I havent put any power service in it. Big mistake I thinik.
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Last edited by michiganfarmer; 01/17/07 at 06:32 AM.
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Old 01/17/07, 09:38 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Colorado
Posts: 2,339
get inside and get some heat and warm up the truck and fuel system, and use a winterized fuel, even some #2 diesel can gel in those temperatures,

the power service is good,
number one diesel in winter is very good,
the biodiesel may not have a very good cloud point,
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Old 01/17/07, 09:48 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Colorado
Posts: 2,339
one more thing you my need to change out your filter to get it going, the glycerin in the bio may have plugged the filter (I heard the refining of some bio was questionable any way and they were not getting the glycerin out properly)
and if glycerin is not a problem wax is, either from the bio or the dino.
Biodiesel and Cold Weather
Cold Filter Plugging and Gelling
When diesel fuel or biodiesel cools, wax crystals can form in the fuel. The crystals can plug fuel filters and stop the flow of fuel to the engine. Diesel fuel #2 can be used down to about -10 deg. F (-23 deg. C) and diesel fuel #1 (kerosene) can be used down to about -20 deg. F (-29 deg. C). In contrast, biodiesel made from rapeseed can be used down to (-9 deg. C), biodiesel from soy can be used down to (-1 deg. C) and biodiesel from used cooking oil or animal fat can be used down to roughly between (9-12 deg. C).

The six methods for keeping a diesel fuel system operational in winter are:

1) An engine block heater to keep the engine warm at night. This helps with starting on cold mornings.
2) A fuel tank heater, which circulates coolant through a pipe in the fuel tank.
3) An electric element fuel line heater, which heats the fuel at one point.
4) A coolant-operated fuel heater, which uses hot coolant and a heat exchanger to heat a section of the fuel line.
5) An electric fuel line heater. This is like an electric blanket for the fuel line, which extends from the fuel tank to the fuel filter.
6) Winterizing agents and additives.

Last edited by farminghandyman; 01/17/07 at 10:14 AM.
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Old 01/17/07, 10:00 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Central Washington
Posts: 1,194
Thank you for all these ideas. A couple more things to point out - hesitated on this one but I gotta say it - dh was SURE that running the bio/dino combo would not be a problem (and it hasn't been until now), and he did not think the winter additive was "necessary". I err on the side of caution - but that's another story entirely. Now we are at this point and trying to solve the problem.

Well, to compound matters the truck is currently on the street - tow truck driver said he couldn't get it into the drive because of the "angle" and we have a bus-sized snow pile on the other side of the driveway. We live in town (small town so not too likely to be harrassed about this). Anyway - we don't have a bullet heater so here's our plan for today:

1. keep engine block heater plugged in
2. place radiant electric heater underneath the engine
3. tarp on the sides of to try and trap what warmth there is
4. blanket the hood
5. add a bottle of Power Service to the fuel tank

It's up to 6 here this morning, forecast for 28 woo-hoo it's warming up! I will let you know my results. Thank you again.
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Old 01/17/07, 10:08 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: upper michigan
Posts: 125
i'd also do as lonelytree suggested. add ps to the fuel filter.
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Old 01/17/07, 10:19 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Colorado
Posts: 2,339
getting a big clear sheet of plastic and place over the truck would be good (as suggested earlier), it would keep the heat in from block heater, and work like a green house warming and keeping the warmth in the truck, I know you said tarps but one continuous sheet would do better, IMO
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Old 01/17/07, 11:17 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Central Washington
Posts: 1,194
It's one big tarp, layered over the blanket (which is just over the hood), and the tarp is big enough that it is touching the ground on the sides and in front.

If all this fails then I suppose I will have it towed somewhere to a heated indoor shop. I just don't have the money to do that, but I suppose it's that or get it moved into my driveway until Spring.
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Old 01/17/07, 11:19 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Central Washington
Posts: 1,194
Oh, and bare mentioned a kerosene fire beneath the engine. I was told that before all these engine heaters came about that people would make a small fire in their driveway, wait until it burned down to the embers then push their car over the fire - all to thaw the engine.

I guess that's one way to find out in a hurry if you have any fuel leaks.
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Old 01/17/07, 07:45 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: ny
Posts: 425
i work for a highway dept in northern new york and all our fuel is cut to a 50-50 mix with kerosene. all the highway depts. here run the same mix and we never have a truck freeze up. plowed today for 8 hours at -15 and no problems at all. the only difference in your post is you have a bio- diesel mix and we have no experience with that out here.....mink
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Old 01/17/07, 08:01 PM
fantasymaker's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: IL, right smack dab in the middle
Posts: 6,787
Bring the batteryes in and charge them up where its warm leave them inside till you are ready to start the truck Then takem out.
PS in the filter and tank.
make sure block heater is working
Should work just fine
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Old 01/17/07, 09:35 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Central Washington
Posts: 1,194
Hurray!! It worked! My dh was even more determined to solve this problem after learning that the local garage wanted $100 per night to park the truck in their heated shop, for 3 nights they estimated.

He charged the batteries, put the propane heater beneath the fuel tank on low for a while, and he got it started. We also added a bottle of Power Service, and one of Sea Foam as recommended by the Napa guy (who also happens to be my next door neighbors son-in-law).

I hear him pulling in now after a trip to fuel up with all diesel, and you bet I'll be buying that Power Service again.

Thanks again for your tips and suggestions.
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Old 01/17/07, 11:26 PM
Posts: n/a
Glad to hear that you are up and running. My Cummins starts fine down to 11 below without the heater plugged in.
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Old 01/18/07, 09:41 AM
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Central MN
Posts: 191
Just a heads up on buying diesel. I'm finding more and more stations here in MN, especially those that cater to big rigs, are only offering straight #1 and straight #2, you have to blend it yourself. It used to be more common for the #2 to be winterized. I understand that many of the big rigs have tank, line, and filter heaters now so they can run straight #2 without fear of gelling.

Anyway, before you pump, it pays to ask, and hopefully the attendant will know what they are talking about.
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