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Old 06-09-2001, 08:57 AM
Johnson Chan
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Hello, Last night someone told me that if you use starting fluid on a diesel, you will blow the top part of your engine (if not more).

I have heard various versions. It does make sence with the high compression of a diesel engine, but some people told me that 18-wheelers use starting fluid to get there riggs started in the winter, then I hear you should use WD-40 as starting fluid on a diesel.

Does starting fluid really cause damage to a diesel engine?

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Old 06-10-2001, 09:56 PM
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I have seen and heard that started fluid in a deisel is a very bad thing. When the starter fluid fires it is a "wild" burn and detonates manytimes in the chamber rather than a "controlled" burn from fuel. This "wild" burn caused the pistons to slap all over many times per fire and valve heads can also pop off in the process. I liken starting fluid and deisels to Russian Roulette; you may not hear a pop...but if you do it is dynamic.

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Old 06-11-2001, 01:16 PM
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As a former agricultural diesl mech, I can tell you that for many International diesels, ether is a must. John Deeres also. The key is, these are non-glow plug engines. With the glow plug motors, it is really not advisable (I am guilty as the rest as far as that goes-refer 300D giving me fits-post). I know of an International 313 Diesel with over 9000 hours that has never been torn down and has been started with ether all its life. Unhooking the glow plugs is a good idea, I don't know exactly how it will affect the top end though.
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Old 06-14-2001, 11:51 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 82
In general it should be used sparingly instead of a long shot. The best way is to have the engine cranking over and have someone give it short shots into the intake. With the Cummins NH230s that I used it on we would start them cranking with the compression released. Then someone would give intermittent shots of ether into the intake while the driver slowly released the compression. Worked like a charm. Of course these were big diesels without glowplugs.
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Old 06-27-2001, 12:58 PM
Posts: n/a
starting fluid

well, i used a rag soaked in petrol held next to the intake
to start a problem-starting diesel. ether has too low of
a flash point, in my opinion...petrol is safer and should
do much less damage to the motor.
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Old 06-27-2001, 03:11 PM
Posts: n/a
I can attest to blowing the engine on a 1980 240D with starting fluid. We ran out of diesel because of a stuck gas tank gauge and a good samaritan tried to help. He took us to the gas station and we got a couple of gallons of diesel. When we returned, we poured the diesel into the tank and tried to start it. No good. We knew nothing about the small pump that was supposed to repressurize the fuel line. After several tries, he (the good samaratian) said, I got quick start! Oh great! We promptly sprayed the intake and heard a series of popping noises. Little did we know that we destroyed two cylinders out of four. Finally, with no luck starting and not realizing what we did, a tow truck picked us up. He showed us how to repressurize the line and believe it or not, it started, but was running very rough. We drove on two cylinders from Ohio to Michigan. Every time we needed to start the car we had to pump that little pump. We then drove back from Michigan to New York. The car actually went over 1000 miles on two cylinders! We had no clue, believe me. Our mechanic then gave us the bad news, two cylinders had a compression ratio of 200 to 225 and the other two were about 15 to 18. That lesson cost me about five grand. So, no do not use starting fluid unless you have money to burn. BTW, there was no reduction in mpg for the trip back to NYC. Absolutely amazing.
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Old 06-27-2001, 03:21 PM
Posts: n/a
That's wicked stuff. I've seen gas engines go up in flames from the uncontrolled burn.
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Old 06-28-2001, 10:06 AM
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Join Date: May 2001
Location: Michigan
Posts: 1,373
Starting fluid

We use it in our big-dog motor coaches which are Detroit diesels. Never tried it in a car and never thought about it until now. Might have to try it once in my Volvo as she is getting very tired and won't start in the winter after 1 hour sit time. The fluid will never get near my 300's however.

'84 300DT 298k (Aubrey's)
'99.5 Jetta TDI IV 251k (Julie's)
'97 Jetta TDI 127k (Amber's)
'97 Jetta TDI 186k (Matt's)
'96 Passat TDI 237k (Don's
'84 300D 211k Mint (Arne- Undergoing Greasecar Conversion)

'82 240D 229k (Matt's - Converted-300DT w/ 4 speed
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Old 06-29-2001, 11:50 AM
Posts: n/a
starting fluid

I have used with excellent results alot-BUT only in very short bursts and with nothing to lose. I only use it on cars that have very low compression and had the engines diagnosed as dead. I do not like starting fluid as you would buy in a can at the auto parts store, to flammable (I had a nice fire in my carburated Lincoln going once). I like WD-40, it is not nearly as flammable and has much less "uneven" combustion. I know the popping sound people are talking about, but the WD is much easier on the diesel. As I mentioned, only as a last resort to get an engine going, that has compression so low that it should no longer run. I have had excellent results, all the diesels I have bought for next to nothing always run, at least enough to properly diagnose the reason for low compression. Again, short bursts only is all it takes, the engine should start firing on one or more cylinders and be good to go. Always have a running vehicle boosting too, there is nothing like a second battery and altenator to help turn the engine over (of course towing works too, but is difficult).
The one time I have used it on a good car was very successful, a poor kid was just expelled from a private school, wanted to get home right away, the 1980 Mercedes 300TD was burried in the snow bank and it was 15 below. Plugged it in and he called the garage next door for a boost. They told him it was hopeless, if the boost didn't get him going nothing would. Well I walked past him and said if the car isn't running when I get back from work, I would guarantee he would be on his way. It was still there, plugged in and not firing at all, just cranking. I hooked up a car to the battery, took of the air cleaner cover and grabbed a can of WD from the maintenace guy. I had the car running immediately, and no terrible sounds from the engine, it just started. The kid had never been able to get the car going when it was below zero and could not believe. All it needed was one cylinder to fire and that sped up the rpms enough to get the rest going.
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Old 06-29-2001, 02:42 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2000
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The main thing is just use short bursts and it help to have it cranking over before you spray it, which usually takes two people. Don't just fill up the intake with a huge dose of it and then fire it off.
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Old 06-29-2001, 02:49 PM
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Location: Saugus, CA USA
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The difference with diesels is that they intake and compress air only, gasers intake and compress the air-fuel mixture which limits the compression ratio due to precombustion. When you use started sprays the engine is now compressing the air-fuel mixture which may be bad but usually not as bad as being stuck. If you use something that fires real easy the engine could run backwards.
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Old 06-29-2001, 10:14 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Posts: 758
Simply Put


Let's put an end to this thread here and now. There is no reasonable cause to use starting fluid in a MB diesel engine, period. I've done it out of my own ignorance when I first got my car and it didn't start but now I know better. The glow plugs do the work for you, and if it doesn't start with all glow plugs working, then your problem is more defined as to not enough compression to build up heat for proper combustion. It will do you more good squirting some oil into the intake manifold then using starting fluid. When the baby don't start and all glow plugs are working and the engine cranks fines, compression is your problem. Squirt oil into the intake manifold as far into the pipe as you can get so the cylinders suck it up quickly and cause a ring sealing effect to raise compression for proper combustion, it will fire up, trust me on this one. If the battery is slow to crank, you can forget the oil, no such luck without proper engine turning. the use of starting fluid just washes down the cylinder walls and removes what oil there was that sealed the rings to the wall, will never start that way. Starting fluid was designed for diesel engines without starting aids such as glow plugs or heating elements.

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Old 06-24-2009, 02:11 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Metro Detroit, Michigan
Posts: 17,360
Answering customer

Proof that the issue/warning has been known for many years, and is not limited to Mercedes.

"Ether", use and abuse. *Flame suit on*
"Ether", use and abuse. *Flame suit on*

Last edited by whunter; 10-27-2010 at 10:56 AM.
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Old 06-24-2009, 11:22 PM
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Out in the Boonies of Hot, Dry, Dusty, Windy Nevada
Posts: 9,585
This should almost be a sticky, especially in the winter months.

I used starting fluid on my Datsun Diesel, I guess the one GP that was working finally called it quits. so I started it with a shot to get it going for a while until I finally got around to replacing the GP`s.

several yrs later we rebuilt the little engine, and one piston had a crack at the wrist pin hole, and some cracks in one of the ring lands.

that stuff does make them rattle and knock.

there were three HP ratings on the OM616...

1) Not much power
2) Even less power
3) Not nearly enough power!! 240D w/auto

Anyone that thinks a 240D is slow drives too fast.

80 240D Naturally Exasperated, 4-Spd 388k DD 150mph spedo 3:58 Diff

We are advised to NOT judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics, but we are encouraged to judge ALL gun owners by the actions of a few lunatics. Funny how that works
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Old 10-27-2010, 05:23 AM
compress ignite's Avatar
Drone aspiring to Serfdom
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: 32(degrees) North by 81(degrees) West
Posts: 5,554
Ether (As a "Starting Aid" in IDI Mercedes engines.)

1.Burns out Glow Plugs. (FAST)
2.It will/can: Damage Bearings,Bend Rods,Crack Pistons,Break Rings,Etc.

Disclaimer: Your Mercedes,Your Pleasure. (DA!)

'84 300SD sold
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