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Cold weather starting. How low do you go?

Discussion in 'Excavators' started by fastline, Jan 3, 2021.

  1. old-iron-habit

    old-iron-habit Senior Member

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    There was an article about the same as this in a Farm Show paper a while back. This farmer buried 55 gallons of radiator mix below the frost line and circulates it via a 12 volt pump and quick couplers on the top and bottom of the tractor water jacket when he needed to feed at his remote lot. Does not take long to get the engine to ambient ground temp of close to 50 degrees F.
     
    Delmer likes this.
  2. Swetz

    Swetz Senior Member

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    I have no experience with these extreme cold conditions described, but wouldn't this be a much easier fix in an off-grid location? My employer has used the cab (air) heaters for over 20 years with excellent results. I would assume the hydronic version would work as intended as well.

    BTW...This is one of several sizes offered.

    https://www.eberspaecher-na.com/fil...a/pdf/EB_Hydronic_D5_C_WEB_READY_01_26_15.pdf
     
  3. Delmer

    Delmer Senior Member

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    I don't know about easier, and certainly not cheaper, those things are expensive and complicated compared to the other solutions used, including a running a generator to power the block heaters. I'm sure they work wonderfully though, when new.
     
  4. Swetz

    Swetz Senior Member

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    Delmer, I meant easier as in once it is installed and set it would warm the coolant without hooking anything up. These units can be set to come on at a specific time and have the coolant warm when the shift starts. Because it taps into the fuel and electric system, there isn't really anything else to do after it is set up. Def, not cheaper! They are complex, but we have been using the air heater version for many years without many problems. When they have a problem, just like any computerized device, they have self diagnostic capability.
     
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  5. GaryHoff

    GaryHoff Senior Member

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    At my work we have about 50 espars installed on various equipment, with mixed results.
    When they work, they work great. We usually have them plumbed into a hydraulic tank heater as well, so the hydraulic oil is warmed up some too.
    I would like to say they work every day without issue, but that would be a lie. The biggest problems are usually caused by the "flat rate" guy installing them. Everything from installing a T to the heater lines to the cab (which will cause a loss of cab heat), to poorly installed fuel lines, causing air ingress.

    Once these issues are resolved, then the heater needs its turn to act up. They don't like to fire after -25C (-13F). I usually resolve this with a bit of ether to the intake of the espar. Usually fires up with this trick, but defeats the purpose of a timer.
    The bigger D12 espars fire up better at lower temperatures.
    If the operator set the timer, and the espar didn't fire after 3 tries, it locks out. So you need to go through the unlocking procedure or buy the scan tool to unlock it.

    A big part of the issues is the operators using them. They need to run for at least 45 minutes. This gets the heater hot enough to clean its glow pin. A dirty glow pin will not get as hot, and not start the espar easily.
    Operators tend to forget to use the espar during the summer. Glow pin gets coated in dust, and wont work come winter time. Water pumps seem to dry out and start leaking.
    We keep about 3 rebuilt units on hand, and just swap them out as needed. Depending on what failed, they may not be worth rebuilding.

    Even with all the problems, they are worth having. Sometimes there just isn't any easy way to get a machine started in a remote location.

    We usually shut everything down around -36C (-33F) Metal tends to get rather brittle at that temperature. Usually you just break stuff and blow hoses if you try and work.
     
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  6. Puffie40

    Puffie40 Well-Known Member

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    My dad modified the block heater on our D4D to take a element out of a hot water tank. I haven't seen it in action but I imagine you wouldn't even need to have the engine running to get the water jacket to operating temp.
     
  7. Willie B

    Willie B Senior Member

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    A BTU is defined as the required heat to raise a pound of 70degreeF water 1 degree F. An 8 gallon system at 0 degrees F raised to 40 degrees F:
    8 gallons
    Water weighs 8.4 Lbs per gallon 8.4 X 8 = 67.2
    40 degree rise 67.2 X 40 = 2688
    A 4500 watt water heater element produced 3.4 BTU per watthour 4500 X 3.4 = 15300
    15300/2688 = 5.6
    5.7/ 60 = 10 minutes approximately
    That does NOT factor the heat sucking effect of a 1000 LB block of iron, or the cold air surrounding it.
     
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  8. Delmer

    Delmer Senior Member

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    Iron or concrete or wood can be estimated at .2 BTU/ degree so that 1000 LB iron would equal 200 pounds of water. Plug that water heater element into 120V outlet and it will put out 1,200W roughly. Just about right.
     
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  9. Willie B

    Willie B Senior Member

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    My point is it'll work. It won't be quick.

    I'm no scientist, Hell, all I got is electrical diplomas. My brain says a diesel engine makes ignition temperature by squeezing a piston full of air, squeezing that heat into sufficiently little space to reach ignition temperature. I'm looking at how to get enough BTUs into that cylinder to be squeezed into hot.
    My brain says heat air.
    There were brilliant people years before I was born. They figured out ether makes heat, ignition temperature of ether is much lower than diesel/air mixture.
    Ether is pretty destructive to engines. It is to be avoided.
    I've had success with a hair dryer, and a heat gun.
    Both require 120 Volt AC power.
    I do have an inverter for my truck.
    I can plug in a hair dryer.
    Nonetheless, there is no substitute for a block heater. It warms the whole engine. It lessens thermal shock to cast iron, warms oil, warms the cylinders.

