Time to Stock Up on Batteries!
Summer is over, leaves are falling, and so is the temperature. Winter cold brings a unique set of problems for diesels. Trucks that may have been running fine in the summer months might actually start showing symptoms as the weather gets colder, especially if you’re in an area that gets below freezing. We talked to Mike Haller, a mechanic at Haller’s Repair in Cheyenne, Wyoming to get an idea of some of the more common cold-weather problems with diesels of all years shapes and sizes.
“We must have done 10 batteries on trucks just in the past week,” commented Mike. Batteries, electrical wires, and connections don’t like the cold at all, as lower temperatures increase the amount of resistance in the entire electrical system. Add in the fact that diesels can be harder to start in the winter due to a cold engine, and pretty soon you’ve got a no-start. Replacing a battery that is low on voltage or doesn’t have enough cranking amps is a very good first step in diagnosing other electrical and engine problems.
Both 7.3L and 6.0L engines have their own unique set of problems due to the cold. Provided there are still 7.3s running in your area, you will start to see many with glow plug issues, as well as issues surrounding the wiring and relays of the entire system. There can also be 6.0L issues that will arise due to the cold, mainly due to hard starting. Having injector, harness, or other fuel-related issues will be much more noticeable with a weak battery and weak FICM voltage.
Although it’s an issue on any Cummins from 2003 to 2012 (and some Ram vehicles all the way up to 2014), the Cummins battery charging issue is perhaps the most dangerous problem involving electricity on any of the new trucks. “Dodge Ram pickups of these years use a lead battery terminal which can corrode internally end result in an inconsistent voltage reading,” says Mike. The computer thanks that the batteries aren’t charging evenly or correctly, so it will start cranking up the amps and actually can overcharge the battery until it explodes! Having an exploding battery is bad enough, but this type of problem can result in years of headaches as the battery acid eats through various engine compartment structures such as wiring harnesses. Especially if a customer needs a new battery anyways, this is a very good time to replace all of the wiring that goes along with it.
The GM Duramax diesel engine has been around for a long, long time, and was one of the most advanced diesel engines when it was introduced in 2001. Years and Decades of improvement since then have made for a pretty reliable engine, although it still can have the same battery issues as everything else. There are some problems such as leaks in the fuel filter housing (allowing air to get in) that can become worse as it gets colder and as gaskets shrink. Out of all of The Big Three, Duramax’s probably have the least amount of cold related issues.
If we had any advice as shops go into the winter, it would be to stock up on heaters for the shop, wiring, and batteries. The batteries should be at least 800 CCA but 900 to 1,000 CCA is better, especially at temperatures below freezing. Winter is coming, but don’t worry……be prepared.