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Frozen Diesel

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Frozen Diesel

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
A long time lurker. Im stuck in Les menuires with a car that wont start we think its frozen diesel as it was below -20 overnight the car turns over ok when we tried a jump start so its not the battery. We have AA international cover but they are not much help saying they couldnt get anyone out to help us today they might be able to do something tomorrow but dont have much hope. Does anyone have any ideas on how to sort out frozen diesel?

Thanks
Nick
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Light a small fire under the car?

very carefully
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can you get it into an indoor parking area to warm up a bit? Otherwise make sure the glowplugs warm for a long time before turning over (try turning on and off 3 times before trying to start) does it fire then?
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^ what davidof said, plus if it aint full, top it up if you can get a jerry can from a station or some kind soul or whatever
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Where did you buy you diesel? Has it winter additives? If not you can buy winter additives from the petrol station in Les Menuires or the huit a huit petrol station in Val thorens.

Winter diesel bought in the Alps should be ok to around -20 so it won't tae much to 'de wax' it.
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Wot TheGeneralist, said.

Edit:--- it's not about carefully lighting the fire... It's about keeping it under control, just to raise the temp of the diesel a little. It WILL take time though, you need to thaw the tank AND the pipes to the engine - an hour or so at least.
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Hmm. I remember having a boss who, during the really cold snap in the early 80s, put just a smidge of petrol in with his diesel (IIRC a pint of petrol for every gallon of diesel) of his car to stop waxing. His Peugot kept going, when our work diesel vehicles, with fuel allegedly good for -20C (the temperature was getting down to something like that) did not. Googling around, it would seem he was not alone. Whether it is or was good practice I don't know.
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Do not light a fire under it, most modern fuel tanks are made of plastic. Might be OK on a Lorry, but no way under a car.

nnnnn, You say it turns over with a jump start, but does it from the car battery on it's own? A jump start will not energise the glow plugs, so it'll be turning over cold.
Do you get any smoke when you turn it over? if you do you're getting diesel to the cylinders and it's the battery.
Without the glow plugs it will fire eventually as the compression itself generates heat, if you're getting smoke from the exhaust keep cranking it, it should fire eventually. The smoke will be white showing unburnt diesel, it will change to black once combustion starts to take place. No smoke, no diesel, so it's gone waxy and can't pass through the injectors.

Good tip is to keep the tank topped up so as to avoid condensation, use low temp diesel, if not an additive.
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Petrol in the Diesel might of worked OK in the 80's, but don't do it on any modern diesel turbo. The high pressure system relies on the diesel for lubrication. Petrol in the mix will severely affect this and you could land an expensive repair bill - if not immediately, in the future, as it will reduce the life of the components.

If it were me, the first place I'd get warmth would be the fuel filter (not with a fire!). When the fuel starts to gel, the wax crystals block up the filter, stopping the flow to the engine completely. Depending on how badly it's gelling, it may well still pass through the fuel pipes if you can unblock the filter through warming. Now where the filter is of course is another question. My cars are all in engine bay, but I believe some have it near the fuel tank. Are you near a power source? Get a fan heater under the engine bay and leave the bonnet shut to trap the warm air.

As I understand it, most systems recirculate fuel from the engine back to the tank, once the engine is running this helps warm the fuel in the tank and stop it gelling. It will also help circulate any winterising additives recommended by others (but only if the fuel is thin enough to flow at all of course).

Best of luck! Heading out myself this week, fingers crossed I don't suffer a similar problem.

Oh, and Spyderman, why would a jump start not energise the glow plugs (assuming you give them time to warm before cranking)?, it's just using an additional battery to power the car. The glow plugs are no more fussy than the starter motor where power comes from. For a bump start I'd agree with you.
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our ski instructor was warning people leaving this weekend about this problem - one of the group, a guy who lives in Corsica, says he uses 10% petrol in cold weather and so lots of people he knws - I guess there are a lot of basic elderly diesels in Corsica. I certainly wouldn't. Yesterday morning it was minus 22 here. When I started the car, in the covered parking, it was minus 2. I find the difference quite astonishing. We have local diesel and a pretty full tank but I'd be worried if it was outside - I saw several cars being towed yesterday. Maybe nothing to do with diesel but at the pumps locally it does say that it's good to minus 15.

