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September 21, 2004
Diesel Engines Make The Grade In Winter

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Jim Rink (313) 336-1513


With the resurgence of high fuel prices, Americans are turning in ever-larger numbers to diesel-powered vehicles as a fuel-efficient alternative. Once regarded as noisy, smelly and difficult to start in the winter, diesel engines have come a long way.

According to a 2003 forecast by J.D. Power-LMC, diesel-powered cars and light trucks are expected to comprise 28 percent of global light-vehicle sales by 2015, with a significant increase of diesel sales anticipated in North America.

To assist motorists who currently own a diesel vehicle (and those who are considering the purchase of a diesel vehicle), AAA offers the following winter maintenance tips:

Diesel vehicles don’t have spark plugs, but they do have glow plugs, which are designed to heat the interior of the car’s cylinders to aid ignition in cold weather. The amount of time required for proper warming varies. On cold winter nights, up to 10 seconds is typical. Note: switch the key to the “on” position and wait for the glow plug lamp to go out before starting the vehicle.

Diesel vehicles have batteries and are susceptible to the same reduced cranking power that is experienced by conventional gasoline-powered vehicles during cold weather. Take your diesel car to an AAA-Approved Auto Repair (AAR) facility for a battery-load test. Better yet, take advantage of AAA Michigan’s free Winter Car Care inspection during the month of October and have your vehicle checked for its winter hardiness. For an AAR location near you, log on to www.aaa.com and click on Autos & Driving.

Most oil companies in the U.S. provide winterized diesel fuel to retail diesel outlets. This should be sufficient to start your vehicle in all but the most severe cold conditions. In the case of extreme cold (-10 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit), anti-gel additives are available at most truck stops and auto parts stores. Note: do not use regular gasoline or kerosene as a substitute


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