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Starter fluid is what you use to get out of trouble, like in an emergency. If you have to use it all the time, you need to check out your compression or if it is cold, the cold start system, glow plug or what ever. Nearly every modern diesel bigger than a biscuit has a cold start system either fitted or as an option.

Having said that, if you use starting fluid of what ever sort, use as little as possible. No long PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSST! Just a short one of a second or a bit less. A PSSST should get you going.

What you put into the intake goes into the cylinder on the first revolution or two. If it does not fire within the first few revolutions, you have a problem that needs fixing.

The injection pump starts putting diesel fuel in just a bit before top dead center so the air is already compressed. This greatly reduces the tendency of the engine to kick back on the starter and it does not put way too much fuel in on the first stroke.

The starting fluid goes into the cylinder with the air so as soon as the compressed air is hot enough to ignite the fuel, it will fire. This could be considerably before top dead center of the piston stroke. This can cause the engine to kick back and damage the starter and other engine parts. I have seen hand cranked diesels kick back and start in reverse when this was done. Running backwards is a very bad thing for an engine that is not designed for it as the oil pump is trying to suck oil from the bearings instead of pushing it to them, so your oil stays in the sump while the engine is running backwards. Lubrication failure will may just get you before cooling is a problem. :(

So, if you ever hand start your diesel and find it runs making a funny sound with smoke blowing out of the air intake, shut 'err down and try again!

If the engine starts backwards, the hand crank may not disengage and can smite you mightily resulting in serious injuries as it spins past rapidly whacking you. It can also cause significant vibration adding to the strangeness of inverse rotation.

If you flood the intake with liquid or gaseous fuel, the engine may over rev on start until the excess fuel is burned. It us usually easy to tell when this happens as the quick reving and rapid drop in speed is easy to hear. The engine is still cold and the oil has not circulated yet when this happens. This is the worst possible time to be over reving the engine, dry and cold with no load!

Learn to love, understand and treat your diesel right and she will clank, tap, clatter and push you along for a long, long time for just a little fuel and with very little trouble.

Have FUN!
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