Diesel Van Heaters at Hi Altitude & Sub Zero Temperatures

Submitted: Thursday, Jun 08, 2017 at 20:09
ThreadID: 135045 Views:4147 Replies:10 FollowUps:29
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I recently purchased & installed a diesel heater to our van as we intended to do more winter trips & stop over’s at bush camps. We gave it a few test runs at home & all went well & we were very happy with the results.
It’s the 2nd week in May & its time put it to the test expecting o/night temperatures of approximately -3 or -4. As we planned to stay 2 nights at Yarrangobilly Village Camp at an altitude of 1080 metres I rang the technical dept of the heater supplier re the diesel waxing up as Alpine Diesel was not yet available in our area & was advised to mix 1 part kero to 10 parts diesel to void waxing.
We arrived at the camp site early after lunch, a lovely tidy area by the Yarrangobilly River, the cleanest long drop loo’s I’ve seen (congratulations to the Local National Parks Dept). Once the sun dropped behind the hill so did the temperature, down to zero by 6 p.m. so cranked up the heater for a comfortable evening. We decided not to let it run all night but to turn it back on as required & attempted this after waking up cold about midnight. The heater refused to fire up & after many attempts we gave up & experienced a rather uncomfortable freezing & sleepless night. Next morning we had no hot or cold water as the pipes had frozen & when I ventured outside once the sun was up & shining (8.30 A.M.) the outside temperature was still only -6 degrees. We decided not to stay the 2nd night & set off at 10.30 hoping all would be ok with the ute fuel but you guessed it, midday before the diesel would pass through the filter.
I can except the ute not running due to low temperatures & lack of “alpine diesel” but am disappointed with the heater as we were lead to believe that the addition of the kero to the heater fuel tank would have solved that issue. The heater is manufactured in Europe & the manual states it is capable of running full time at altitudes of 1500 metres.
I am keen to hear from those that have used a diesel heater at high altitude & sub zero temperatures as to your experiences.
Cheers.

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Reply By: Cruisevessel - Thursday, Jun 08, 2017 at 20:32

Thursday, Jun 08, 2017 at 20:32
I havent used my diesel heater in high alt or been in temps under 5°c.
But when it was 5°c I set my temp to 20°c on the control panel and leave it on all night. It cycles on and off as required and all is well. It uses 280ml of diesel per hour and roughly 1amp per hour, so no concerns for us
AnswerID: 611768

Reply By: Member -Dodger - Thursday, Jun 08, 2017 at 20:34

Thursday, Jun 08, 2017 at 20:34
I also installed a diesel heater and was very carefull to install it as per instructions.
We went to Eildon last winter and set up in their hills and had no problems at all.
Yes I also added kero to the diesel mixing it before adding to the heater tank.
The temps were very minus 4 a couple of nights and the warmest it got over 2 weeks was 9c.
Did you mix the fuel before filling the tank and were your fuel lines encased for protection. I encased the fuel lines inside a rubber tube from Clark Rubber plus the fuel tank is in the boot. Also the pump is encased in foam for the ticking noise which also may have helped.
Hope this helps.
I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

Cheers Dodg.

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Follow Up By: Member - Allan L2 - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 07:38

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 07:38
Thanks Dodger,
No I didn't premix. My tank is a modified 10 ltr jerrycan mounted on the drawbar. I siphoned off 1 litre of diesel & added 1of kero. We drove 260 Km that day (including Mt Talbingo) & thought that would be enough to stir up the diesel/kero mixture. My fuel lines are not insulated as we are regular winter visitors to Lake Eucumbene & have never experienced any problems in the ute when using alpine diesel so didn't consider insulating the line necessary.
Did the foam around the pump quiten it much?
Cheers,
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Follow Up By: Member -Dodger - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 08:40

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 08:40
The insulation was around the fuel line for the diesel heater. And yes foam around the eater pump did quiten it a bit. I now have to listen very closely to hear it as the fan in the unit is more evident. ??????
Because my tug a BT 50 is Common Rail I make sure it has alpine fuel when there is snow about. Because I have installed a fuel manager filter before the oem filter.
I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

Cheers Dodg.

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Reply By: Member - Ross N (NSW) - Thursday, Jun 08, 2017 at 20:35

Thursday, Jun 08, 2017 at 20:35
Hi Allan,
I was told by the supplier only a couple of weeks ago that in cold climates like Europe they use all kero.
I can't vouch for this but may be worth checking
Please post the outcome as at some point I will probably face the same situation
Regards
AnswerID: 611770

Follow Up By: Member - Andrew L1 (SA) - Thursday, Jun 08, 2017 at 22:10

Thursday, Jun 08, 2017 at 22:10
I have been using jet 1-A (kero) with temps -1.5 with no problems
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Follow Up By: mountainman - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 20:56

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 20:56
Jet 1 A kero
where do you get that ?


