How to Start a Diesel Truck

Engines that run on gasoline and engines that run on diesel ignite differently. When a spark from a spark plug ignites the fuel in a gas powered engine, it causes the engine to start. Diesel engines, on the other hand, are ignited by the heat produced by compression. In a diesel truck, the fuel and air must heat up sufficiently to produce combustion, which then produces the spark to start the engine. Because heat is required to start a diesel truck, the procedure differs from that of a gas engine. To start a diesel truck, follow these steps.


1. Turn the key to the start position but do not start the engine. The “wait to start” light will illuminate on the dashboard. Do not try to start the engine until the light goes out.

2. Before attempting to start the truck, wait for the glow plugs to heat up. It can take up to 15 seconds to heat the glow plugs. The “wait to start” light will remain illuminated until the glow plugs are ready. The glow plugs will take longer to heat up in cold weather.

Before the cold weather season begins, inspect the glow plugs and intake heater to ensure that your truck will start on cold days. A glow plug is a device with a heating element that heats the air in a diesel truck in order to start it. An intake heater is another method of heating the air. In cold weather, your diesel truck will not start without one of these two parts.

If necessary, replace the batteries. Always keep two good batteries in the truck. Two batteries are used in diesel trucks to start the engine and heat the glow plugs. If the batteries are in poor condition, the extra cranking of the engine to try to start it will damage the glow plugs, flood the engine, and drain the batteries to the point where the engine will not start.

3. Start the engine, but don’t let it run for more than 30 seconds. If the truck does not start within 30 seconds, turn the key off.

4. Warm the glow plugs and try starting the vehicle again. This will necessitate turning the key to the on position and waiting until the “wait to start” light returns.

5. Turn the key to the start position and wait no more than 30 seconds for the engine to start. If the engine does not start, turn the key off and try the following:

Connect the truck to an electrical outlet. A three-prong plug is located under the front bumper or grill area on diesel trucks. Plug the truck into an outlet with an extension cord. The block heater will begin to heat up. When the glow plugs or intake heater fail to function properly, your vehicle will not start because there is no combustion. When the truck is plugged in, the block heater will generate the heat required for combustion, allowing the truck to start.

Allow the truck to be plugged in for at least 2 hours before attempting to restart it. This is how long it will take to heat the coolant in the engine block. If it still won’t start, consult with a diesel mechanic.

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