Reliable engine starting even in cold temperatures

October 7th, 2015

It’s a well-known fact that electric starter motors can struggle when the temperature drops below zero. So how can you make sure your critical systems start in freezing temperatures? IPU doesn’t have one solution – we have three: hydraulic, air and spring starters.

Engine starting in cold temperatures can be challenging. Cranking an engine is hard work and takes a significant amount of energy. The job is made even harder during cold weather as low temperatures thicken the viscosity of the oil in the crankcase which increases the drag.

The problem is compounded by the poor performance of electric starters at low temperatures. The cold slows down the chemical processes in the battery resulting in fewer amps being available.

We were approached by a marine operator in the United States whose ships regularly work in temperatures of -10°C (14°F). They wanted to be sure that our Maxi and Super Maxi spring starters would be reliable in these conditions.

At our site in West Bromwich, we have a dedicated cold temperature testing facility. This enables the engineers to put our engine starting equipment through its paces in sub-zero temperatures.

In order to replicate operating conditions the team cooled the engine overnight to ensure the entire system reached -10°C. They started the engine using each spring starter separately. After each test, the engine was cooled back down to -10°C. Over a 6 week period, IPU carried out well over 150 tests on the two spring starter models.

The results were incredibly positive and the engine started in every test. The advantage of a spring starter is that it is does not rely on any external energy to recharge it; the operator just winds it up. It is simple to install and simple to operate.

Sub-zero temperatures can affect more than just the engine’s starter motor. While the team were testing the spring starters the fuel began to reach what’s known as the ‘cloud point’. This is the temperature at which wax crystals begin to form in diesel fuel. This thickens the fuel and clogs fuel filters and injectors. Thanks to our expertise in fuel conditioning we were able to circumvent any problems.

A spring starter is not always the most appropriate engine starting solution. In other situations IPU can provide hydraulic and air start systems which are equally unaffected by temperature. Use this link to read some of our case studies where they have been successfully tested in some of the world’s most extreme conditions. From sub-zero temperatures off the Russian coast to the baking heat of the Arabian deserts.

Otherwise, for more information on engine starting in cold temperatures or to talk to us about your specific requirements please contact our engine starting team on +44 (0) 121 511 0460.

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