Good luck with getting it going, nnnnn. Welcome to snowheads - hope your next post is more cheerful. snowHead
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A kettle or two of hot water over the fuel components is possibly the safest way of getting some heat into the system???. The fuel lines are more likely to be waxed than the tank
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Lots of cars and vans cutting out here in Morzine and surrounds despite having "local" diesel!

My car started this morning in -21 but it was a bit touch and go! Save driving all and I would abandon the "light a fire" method - that sounds like madness!
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Quote:

Petrol in the Diesel might of worked OK in the 80's, but don't do it on any modern diesel turbo. The high pressure system relies on the diesel for lubrication. Petrol in the mix will severely affect this and you could land an expensive repair bill - if not immediately, in the future, as it will reduce the life of the components.



no if you use it at 10% and no more you wont even notice it neither will the engine, plenty of people make there own fuel concoctions with diesel/petrol/veg oil dont listen to those who haven't even tried it.
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Quote:

despite having "local" diesel!

Yep, it does only claim to be good to minus 15 and these are unusual temperatures we're having. The problems will be worse in parts of France that are very cold at the moment and aren't in "mountain fuel" areas. Our modern contraptions are pretty vulnerable, aren't they?
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Wurth winter diesel additive says:

Add to the fuel tank when refuelling.
Dosage - 1 can (300ml) to 80 litres of fuel will provide protection from freezing at temperatures as low as -30C depending on the type and quantity of fuel.

On average 1 can protects 50 litres of diesel from freezing at a temperature of -26C

Not sure what to make of those figures,

http://www.camskill.co.uk/m1b0s4401p63504/_WURTH_-_Winter_Diesel_Additive_-_300ml_
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 Poster: A snowHead
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It is usually the fuel in the filter that waxes up first, so start by dealing with it.
If you can get to the fuel filter, ideally remove it, by unscrewing the canister from the housing. Then, take it somewhere to warm up and empty it out. Refill with fresh diesel and follow the instructions in the handbook of how to restart after running out of fuel. If you cannot get to the filter, try to warm it up and keep it warm. Use a hair drier, hot cloths, or even hot water poured onto it to raise the temp of the fuel in the filter. This might work. If not, you will just have to wait until temps rise, or you get help from your breakdown service.
If you do get it to start, don't attempt to just drive off. Leave it idling for about 30 minutes at least as the system will return warned fuel to the tank and help. Also until warmed, the may be only enough fuel supply as allow the engine to idle, but not cope with any load

Good luck
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Patience is the best method. Wait till after midday, when the sun will heat up the vehicle and the diesel.

You could try hot water applied in the right places, or those hand warmers or back warmers stuck to the frozen area.

I have had this problem, and patience is usually what works.

However, I once called out the local garagiste. He could not get it to start by jump starting etc, so he eventually towed the van along the road and I bump started it. Bump starting is an old fashioned way of starting cars, and cannot be done on automatics. I think he said I had flooded the engine, rather than having frozen diesel, but it was one of the coldest nights for a while.

I remember when you could get a crank shaft, and stick it in the engine to start it if the battery was low. They do not allow that any more in cars, more is the pity as flat batteries are quite common when you get frozen diesel. People keep trying to start the vehicle, and consequently make the battery flat.

If it is a diesel, you need to let the glow plugs warm up before you turn the ignition. When you insert the key and give it a turn so the instrument lights come on, the glow plugs are warming up. You can help them with a hair dryer, or some other form of heater.

I would guess that it has resolved itself by now.



rolling eyes
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IT is probably too late for additive. We ended up having to get the fuel tank drained and the filter replaced .
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just come back from st jean montclar, was meant to be back saturday evening... we had the problem with the diesal, ended up staying over and got to a heated garage this morning where after an hour or so we got it going. Temp was no higher than -10 all day sat i'd say and last night towards -20. Definately learned a lesson from this, if its really cold get some additives into the fuel before you get into the mountains.
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Quote:

I remember when you could get a crank shaft, and stick it in the engine to start it if the battery was low

