The arrival of winter. Subzero temperatures across Canada and the United States. Time for a refresher course on how to get your Kubota tractor starting in cold weather. We will assume that you are already using the appropriate cold weather diesel (or the correct additives) to prevent your fuel from gelling.
There are a few things as a Kubota owner that you can do to help yourself when it comes time to start your tractor up in cold weather. They are:
- park your Kubota in a shed or garage
- install and use an engine block heater
- use a fully charged battery
Parking your Kubota
Simply by parking your tractor inside a shed or garage you help keep the wind and cold away from the engine. It is also a lot more comfortable to work in a garage when it comes time to get your tractor to turn over. If you do not have access to a shed or garage, even a treed area that cuts the wind a bit is better than leaving your equipment in the open.
Engine Block Heater
Some Kubotas come equipped with a block heater from the factory, others, like the L175, L185, L1500, L1501, L2000 and so on, do not come equipped with these. The reason being is that the water jacket on these models is too shallow to accomodoate a block heater. Admittedly, it was a manufacturing oversight on Kubota’s part. In either case, it is possible to purchase a magnetic block heater from a local auto parts supplier and attach it to the bottom of the oil pan. It will heat the oil and the warm oil will warm the block and water jacket. Having warm oil also means the engine and starter do not have to fight against thick cold oil during cranking. The magnetic heaters that we use are 1500 watts, substantially more than the 75 watt factory-equipped heaters. Figure on paying around $30-40 for one of these aftermarket heaters.
A battery’s ability to provide full cranking power degrades as the temperature drops. If your battery was not 100% charged or is in poor condition to begin with, the cold will only make that problem more apparent.
Glow Plug Preheat
The glow plugs in your Kubota serve to preheat the combustion chamber so that the diesel fuel will ignite and kick off combustion. After the engine is turning the compression of the engine spontaneously causes the fuel to combust and the glow plugs are no longer heated – they are just used to start this process. To preheat the glow plugs we turn the ignition key counter-clockwise and hold it there for a period of time. In cold weather, we recommend at least 60 seconds of glow plug preheat. Most Kubotas are equipped with a preheat indicator that will light up when the glow plugs are heated.
After preheating the glow plugs for 60-90 seconds, fully depress the gas pedal and begin to crank the engine. If the engine fires but it running choppy or “lumpy”, it is okay to turn the key back to the preheat position to heat those plugs up again. If it is very cold and the battery has lost its effeciency and is having trouble turning the engine over, its a good idea to use the cylinder head decompression knob located on the dashboard (L1-18, L1-20, L1-22, L1-24, L1-26 series are not equipped with this option). This relieves the cylinder head of some of the compression, allowing the weakened battery to turn over the engine a little easier because it has less compression to contend with.
A Word on Ether
Many years ago it may have been common practice to introduce ether into the airbox during cold weather cranking to kick off combustion. This is no longer the case for your Kubota engine. Introducing ether in this manner will seriously damage your engine and shorten its working lifespan. The combustion that results from burning ether is so volatile that a high compression diesel engine will freely race uncontrollably until that fuel is spent – turning the key to the off position or no longer heating the glow plugs will not stop that reaction. Diesel fuel is an oil and lubricates the inside of your engine – a property that an alcohol like ether does not have. Just do not use ether to start your Kubota in cold weather period.
Let it Idle
In cold weather, after your tractor has started, let it stand and run for a good 20 minutes. Adjust the idle up to around 1500-1700 RPM and just let it sit. The reason we do this is so that the heat of the engine dissapates into the transmission, transfer case and gear drives of the tractor. If we went to work right away, the gear oil is so thick that the hydraulics will not work and shifting gears is problematic. A common service task is to repair a shifter fork during a cold weather season – the gear oil is so cold and thick that when the operator grabs the stick to put the tractor into gear, the shifter fork breaks off inside the transmission – costly. Let the tractor warm up for a period of at least 20 minutes when in cold weather.
Taking a Break? Let it Run
Suppose that you’ve warmed up your Kubota, done some work and now want to shut it down to take a break and return 10-15 minutes later to start it up again. In this case, we recommend that you just let your Kubota idle. It will not overheat and at idle it uses very little fuel. Taking a break with the engine off, might mean that you have to let the tractor warm up again for that 20 minute period anyway.
Service Department Vic
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