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The immediate engine damage that can result from ether starting fluid use

WarWagon

Well it hits on 7 of 8...
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Thread starter #1
Some diesel engines use ether to start. The 6.2 and 6.5 IDI engine is not one of them. GM put a nice warning sticker letting you know you may be replacing your 6.2/6.5 diesel engine if you use a starting aid. You have a 10+ HP starter, two batteries, 8 glow plugs, a glow plug controller, and optional block heater all dedicated to starting the cold blooded diesel.

What could possibly go wrong?

TheTruckStop.us members and supporting vendors are dedicated to help you answer just this question. If it isn't starting normally something is wrong that needs to be fixed. No need to put off fixing it and risk the engine damage while putting repairs off.

Unless it's a life and death emergency where 911 won't work and there are no strangers around to help you: avoid ether use. You make the ultimate decision as you are there and we can only second guess you.

If you wish to try it out disable the glow plugs (and/or grid heater on other diesels) first. These can light the ether off in the intake with the flame coming back to the can you are spraying from or shrapnel from the intake blowing up makes the emergency worse.

Unlike a gas engine that spark ignites the ether to sanely get going a diesel uses ether for heat. The ether explodes on the compression stroke attempting to drive the engine backwards, but, generates needed heat to light off the injected diesel fuel mist. At 21:1 compression ether exploding on the compression stroke is likely to cause problems with the light duty IDI we have.

As I am my own warranty station I only use ether on a 6.2 and 6.5 engine I feel I can and will replace. For example to start one that already has a hole in a piston to get it on the car trailer. The pics below are mostly from a single ignorantly abused 599 block 6.2 engine with the melted pics from another engine. Cheap scrap metal parts is why I have it.

First damage area is glow plugs. The working ones tend to overheat and break off. Not a NA show stopper as the engine can still run with the following damage. Turbo's hate debris like this...

splat7.jpg splatdr.jpg
Of course someone uses too much and pistons crack.

crack_piston_a.jpg

3strikes.jpg

Habit forming use example of too much heat. Melted pistons.

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Aside of the known rod bending... The reverse rotation ether explosion can blow the starter clean off the engine. I have broken the reduction gears in a starter myself. No Bondo or JB Weld won't fix this ruined block!

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I do not have pictures of another failure mode: failed head bolts, stretched TTY bolts, stripped out head bolt threads, or known lifting of the head clean off the engine resulting in the minimum of head gasket failure from the ether explosions. Cylinders also can crack or shatter as the 5.7 Olds diesel was known for. I am sure I am lacking some other ether failures...
 
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Will L.

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#2
Hey!!! Although accurate and helpful, you might get people to quit making good videos of expensive exploding engines and people catching themselves on fire from youtube- c'mon man!

I myself am willing to watch any videos of people using starting fluid on any idi engine. They are usually funny and entertaining. So if you do use it, please start the video recording first...
 

THEFERMANATOR

FRANKENBURBAN
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Most of those warning labels say not to use ether/starting fluid with glow plugs, not to not ever use it. Ether can be nasty stuff when improperly used, but it doesn't always cause damage. I still remember when it was common place to have ether injection cold start systems factory installed on diesels. Early 5.9l CUMMINS at one time had them and no grid heaters in non light truck applications. Ether, starting fluid, brake cleaner, and most any other highly volatile chemical with a low flash point can do some serious damage when it comes into contact with a glowing hot piece of anything. As to your pictures of the melted pistons, thats not from ether/starting fluid useage. I've got 5 pistons just like it in mine, and it never seen starting fluid. That kind of damage as well as most of tge hairline fracturing is from hot spots or where un misted diesel hit or sat. Notice that damage is all at the bottom where fuel would sit and puddle, what normally happensis you get an injector that leaks/drips, some fuel dribbles out when the engine is off, it settles at the bottom, then when it starts and that puddled fuel ignites, it burns like acutting torch instead of combusting cleanly, and burns the bottom of the piston crown or causes the cracks from the extra localized heat.
 

THEFERMANATOR

FRANKENBURBAN
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Hey!!! Although accurate and helpful, you might get people to quit making good videos of expensive exploding engines and people catching themselves on fire from youtube- c'mon man!

I myself am willing to watch any videos of people using starting fluid on any idi engine. They are usually funny and entertaining. So if you do use it, please start the video recording first...
Guess I've been lucky, used starting fluid on quite a few idi's successfully. Just always took precautions 1st to make sure the glow plugs and grid heater were disconnected.
 
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#5
IMO to properly use ether on an IDI you need to first disable the glow plugs and then it requires the use of 2 people 1 to crank the engine over and the other to spray. While it is cranking VERY lightly mist some into the intake and as the cranking speed increases from the help of the ether then add another mist and it will gradually speed up till it fires off.
When I first got my plow truck it was flooded with diesel and I couldn't get it to light off. Did that one time and after a HUGE cloud of black smoke it fired up normally after that. My 2 cents
 

WarWagon

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Apparently the first ether injection hole wasn't big enough for the prior owner(s) so a second bigger hole was made and are now plugged with bolts. Notice the engine is missing from the above picture! It's the one that had the melted pistons above aka from the project truck of mine. The CDR hole alone would have been a better choice... Sure there is more than one way to melt a piston. :woot:
 
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Will L.

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#7
I will admit to using starting fluid, but i also admit to cooking my dinner off c4, and having built camfires under an oilpan to get an engine warm enough to start.

I know, not the same, but funny on my home planet. I have used starting fluid on my 6.5s, but for most people they should be told not to do it. I know how to rev up an engine and pour water down the intake to clean the carbon and do no damage justlike I'm sure you do. But most people will end up with a pile of bent rods.
 

THEFERMANATOR

FRANKENBURBAN
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I have 5 matching pistons to your melted ones that never seen the stuff. It's not to say your engine didn't also have bad injectors, hence why they were using the starting fluid to start it in the 1st place. I don't remember mine having that sticker on it, could have sworn it had the same one all the tractors I've ever worked on had where it said not to use it in combination with other starting aides. LOTS of people use starting fluid with no problems, you just have to use some common sense to use it. Some engines just don't want to start even with functioning glow plugs in the cold, but some proper use of starting fluid, and away she goes. Or you know the engine is tired, but you don't have the money to pull it right now, so you cheat to get it popped off cold.
 
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