Used it to be possible to do that with diesels? I remember having a car which could be crank started, many moons ago, but it was hard to do. We used to hand-crank a very small marine diesel but it had to be decompressed - and the compression lever flicked over at just the right moment. it either took two people or one with a piece of string tied to the decompression lever.
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2 seasons ago, we put 500ml of adative in a Fiat Punto (enough for 50gal) it still froze, stay clear of Bio Diesel it freezes quicker.
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Led, was the diesel bought locally to the mountains?
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nnnnn, I'd second the suggestion regarding adding petrol: I've added petrol in large quantity 45L into a 65 litre tank in error 03 plate BMW 330D (has turbo)... There's loads of stuff plastered up from people who drain tanks and charge lot's of cash for the service. The consolidated wisdom from all the posts is that diesel into petrol is drain, maybe a new tank etc. Very bad.

Petrol into diesel is kind of OK as it's very unlikely to cause damage if indeed you can start it at all. The problem if it's all petrol would be starting the beast, so it self protects. It was an absolute barsteward to start...., turned over for 20 seconds which seemed an age before chugging into life life a tractor towing a trailer up a hill with blue/white smoke for the first few seconds. Sounded awful and looked even worse. Top ups of good quality diesel to flush it through for the next 100 litres of so did the trick and no harm was done. I'm really careful when using Shell who label their pumps sideways, vertically which can be very confusing as sometimes it isn't that clear Sad

I was also suggested that the older the car, the more they will tolerate the addition of petrol, whereas the newer particulate versions will be much less forgiving . The addition of a 10% petrol mix rather than the 70% I used really shouldn't give you any problems! Embarassed

Ahhh..and welcome to the motorings section of Snowheads!


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Sun 5-02-12 16:05; edited 1 time in total
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In the past I've used a hostess plate warmer under the engine to warm through. Takes a few hours though. Boiling water poured over fuel filter and lines would help.
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I would wait until the warmest part of the day, and get another car in position to blow its exhaust right under your fuel tank and rev it to 2,000 rpm for a while. Get a couple of extension pipes to direct the exhaust exactly where you want it if necessary.

I would never even think about lighting a fire of any kind under a vehicle. It would require a lot of control that a lot of people simply don't have, and you are fundamentally lighting a fire under a reasonable quantity of flammable liquid. If it goes wrong your car will be written off, and I doubt the insurance would pay out if you set fire to it, and worst case someone could get badly hurt.
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Quote:

In the past I've used a hostess plate warmer under the engine to warm through

Aah! I've often wondered what they were for; more useful than I'd thought.
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Assuming the diesel has additives to stop it freezing, open the fuel cap and pump the fuel thing under the bonnet until it's not squishy any more, then try again.

Once it's started keep the revs really low.
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Just roll down into the valley in neutral wink
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If you don't want to add petrol paraffin will do the same adding at 1:20
Down side is paraffin is not as easy to get hold of as it used to be and Ive no idea if you can get it in the alps
We had to do it with four Ford Rangers last winter they all stopped when it got down to -18
The fuel filters need to be changed before we could restart them
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As I was on my phone earlier, here's a less concise reply. The first time it waxed, we called out the breakdown service, stroppy Frenchman arrived from local garage and put some additive into the tank. By now, the car had been standing in the sun for about an hour, and it eventually started, jumped for a while then got us back to Monetier. On the second occasion, it was still dark we left it alone until the sun came up, and started it up in the afternoon and left it running for half an hours or so. Tank was almost full as we'd only done a shortish distance. Final time, it didn't clear after several km, and we called breakdown again. This time same stroppy man took us back to garage, drained the engine, and replaced the fuel filter. The old filter ws all gunged, and he said that when he put in the additive, it was already too late, as it had waxed in the filter and fuel lines.
Hubby accidentally put 6l of petrol in our diesel tank recently before his eagle-eyed wife spotted it, filled up with diesel, and it was OK.
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http://alpes.france3.fr/info/alpes-les-moteurs-gelent--72356595.html
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Quote:

Hubby accidentally put 6l of petrol in our diesel tank recently before his eagle-eyed wife spotted it

well done, EEW.
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Ok should I be off looking to buy diesel additive or if we fill up in the mountains will that be OK?

We're going to Les Arcs next weekend how close should we be to be sure that the garage is selling winter diesel? We are too high for the indoor carpark so it will have to sit outside all week, have driven twice to the alps with no problems but it hasn't really been that cold.

