Trouble Starting Diesel Truck in Cold Weather

Q. I have a 1988 Ford E350 Diesel, and I have trouble starting it now that it is really cold. I have the "van" plugged in every night, so I don't think the block heater is working, or maybe it is disconnected. (The van is an ambulance, so the wiring is not normal.) Where is the heater and how can I tell if it is working? If it is not working, how do you replace it? Or are my glow plugs the problem? How do I know when I should replace glow plugs?

A. It's possible that the problem is the glow plug igniter. This is what turns on the glow plugs. Check with a test lamp on the main terminals, with key on engine off. They both should have power. If not, that may be a bad sign. The glow plug igniter is usually mounted on the intake on the right side of the front, or around the center rear. To check the block heater, leave it plugged in, and in the morning open the radiator and see if coolant is warm. You may be able to just feel the upper radiator hose also.

With an older E350 Diesel model, it is also likely that the problem is with the cord; either the plug or the connection at the block heater may have failed. So take a look at those first. If you need to replace them, cords can be bought separately from the block heater.

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