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Cold starting tractor problems JD 2038r

 
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Hi all,

I recently had a problem starting my tractor in cold weather and I wanted some input.  I did just order (not yet paid) for an engine block heater for $65 but I am now wondering if that is necessary.

So the last few days I have needed my tractor on mornings when the temperatures dipped down to about 20 degrees.  I went out to start, turning the key to “on” and let the glow plugs heat up until they turn off.  I then tried to start but the engine just chugged over and over until it just quit (no slow down, it just stopped).

Yesterday again I needed my tractor in the morning and again it would not start but this time I forgot the keys in the “on” position, something that went unnoticed until after dark.  The starter would not even try to turn over to no surprise.

I did hook up a battery charger and switched it to 50 amps which did not change matters.  I then let charge on 2 amps for several hours and it indeed fired over.  I was advised to let the battery charge at 2 amps for the next 20 or so hours.  I disconnected it this morning.  It got down to about 10 degrees this morning (coldest day yet with this issue).  I went outside, disconnected the charger, turned the key, waited for glow plugs to turn off and started the engine.  It fired on the 3rd chug.

My dilemma is that in the meantime I ordered an engine block heater for $65.  As I live in Southern Illinois, cold weather is rarely an issue but my battery clearly was a problem.  I am wondering if I should even install the heater at this point.

I am up in the air and would love to hear others thoughts.

Thanks in advance,

Eric
 
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I vote yes. If you're seeing 10F/-12C temperatures, a block heater will save a lot of wear and tear on your engine. They are standard equipment up here on vehicles and tractors. I was able to start my little diesel yesterday at -23C/-10F after a few hours with the block heater plugged in.

The other factor could be summer vs. winter diesel fuel. Summer fuel can gel when it gets cold enough. If they don't sell a winter blend at the pumps, you can buy a fuel conditioner with anti-gel components.
 
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Eric, you are in southern Illinois and Douglas is in the prairie provinces of Canada which puts me right in between you two.....but -20 F this morning, so pretty similar to Douglas' situation.

My 2005 JD4010 came with a block heater.....which died after a few years of use.  So I bought a new heater about 10 years ago and have yet to install it.  All these years the tractor has been kept in an unheated, uninsulated garage and is the main tractor for snow removal so it NEEDS to start.  That said, I've been lucky in that I never am in a situation where it needs to start...NOW!  So on the morning that I need to use it....that last time being on a zero degree day.....I throw a standard poly tarp over bonnet and 'tuck it in'.  That is, try to create a tent affect around the engine compartment.  Then just employ an electric space heater on the floor pointing upward into the engine compartment.  I typically will leave this running for several hours before starting, but then starting is a snap.  It's quite possible that things like the battery only minimally warm up under these conditions, but so many other components get warmed up by the treatment...most notably the oil pan.  A few times in the past when I was still working full time and needed to get out earlier in the morning, I just set up everything the night before.  Upon rising early the next morning, first task was to plug in the space heater.  That way by the time other morning particulars were behind me, the tractor would be warm enough for snow removal.

Hope this is of some use.....
 
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Hi Eric,   I would agree with most of what has been said. Although our tractor will often start in cold weather with just the glow plugs, there is a huge difference when it gets plugged in (even for only 15 minutes or so).
When cold, as you probably already know, the hard knocking and cloud of black smoke that comes out can't be good.
For the sake of longevity alone, $65 is peanuts when you consider the alternative of ripping the engine apart to do premature repairs.
Its a relatively easy thing to install as well so all around to me sounds like a winner.

 
Eric Hanson
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Thanks for all the responses!

Gerry, I am happy to say there was no black smoke.  In fact, when the tractor started this morning with a healthy battery, it just churned to life like it would during summer months.

All that being said, I think that since the dealership went ahead and ordered the block heater for me, $65 is nothing in the long run.  Also, I will have installation help from my neighbor.

Eric
 
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Good advice here so far (let's see if I can change that....).

Perhaps this is obvious, but the cold can be a real battery killer, and this was probably the root of your original issue. However in addition to the battery issues, cold oil will be less viscous than warm oil, and so it will create more resistance inside of the engine when you are trying to turn it over and get it started. This means that an engine full of cold oil will force the starter and battery to work harder in order to turn it over and create the compression/heat that you need to combust the diesel.