Cheers
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Follow Up By: Member - Andrew L1 (SA) - Saturday, Jun 10, 2017 at 08:56

Saturday, Jun 10, 2017 at 08:56
I have a brother who is an engineer. When draining fuel tanks the fuel can't be reused.
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Follow Up By: Jarse - Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 18:06

Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 18:06
Yep, you can run them on 100% Jet-A, or ordinary kero (which is 10 times dearer).
Jet-A's freeze point is colder than -43 deg c.

If you live near a regional airport you should be able to get it.
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Reply By: den57 - Thursday, Jun 08, 2017 at 23:26

Thursday, Jun 08, 2017 at 23:26
If you put the kero in the tank and had not run the heater for an hour at least then that would be your problem. The amount of fuel they use is so small, it would take that long for the winterized diesel to go through the pipe to the furnace.
AnswerID: 611771

Follow Up By: Member - Allan L2 - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 07:46

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 07:46
Hi den,
The heater ran for approximately 4 hours earlier that evening with no problems. Can't help but wonder what would have happened if we had let it run all night, maybe it would have just shut down due to waxing or maybe our problem was just a cold start problem.
Cheer,
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Reply By: Athol W1 - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 08:56

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 08:56
Allan
I have been using Diesel heaters (Wabasto) in different vans over the past 8 years and I have found that where the tank is fitted out in the weather then you have to do something about winterising the fuel if the overnight temp is expected to fall below about -2.

As we do a fair bit of moving around, and been camped in such places as the alpine areas, Tumut, Stanthorpe etc and some of these areas do not carry full winter diesel I have found that up to 10% ULP will do the job. I have also found that after using that mix of fuel in Stanthorpe and moving on to a more mild, but still cold at around freezing point, the concentration of ULP had to be reduced (by the addition of diesel fuel) as the heater sensed that the furnace was running too hot and shut down.

With my current van the tank is in the boot, and protected from the worst of the elements, and I have not had any waxing issues as yet.

Unfortunately there is no such thing as a one size fits all when it comes to fuel, as there are also different fuel specs for petrol to suit the season and location, and even with LPG if the bottle gets cold enough you will not get any gas out (as the gas you get from a LPG bottle is as a result of the liquid boiling).

We also run our heater continuously from the time of start up (afternoon or evening as required) until no longer required, or breaking camp, whichever comes first. We have run the heater continuously for a number of days when camped at Ballandean during winter.

Regards
Athol
AnswerID: 611775

Follow Up By: garrycol - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 10:40

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 10:40
The trick when travelling to these areas is to leave home with just enough fuel to get to the areas that carry Alpine Fuel - normally in an area about 200km from the Alpine area from about Anzac Day - then refuel with Alpine Fuel.

Same would apply to other items like diesel heaters.

Yes you need to plan ahead.
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Follow Up By: Member - Allan L2 - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 11:06

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 11:06
"Yes you need to plan ahead"
Alpine Fuel was not yet available, they were expecting a delivery the following week. That is why I added kero to the heater tank & took a chance with the ute. I figured that if the ute failed to start early in the morning we could at least be warm in the van while waiting the ute to thaw. Not so.
Cheers,
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FollowupID: 881824

Follow Up By: Member - Allan L2 - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 11:16

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 11:16
Hi Athol, does your system incorporate a fuel filter? Apparently some do & other don't. I added one to mine & was wondering if that may have contributed to the problem.
Cheers.
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FollowupID: 881825

Follow Up By: garrycol - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 14:01

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 14:01
Alpine fuel has been available since late April so maybe you needed to try another garage or another town.

PPPPPP
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FollowupID: 881828

Follow Up By: Athol W1 - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 16:31

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 16:31
Allan
Yes mine does include a fuel filter.
Regards
Athol
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Reply By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 10:02

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 10:02
Hullo Alan
I increase the proportion of kero for very cold conditions - up to 25% if necessary.
Overnight we turn ours down to 12C and that is more than sufficient to keep the chill off the air.
As to alpine diesel - good luck with that! Mt Hotham use a 50/50 mix of diesel and heating oil in their machinery during winter as alpine diesel just isn't up to the job.
Personally I would never ever mix petrol with diesel in the heater!
Cheers
Andrew
AnswerID: 611777

