A black 2022 Chevy Sierra 2500 HD is shown towing an ATV after viewing diesel trucks for sale.

Hot Tips for the Cold Months: Winterizing a Diesel Truck

If you’re out shopping for powerful trucks, you’re likely to find a few diesel trucks for sale among the usual gas-powered options. Diesel engines have plenty of advantages: they tend to be more fuel-efficient, and they have exceptionally high torque ratings, making them great if you’re going to be doing a lot of towing. But if you live in a place where the weather gets cold during the winter months, then you do have to make sure you know how to care for your diesel-powered vehicle.

Freezing temperatures can have bad effects on all kinds of machines, and diesel trucks are no exception. While winter care for a diesel is a little different than a gas-powered vehicle, it shouldn’t turn you away if you’re interested in taking advantage of this alternate fuel source. As long as you know what you’re doing, you can get through even the coldest winter without any issues. So let’s take a look at some tips for keeping your diesel engine in tip-top shape during the cold season.

Why Do Diesel Trucks Need to Be Winterized?

As mentioned earlier, diesel is generally considered more efficient than gasoline. This is because the two fuels have different physical properties. Diesel is less volatile, less flammable, and denser than gasoline. This is great news when it comes to getting high mileage, but it can be a bit of a drawback when winter comes around.

Like any other liquid, both gasoline and diesel can gel into a solid state if it gets cold enough, but it takes colder temperatures to affect gasoline to the point where it becomes a major issue. Since temperatures that cause a noticeable effect on diesel engines occur more often, diesel drivers need to be more aware of proper winter care. However, in cases of extreme weather, all drivers can be affected by fuel and motor oil behaving irregularly.

A bottle of oil is shown being poured into an engine.

Prepare Before the Cold Hits

Before winter comes, there are a few things you can do to get ready. For one thing, get an oil change. Starting the engine in the cold can be hard on the system, and having fresh oil can make things go a lot smoother. This is also a good time to make sure that your truck is using motor oil that’s resistant to freezing since you don’t want your oil to get thick and give your engine’s oil pump a hard time. Stick with a low-viscosity synthetic oil, and you should be good to go. If you’re not sure exactly which type is best, you can consult your owner’s manual since some manufacturers specify an oil weight for cold-weather operation.

You should also make sure that the fuel in your tank is ready for winter before the first frost hits. Because of the nature of diesel’s potential for gelling in cold weather, it’s common practice to use a fuel additive that will lower your overall freezing point. If you’re new to diesel, don’t worry. These additives are readily available at your local fuelling station. The ideal ratio varies from vehicle to vehicle, so you should talk to your trusted technician if you’re not quite sure what’s right for your truck.

Finally, it never hurts to take your truck in for an inspection before winter hits. If there are any underlying issues that you haven’t noticed yet, the cold weather may exacerbate them, and it will definitely make getting out to your service center less convenient. Better to schedule a quick maintenance visit during the fall to make sure you’re in good shape ahead of time.

Keep It Warm Overnight

If possible, you should avoid parking your diesel truck outside overnight. A heated garage is ideal, but even a detached garage or barn will offer some degree of shelter from the cold night air and can help prevent fuel from freezing. This will also save you from having to scrape ice off of your windshield and wipe snow off of the roof and can keep your truck cleaner year-round. If you have to park outdoors, put a cover or tarp over your truck to offer some amount of protection, and park near a wall if you can. Before you start the engine up in the morning, you can use a block heater to help warm things up.

Accessorize for the Occasion

If the weather gets below zero often where you live, it might be worth investing in a winter cover. Since it works by restricting airflow to the engine compartment, which is something that you want to make sure you get just right, it’s best to get one from the original equipment manufacturer rather than taking a risk on third-party parts. You also need to be sure to read the instructions carefully and follow all of the guidelines. While a cover can be very helpful in extreme cold, keeping it on when the weather gets warmer can cause the engine to overheat.

A close up of the fuel gauge on a diesel truck is shown.

Keep the Tank Full

The science here is pretty simple. If you put a shot glass full of water and a full pint glass of water in the freezer at the same time, the shot glass will freeze first every time. The more volume you have, the longer it will take for it to freeze. Following this principle, it’s good practice to keep your tank full during the cold months. Fill up on your way home more often than you usually would, which should be pretty easy. Just be sure to keep an eye on the fuel gauge and try not to let it get under the halfway mark during the winter.

When in Doubt, Ask an Expert

This one goes for all vehicles in all seasons, but it’s especially true of a diesel during the winter. If you notice that your truck is behaving weirdly, take it to your local service center and get it looked at. Winter is certainly the least convenient season to have to deal with a breakdown, so it’s best to catch any issue while it’s still small. Don’t hesitate––as soon as you notice an issue, schedule a service appointment as soon as possible.

Get Ready for the Cold

Taking care of a diesel engine during the winter can seem like a daunting task, but for many truck drivers, it’s worth it in order to take advantage of the many benefits that diesel offers. Overall, diesel engines are more durable than gas engines, so if you can get them through the winter each year, they’ll be with you for the long haul. And since they have fewer components than gas engines, they don’t tend to need as many repairs. While they once had a reputation for being noisy and spewing out thick clouds of exhaust, the technology has come a long way over the years, and modern diesel engines provide a smooth, clean, quiet ride.

If you just keep an eye on the thermometer and follow a few simple measures when the temperature gets cold, then you can enjoy all that diesel has to offer. From mighty towing power to budget-friendly fuel efficiency, there are all kinds of reasons why putting in the effort to take care of your engine is worth it. So give your truck the automotive equivalent of a warm winter coat and a hot bowl of soup, and you can both make it through the winter in comfort and good health.