How does this help you? Well, probably not much. In some places and in some engines, it will be advised to use different engine oils in either winter or summer. The idea being that in the winter you may need a thinner oil for cold starting. But, today and in your situation there shouldn't be a need to run multiple oils.



Story from the other day up here.... I'm on solar power/batteries, and my battery ran low enough last week that my inverter shut off. I've currently got two incubators and two brooders running (heat lamps) and so I needed to charge the batteries with my generator. It was 6AM and -30C/-22F. I couldn't spin the 12HP generator over fast enough to get a good spark. The oil was just too thick at those temperatures. I ended up draining it out (so slow...), and put in some new oil that I warmed on the wood stove. The generator fired right up with the new free flowing oil.
 
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Hi Eric

By all means use the heater.  Going back to my MN days, if you had not already paid for the heater, I would suggest trying an old electric blanket ...
 
Eric Hanson
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Hi John,

We are a far cry from your MN days and I was a little surprised I had any difficulty at all getting started.  But a freshened battery works wonders and I bet the heater makes even a weakened battery work much better.

Thanks much for the input.

Eric
 
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My JD 500 industrial backhoe has a lever that disconnects the transmission from the engine so that the engine can start and warm up without having to push the transmission. Do you have anything like that?
 
Eric Hanson
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Miles,

Aside from putting the tractor in neutral I don’t think so.  The tractor is a hydrostat, so I don’t know if that makes a difference.

Eric
 
John F Dean
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Hi Eric,

If you want the real manly way of doing things MN style, you would shovel hot coals under your oil pan ...   of course, it is best to have your tractor well insured.
 
John Weiland
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Miles Flansburg wrote:My JD 500 industrial backhoe has a lever that disconnects the transmission from the engine so that the engine can start and warm up without having to push the transmission. Do you have anything like that?



Another lament:  Even though the smaller JD's use Yanmar engines, only my grey market Yanmar tractor has a decompression knob.  Pull the knob out and there is no compression in the cylinders as you spin the engine with the starter.  Between glow plugs and moving the pistons around a bit with the oil, it helps warm up the components before a cold weather start.  Sure wish the newer JDs had that.....
 
Eric Hanson
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Hi John,

I have only used one engine with decomposition starting, but what a difference it made!

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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UPDATE:

It’s been 4 days since I started this thread.  In the meantime I have not used the tractor, but yesterday we had an ice/sleet storm with more sleet & snow in the forecast so I really need to get the rough cutter off and the grader blade on.  Just moments ago I went outside to start the tractor.  I had 2 goals in mind.  First, I wanted to see if the tractor would even start as it sits outside and is covered in about an inch of sleet.  Secondly, I wanted to run the engine to generate some heat to make starting that much easier later today.

The results:  after the glow plugs turned off I turned the key, the engine chugged twice and roared to life.  I am thinking I will still get the block heater ($65 is not much to lose) but having a nicely topped off battery seems to do the trick.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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UPDATE: WOW!  What a difference the block heater makes!

I installed the block heater yesterday, and starting the tractor outside at first was hard.  First, it was about 10 degrees and the battery was not quite up to it again.  I had to run the charger for 2 hours before it would start, after which I took it to my mechanic neighbor and it took about an hour of us not really working too fast.  I drove the tractor back to my house and parked right by the garage.

This morning the temperature was about zero and I wanted to get the tractor moved into the garage but first I needed some small items from the hardware store and I had to organize our 3rd stall for the tractor to fit.  I plugged in the block heater before I left to go to the store and then I got to cleaning the garage—overall a 2 hour process with the block heater plugged in.  

When I went to start—with a cold battery that might need replacing—the engine turned over once before roaring to life!  This was better than a fresh charge on a 20 degree day!

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who encouraged me to go ahead and get the block heater after all.  It made a huge difference this morning.

Eric
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Excellent! Glad it worked out well.

Is this a frost plug (inserts into the engine block) or a circulating heater that ties into the coolant hoses?
 
Eric Hanson
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Douglas,

It screws into the lower part of the coolant jacket.

Eric
 
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