Follow Up By: Member - Allan L2 - Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 11:43

Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 11:43
Hi Andrew
Thanks for your reply. Looks like I will have to adjust the Kero/Diesel ratio or use some other antiwax additive.
Do you just use normal lighting kero? I was advised to use "Low Odour Kerosene" also does yours have an inline fuel filter?
Cheers
Allan.
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Follow Up By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Tuesday, Jun 13, 2017 at 10:15

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2017 at 10:15
Allan
In summer I don't use kero but before winter I make sure I add some (ordinary) at a minimum of 10% and usually a bit more - say 15%. If going to places that will be very cold, which includes the higher parts of NE NSW, as I said, I go up to 25%
And yes, there is an inline filter. Pickling with the kero seems to keep the filter happy.
I have had the D2 for about 4 years and no issues over that time.
I run it from time to time (when I remember) even when we are not using the van.
Regularly have temps below freezing during winter at home.
Many places no longer stock heating oil as people have done away with their oil heaters. If it was more readily available, I would be using that a lot more, both in the heater and the vehicle.
Cheers
Andrew
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Follow Up By: Member - Allan L2 - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2017 at 08:15

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2017 at 08:15
Thanks again Andrew
I am pleased to hear I can get away with the ordinary kero as the low odour was more difficult to procure & far more expensive but if it was necessary, so be it.
Cheers
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FollowupID: 881930

Reply By: Banjo (WA) - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 11:47

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 11:47
It may not be your issue, but the unit won't fire up unless the battery is fully charged. I was frustrated as to why mine wouldn't start as required then found the battery issue.

Paul
AnswerID: 611781

Follow Up By: Member - Allan L2 - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 12:01

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 12:01
Thanks Paul, battery voltage was ok, around 12.9 V from memory.
Cheers,
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FollowupID: 881826

Follow Up By: Keith B2 - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 16:08

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 16:08
This stuff might be worth considering. I used it when I went down to the snow, but not yet in a diesel heater.
Diesel Ice Breaker
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FollowupID: 881834

Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Saturday, Jun 10, 2017 at 12:36

Saturday, Jun 10, 2017 at 12:36
"but the unit won't fire up unless the battery is fully charged"

That is because of the wiring being too light. Some installers simply coil up the excess length of the supplied lead, cutting that coil out helps a lot or replace the wire with heavier wire.
PeterD
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Follow Up By: Banjo (WA) - Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 06:36

Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 06:36
Peter,

Do you think the Webasto supplied wire is too thin, or is your comment a generic one?

I do have a coil of wire, maybe I'll remove that.

Thanks
Paul
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FollowupID: 881872

Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 09:46

Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 09:46
Banjo, Webasto wiring is just sufficient. A lot depends on whether the installer connects directly to the battery or whether he picks up power elsewhere. That elsewhere could be increasing the voltage drop. Either connecting directly to the battery or shortening the Webasto loom should increase the voltage to the heater.
PeterD
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Follow Up By: Member - Allan L2 - Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 11:57

Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 11:57
Hi Peter,
Have you experienced this issue or is it an assumption made on the gauge & length of the wiring. Mine is an Eberspacher & came with a pre-made plug & play loom. The unit/battery section of the loom was only just long enough and was a heavier gauge than the rest. The only excess loom was to the fuel pump (you could hear the pump working when it failed to start) & the section to the controller.
Do you know the minimum voltage required at the unit during start up for the ignition source to operate?
Cheers,
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Follow Up By: Banjo (WA) - Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 13:09

Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 13:09
Peter,

Thanks for the reply.

I installed my unit and both positive and negative leads go to the battery.

I may look into reducing the length of the wiring supplied by Webasto.
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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 13:24

Sunday, Jun 11, 2017 at 13:24
"Have you experienced this issue or is it an assumption made on the gauge & length of the wiring"

Alan, I have not had any problems but the problem has surfaced on forums in the past. I am just passing on the solutions that worked fro them.

"Do you know the minimum voltage required at the unit during start up for the ignition source to operate?"

