​Diesel Fuel Winterization Tips for Cold Weather Operations

Homer Hogg
December 2019

Cold weather is tough on trucks and not kind to diesel fuel. A combination of fuel system maintenance, switching to a winterized diesel and the right additives can help protect your equipment and your productivity during the coldest months of the year.

Cold Weather Additives

Shop shelves are full of different additives, but what exactly do they do? Fuel additives became more relevant after the EPA issued new standards to improve air quality in 2006, requiring the petroleum industry to produce a cleaner burning diesel fuel known as Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD).

The most commonly used additives are designed to decrease cold-weather gelling, but additives are used year-round for many reasons. Fuel additives can improve fuel efficiency, enhance lubricity and help combat bacteria that thrive in fuel tanks.

While the switch to ULSD fuel has proven to reduce harmful emissions significantly, it often leads to fuel gelling during the colder months and has increased the number of shop visits we’ve seen related to damaged parts of the fuel system.

Diesel fuel gels up in cold temperatures because it contains paraffin wax, which is designed to improve fuel viscosity and lubrication. When temperatures fall, paraffin wax thickens, in some cases so much that it clogs fuel filters or solidifies to the point where it will no longer flow.

So how can you help prevent your fuel from gelling this winter? First, it’s important to understand the fuel you’re pumping into your tanks. Is that fuel already treated for the climate you’re headed towards? If not, adding a winter fuel additive to your maintenance routine is the easiest way to prevent fuel gelling.

Winter fuel additives can help prevent paraffin wax crystals from plugging your fuel filters at low temperatures. They can also help improve cold engine starts and prevent harmful deposits from clogging your fuel injectors.

Additional Maintenance Tips to Optimize Cold Weather Operations

Contaminated fuel filters will clog and trap fuel, which can quickly put your vehicle out-of-service. Invest in a new fuel filter to help prevent this from slowing down your deliveries.

Water contamination is one of the biggest enemies of diesel-fueled equipment, especially during winter when the temperatures drop. Whether it enters through poorly fitting caps or condensation in the storage tanks, any extra moisture will promote bacteria growth, which can corrode injectors, clog filters and do other damage to your fuel system.

Be sure to check your water separators daily and drain any water buildup immediately. It’s also a good idea to get your fuel tanks cleaned to help prevent any contamination in the bottom of the tanks from reaching the engine and/or clogging your fuel filters.

Check your fuel caps to ensure they are secure and fit tightly, as this is a common way moisture enters the fuel system and can subsequently damage the equipment.

Block heaters can be a life saver in frigid temperatures. Invest in a block heater if you plan to park your vehicle overnight in an extremely cold climate. More importantly, test your block heater before you head out on your next route to ensure it’s working properly.

For more maintenance tips to help you roll through winter, stop into a TA Truck Service shop and speak to one of our expert technicians. You can also visit www.ta-petro.com/winterizeddiesel to see our 2019 treatment zone map and a list of TA, Petro and TA Express locations that offer winterized diesel.