    If your diesel is parked off grid, you can't plug it in to prepare, there are many strategies to fix it. All involve getting heat inside cylinders, without burning something.

    I wonder if it has been tried to suck air out of an oven? It would be feasible to heat a box full of air to 300 F.
     
  10. suladas

    suladas Senior Member

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    A espar is a million times better. Set the timer the day before, and show up to a warm engine and cab compared to dragging a generator around and sitting there for hours, or risk it getting stolen. It's also great for moving machine in cold weather, instead of having to leave it run on the trailer, I just run the espar. It also eliminates the cold start, while a block heater is great, it doesn't heat the engine up anywhere close to what the espar does. With the espar, the wait to start light won't even come up and the engine temp is halfway up to operating temp already.

    Mine is still the original unit from 2008 on my hoe, and it ran great the first 2 winters I had it, then the next it starting acting up a bit, and now it needs a rebuild or replaced. But even at $1300, it if lasts even 10 years that's well worth it to me. Probably save that much in fuel, never mind how many hours it reduces on the machine.
     
  11. Bumpsteer

    Bumpsteer Senior Member

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    Long before I put a block heater in the Bobcat it would start when nothing else would....made for a few miserable days sitting on the backhoe attachment digging up busted water lines at -10F windchill.

    Ed
     
  12. Welder Dave

    Welder Dave Senior Member

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    You can get propane torpedo heaters that don't require any electricity or you can use a weed burner torch preferably inside a length of pipe (so the flame is contained) to warm up equipment. Depending on the engine, ether used properly is not harmful. A lot of ether injection systems come from the factory.
     
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  13. Delmer

    Delmer Senior Member

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    Yeah, Willie, it will work. I just added some more simple math and mexican wiring will make it a dual voltage block heater from a water heater element. It will work in a water heater tank on 12V but too slow for a block heater. 24V would be roughly 250 watts, so it would help, but not as nice as 4,500.

    Pretty easy to rig up a "mini boiler" out of a section of pipe to hook up like a tank style heater, fire it with the propane burner or hot coals amish style.
     
  14. suladas

    suladas Senior Member

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    What would be awesome if it would work without too much trouble would be adding extra batteries and an inverter to run the block heater, then recharging those batteries with machine running. I'd imagine on a 200 hoe 2 extra batteries would run a block heater long enough to warm it up, and still have the original 2 for cranking. Take awhile to charge them, but if running it all day wouldn't matter.
     
  15. fast_st

    fast_st Senior Member

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    Different machine but a Deere with the 6076T engine was old and grumpy starting cold, it has a block heater and ether start, well it had an ether start system from the looks of it. Added in a Katz system, has a thermostat on it to prevent warm use, crank the engine for 10 seconds and if its not hopeful, give the button a beep and it lights off pretty fast. I used the injector nozzle for a smaller engine size and it works just dandy without knocking or clattering.
     
  16. Birken Vogt

    Birken Vogt Charter Member

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    You pretty much state the way I have experienced it. Warm the air and it will usually start right up.

    One thing nobody talks about is elevation. A normally easy starting diesel at lower elevations can become cantankerous if you bring it up a couple thousand feet. I had an old 6.9 Ford that always started up at 2000 feet give or take. If I took it up to Reno or Klamath Falls it is 4000 feet and cold it would buck like a bronco and smoke like a steam locomotive for half a minute on a cold start and then be all right.

    Years later I was changing the glow plugs to the 7.3 system. Lo and behold only 3 glow plugs were working. The rest were all dead. At lower elevations the engine speed of those 3 cylinders firing would bring the others along immediately and all start firing. At high elevations the dead cylinders would not come along right away.

    I am not opposed to ether in small amounts. The reason it works is that it ignites under compression way easier than diesel fuel. The trouble is when you have shot it in the intake, the time it ignites is uncontrolled. It is always igniting before top center, sometimes way before, and with a bang.

    If the engine is injecting fuel but the problem is just not enough heat, then a tiny bit of ether burning as the piston comes near top center can supply a tiny bit of heat that it will take to get the diesel fuel spray to ignite and the engine takes off and is happy. If you had a torch it would have started in the same situation.

    But people get in trouble when they discover that the engine will run on ether alone and they use a constant spray to get it spinning when there is a problem with the fuel system, or they spray a little and nothing happens, so they spray a lot, until there is a puddle in the intake tube, then the engine finally takes off and sucks the whole tube full into the engine like a Detroit airbox runaway.

    If it does not start immediately with a little sniff, stop and figure out why.
     
  17. terex herder

    terex herder Senior Member

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    A heater pad for the batteries can make a world of difference. At 32F, you have lost about 20% of capacity and at -20F you have lost half of your battery capacity.
     
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  18. Birken Vogt

    Birken Vogt Charter Member

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    Yes, I should have put that in my rambling above. Cranking RPM is a big deal, something that starts easy with a good battery may never even pop if it is cranking slowly.