Thought we were ahead of the game with our winter tyres - tried them out today and seemed pretty impressive, now I have to worry about the fuel too!
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Quote:

Ok should I be off looking to buy diesel additive or if we fill up in the mountains will that be OK?


that's why I was asking Led whether he'd bought his fuel in the mountains. Anywhere like Albertville, Chambery, will have the lower temperature rated fuel, HOWEVER, it does only claim to be OK to minus 15, in the notices at the gargage. Normally that's fine but it's extra cold at the moment.

If I were you I would buy additive, and use it if the car has to be out in temperatures below minus 15. I've had a bottle in my car for years, never used it, but we have covered parking.

It only costs a few quid and could save a lot of grief. And you might not have your hostess plate warmer with you in Les Arcs.
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Even with winter additive, it starts getting marginal at -20C. It's a fundamental problem with diesel. Best bet is to learn where your fuel filter is, buy a spare one and take the tools needed to change it. Once you've changed it, move the ignition to the last position before engine start and leave it there for 60 seconds. Turn off and repeat 4 times. This will purge your fuel lines and get the fuel pump warm. Depending on the engine you may also have a primer pump under the bonnet; if you have, use it.

At -17C the startup on my Disco3 was a bit lumpy last year. I have spare filters and a socket set in one of the rear lockers anyway as my car was struck down witha tank of crappy fuel last year so hopefully this will be all I need.
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When you're faced with a car that won't start because the diesel is 'frozen' you have pretty well three choices, warm it up, wait for it to warm up... or make it someone elses problem.

I went for choice one on a couple of occasions and survived!
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vickitav, fill up at Super-U in Bourg Saint Maurice. It's actually one of the cheapest places for miles anyway (much cheaper than filling up on the motorway or even at the stops on the N90).
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stevomcd ^^^ vickitav

If you really are worried then there is a garage going out of BSM (last one out towards Moutiers) on the left which sells diesel with an even lower freezing point, each pump though, has a reminder to change your [diesel] filter regularly.
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f948lan wrote:
Petrol in the Diesel might of worked OK in the 80's, but don't do it on any modern diesel turbo. The high pressure system relies on the diesel for lubrication. Petrol in the mix will severely affect this and you could land an expensive repair bill - if not immediately, in the future, as it will reduce the life of the components.

If it were me, the first place I'd get warmth would be the fuel filter (not with a fire!). When the fuel starts to gel, the wax crystals block up the filter, stopping the flow to the engine completely. Depending on how badly it's gelling, it may well still pass through the fuel pipes if you can unblock the filter through warming. Now where the filter is of course is another question. My cars are all in engine bay, but I believe some have it near the fuel tank. Are you near a power source? Get a fan heater under the engine bay and leave the bonnet shut to trap the warm air.

As I understand it, most systems recirculate fuel from the engine back to the tank, once the engine is running this helps warm the fuel in the tank and stop it gelling. It will also help circulate any winterising additives recommended by others (but only if the fuel is thin enough to flow at all of course).

Best of luck! Heading out myself this week, fingers crossed I don't suffer a similar problem.

Oh, and Spyderman, why would a jump start not energise the glow plugs (assuming you give them time to warm before cranking)?, it's just using an additional battery to power the car. The glow plugs are no more fussy than the starter motor where power comes from. For a bump start I'd agree with you.


This is the best advice given here, including the correction regarding glowplug operation.

Modern high pressure (common rail) diesel engines operate at up to and beyond 1000% higher injection pressures than older in-line/rotary pump diesels. That pressure is generated by the timing (cam) belt driven pump. Should that pump seize all timing events will be lost, pistons hit valves and you rapidly have a very expensive problem, as all diesels are 'interference' type engines. The fuel is an integral component of the system and anything that may compromise its lubricity is to be avoided. Keeping metallic surfaces apart at, increasingly, 30,000+ psi is understandably not the easiest of jobs. Ask the manufacturer of your vehicle if adding a nip of petrol to the diesel advised. Getting away with it is not the same as it being a good idea. wink

Older 'low pressure' diesel injection systems will tolerate it, often to good affect in single figure percentages, but you add any amount of petrol, to diesel, entirely at your own risk.
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