No I don't.
PeterD
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Reply By: kgarn - Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 17:15

Friday, Jun 09, 2017 at 17:15
Here is a link to BP which may offer some advice.

http://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp-country/en_au/media/fuel-news/winter-diesel-problems.pdf

Ken
AnswerID: 611788

Reply By: Member - Allan L2 - Monday, Jun 12, 2017 at 18:45

Monday, Jun 12, 2017 at 18:45
Thanks to all those who responded to my post.
After reading your replies, doing some further research on the net & spending some time on phone calls to Caltex & Shell I’m now a little wiser on the subject. Although the o/night temps were lower than expected, I thought with the addition of the kero all would have been ok but not so. I have come to the following conclusion.
I should have added kero at a ratio of 20% (not 10%) or added an anti waxing additive. I am also not convinced that addition of the fuel filter wasn’t a contributing factor. As the diesel thickened it may well have restricted the flow that would have otherwise passed through the pipes in sufficient quantity to supply the heater.
Also of possible interest. I spoke to Caltex technical Dept & they said they had 3 diesel blends, Normal for temps down to zero, Highland for -2 or-3 degrees & Alpine for -5 or -6 degrees. Shell & BP said their Alpine Diesel offered protection down to – 5 or 6. All 3 said extra additives were required for protection below -5/-6.
Don’t take it for granted that Alpine Diesel is available at all towns near Alpine areas. Over the past two days I have enquired at most of the major Servos in Albury & none Stock Alpine Diesel even though Falls Creek Ski Resort is only 125Km & Mt Hotham 160 Km away.
AnswerID: 611857

Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Wednesday, Jun 14, 2017 at 21:17

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2017 at 21:17
Can't help with the diesel heater, but can offer some advice on getting the ute going a bit earlier than midday.

If you have an ample water supply, heat up as much as you can and trickle the very hot water over the injector lines, injectors and filter assemblies. Might need a couple of applications, but it does work.

The other hint is to park your vehicle facing east, so you can lift the bonnet and get some solar energy working for you.

Bob

Seen it all, Done it all.
Can't remember most of it.

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AnswerID: 611912

Follow Up By: Member - Allan L2 - Thursday, Jun 15, 2017 at 17:33

Thursday, Jun 15, 2017 at 17:33
Thanks Bob,
Yes that what we did, by 10.30 the van pipes had thawed sufficient. The D Max's filter is under the bonnet & accessible. The previous tug's was under the floor just in front of the fuel tank. Can't imagine lying on my back under ute throwing hot water upwards hoping some would get on filter LOL.
Heading North next week to your state for some warmth.
Cheers,
1
FollowupID: 881965

Follow Up By: Dean K3 - Thursday, Jun 15, 2017 at 18:16

Thursday, Jun 15, 2017 at 18:16
Didn't think australia got that cold or maybe as a west aussie the occasional-1 is cold enough for me ?

Do remember very cold night out southern cross on way to ayres rock in a tent with mothers dentures frozen solid in the little storage container with teeth chattering away inside

On serious note know in Siberia they literally set a fire under the kamaz trucks to dewax the diesel fuel and start them up and then keep the buggers running -maybe what has to happen next time
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FollowupID: 881967

Follow Up By: Member - Allan L2 - Sunday, Jun 18, 2017 at 07:40

Sunday, Jun 18, 2017 at 07:40
It can get very cold over this side of the country Dean. From Memory I think the record is -23 degrees at Charlotte Pass in the Snowy Mountains in the mid 90's.
-11 is the lowest I've experienced on winter fishing trips in the 80's & 90's. Had petrol powered ute then. Couldn't afford a diesel.

I think I will leave the fire under the truck to the Siberian's. Any how we burnt all our wood the previous night.

Cheers,
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FollowupID: 882011

Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Jun 18, 2017 at 08:37

Sunday, Jun 18, 2017 at 08:37
Dean's mention of a fire under the trucks reminded me of an experience I had on the Barkly Tablelands, in the mid-'70's.

Our stockcamp truck had become bogged in a makeshift creek crossing, and we only had an old Massey-Ferguson 65 to go back and tow it out. Knew, from experience, there was only one or maybe two starts in this old lady, so while we had breakfast I set a small fire under the sump.

Hour or so later, the sump was hot, and the remainder of the engine warm, and it fired up immediately. Had never heard of waxy diesel back then, so maybe the fire helped to stop that too?

Bob

Seen it all, Done it all.
Can't remember most of it.

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Follow Up By: Member - Allan L2 - Sunday, Jun 18, 2017 at 17:38

Sunday, Jun 18, 2017 at 17:38
The Nat Parks guys told me about a guy who lit a fire under a Toyota L C but it got out of control & burnt it out. Luckly no one was hurt. I guess the tractor had a lot less inflammable components to ignite.
1
FollowupID: 882024

Follow Up By: Dean K3 - Sunday, Jun 18, 2017 at 21:16

Sunday, Jun 18, 2017 at 21:16
Those minus temp get me feeling cold just reading them, odd how I always wanted to visit sweden/norway and watch a WRC/snow rally over there -think I better stay where its a lot warmer
0
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