Can you start a Diesel engine without electricity?


That is brilliant! And no spark needed, right?


Could you provide a link to one? If you remove the glow plug, you have a hole in the cylinder head and cannot build compression.


Here you go:


No spark, no glow pugs.


A diesel doesn’t need a spark - just warm enough metal to vaporize some of the diesel fuel. Nice video.


Ingenious, note that he used a propane torch in the intake manifold (not cylinder glow plug hole). The “glow plug” he pulls out is more accurately a “starting igniter for fuel sprayed into the intake manifold.” He is heating the intake air upstream of the intake valves to increase starting compression.


I don’t think the heated air would increase compression at all; it would allow some of the diesel fuel to evaporate (vaporize) and thus more readily combust once compressed in the cylinders.


If the ambient temperature is high enough, you don’t need glow plugs at all to start a diesel IF you can bump start it. I.e. push it fast enough to pop the clutch to start it. Glow plugs are used to warm the combustion chamber when its cold outside so the compression will ignite the fuel. I don’t think a propane torch through the glow plug hole would hurt anything. Not sure it would start it in cold weather either… A little shot of starter fluid might work better.

A '46 Cummins would have a mechanical fuel injection so as long as there is prime (fuel in the injection system) it should start without electricity of any kind.


I have driven tractor trailers with diesel engines with air starters. Any truck with air brakes has tanks that hold air for the brakes. That air can be used to power a starter and a lot of trucks had air windshield wipers also. A diesel engine with an engine driven fuel pump has no need for electricity. I don’t think any of this came on a Power Wagon though.


On an old Case diesel tractor a T handle in the dash was pulled to operate a pressure relief valve in the pump to shut it down. But I couldn’t imagine hand cranking that 6 cylinder engine. A smaller 4 cylinder gasoline Case could be hand cranked and with a shot of ether I could get it started and I weighed less than 150 pounds back then.

And hand cranking a diesel after heating the glow plugs would be a real arm breaking project. After pre-heating the engine would need to be cranked much faster than anyone could do by hand since the pre-heated combustion chamber would ignite as soon as the injector opened and they are timed at before TDC as I recall.


Is it possible to push start a diesel, coast downhill, pop the clutch? If that would work, but it the ambient temp was too cold, to start the engine w/o working glow plugs , build a big fire, heat up some rocks, then park the truck over the fire after the flames subsided. If you had some gasoline, putting a little of that in each cylinder via the spark plug holes might help too. Might work.


So, if the 1946 Power Wagon is pointed downhill a good ways, it could be started by coasting and popping the clutch? And if it’s cold out, first heat up the intake manifold with some kind of fire? I’m thinking semi-primitive conditions - no propane torch, maybe a candle or a can of Sterno.


One of the posters here said they heated up their engine enough to get it to start by building a fire with newspapers in the engine compartment sometimes … … lol … not recommending this mind you :slight_smile:


Thanks @Mustangman, sounds like I have a workable option.


Thanks for the clairifivstion @insightful


The engine in the video was started with an electric starter motor, the propane torch only add heat before starting because of that particular engine won’t start at near freezing temperatures.

It seems the same conclusion has been reached as in the other discussion, older diesel engines with mechanical fuel injection can be started with down hill momentum turning the engine.

I don’t believe Cummins supplied engines for the Dodge trucks in the 1940’s so this engine may have been taken from a 1980’s or '90’s truck?


Tom Clancy did his own research for stories much more complicated than this persons science fiction book and after 4 years he still has not found what he needs. I almost wonder if this is not of case of leg pulling.


@VOLVO_V70 I’m sorry I’m not writing fast enough for you or meet your research standards. Not sure why you’ve decided to troll this thread but all the best to you.

Everyone, I really appreciate the intel. Very helpful and motivating - just rewrote the first chapter. I promise to share the book with all of you, even the skeptics. I can’t say when, a job and family often take precedence.



If you use any of my input an autographed copy please :globe_with_meridians: