Ask the Mechanic

No to Starting Fluid

(Steve Thompson)

READER: It gets extremely cold here in Texas every few years. When it does, sometimes our diesel feed trucks are hard to start. Both the Fords and Dodges have preheaters, but some are still hard to start. Do you recommend using starting fluid on these trucks?

STEVE: Do not use starting fluid on an engine with preheaters, whether they are in the head like the Ford or the grate kind (like a toaster) in the intake manifold of the Cummins engine in the Ram. Starting fluid can cause a radical explosion in the cylinder and, with this massive explosion (much more than diesel), can cause catastrophic engine damage and even bend a rod.

You may find that double-heating the engine before starting will help. Also, most diesel trucks come with a block heater that plugs into a heavy-duty extension cord for extreme cold.


-- Write Steve Thompson at Ask The Mechanic, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email, and be sure to include your phone number.