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Starting fluid


Alpo

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My car won't start, so I get my can of ether. I can either spray it in the horn on my air cleaner, or I can take the entire air cleaner off and spray it straight into the carburetor.

 

But new cars don't have carburetors, right? They've got fuel injection.

 

You must still be able to use this stuff on new cars, otherwise they wouldn't still be making it.

 

So how do you use it on a new car with fuel injection? Or for that matter on an old car with fuel injection?

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10 minutes ago, Alpo said:

You must still be able to use this stuff on new cars, otherwise they wouldn't still be making it.

 

There are still a lot of cars out there that have carburetors.

 

I've been told that you DO NOT!!!! use it in fuel injection engines.

2 minutes ago, Wallaby Jack, SASS #44062 said:

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Is that a Scottish brand?

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It still needs air, so anything sprayed into the air intake will eventually get to the combustion chamber, BUT... why would you ever use starting fluid on an injected engine? If the injectors are working, fuel is getting into the combustion chamber and starting fluid won't accomplish anything more. If the injectors aren't working, the fluid won't accomplish anything... unless someone rides on top of the engine and keeps spraying the stuff into the intake until you get to where you're going. Seems I read somewhere that starting fluid in injected gas engines with turbos and intercoolers is a bad combination...?

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I did not know either of that - that starting fluid was a bad thing on fuel injected engines, or that they still made cars with carburetors. I thought it had been fuel injection only for the last decade or more.

 

That "start ya bastard" is Australian.

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Starting Fluid is just that!!  It’s for helping to start engines under extremely adverse conditions.  
 

Extreme cold is the most common factor creating the need for such measures.

 

It should not be used on engines that are in good shape or engines that have been running or are warmed up!

 

While not, (and never) recommended for high compression gasoline engines or engines equipped with turbochargers, superchargers, or that are electronically fuel injected, starting fluid can safely be used by experienced, knowledgeable automotive technicians when those extreme conditions call for it.

 

I prefer to use other means and resources for the purpose of starting stubborn vehicles. I won’t discuss those here because I don’t want anyone to try the sort of things that I am comfortable doing because I don’t know what experience others might have.

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The phone company mechanics used silicone to start stubborn diesels in the cold. Said either could cause a vapor lock.

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 No reason not to use ether to start a fuel injected gas engine. I give a small (small!) shot at the air intake. Carbureted engines needed larger shots. But beyond doing it to at part of diagnostics, I would not do it routinely. A gas engine needs air, fuel, and spark (properly timed). If a shot of either makes it fire off for a moment, then the engine has air and spark. Investigate the fuel pump.

 

Separate possibility would be the engine you ran last summer and parked, and now you try to start it in the dead of winter (or vice versa). A momentary fire-off might be enough for the computer to sort out the seasonal change and run fine again.

 

3 hours ago, Eyesa Horg said:

The phone company mechanics used silicone to start stubborn diesels in the cold. Said either could cause a vapor lock.

Unless poured in as a liquid, ether will not cause vapor lock. The problem with ether and diesel engines is diesels have glow plugs And the ether can ignite on the intake stroke rather than the compression stroke, or very early in the compression stroke. This breaks things, it breaks expensive things. It breaks them really bad.

 

There are limited exceptions where ether can be used to start a diesel (it can) but consider it expert mode. If the glow plugs have even a remote chance of working, do not use ether on a diesel engine.

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7 hours ago, Eyesa Horg said:

The phone company mechanics used silicone to start stubborn diesels in the cold. Said either could cause a vapor lock.

Vapor lock happens in gasoline engines due to the low flash point <100F. diesel fuels have flash point near 150F or above (low aromatic diesel, biodiesel and HVO).  Spraying silicone into a diesel's intake because of its high flash point means it will be liquid in the combustion chamber which will reduce the combustion chamber volume thereby increasing the compression chamber more than the unignited diesel that has been purged through the exhaust valve(s).  When the pressure & temperature is high enough for compression ignition of the air fuel mixture the peak cylinder pressure could exceed the pressure the cylinder head to cylinder max. clamping force.  The head bolts or studs will stretch enough to allow combustion gasses to vent to water jacket & cut the head gasket.

They still make ether injection systems for diesel engines both mechanically operated & electric operated.  Even with functioning glow plugs or air intake heaters.  In

arctic climates glow plugs & ind intake air heaters aren't good enough to start a COLD1 diesel.  That is why in those conditions engines will be left running, wasting fuel.  It is better to heat the engines coolant to at least 70F at the cylinder head(s).  If electricity in available use electric heat(s) either inserted in the engine cooling jacket or external forced circulation heater.  Without electricity use diesel* fired or propane fired heater.  Diesel fired are only available in sizes that aren't overkill for <20 liter engines..

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i think there is still gas line freeze to contend with - not uncommon to have water in the gas these days and the alcohol allows it to stay within usable fuel , if that occurs you just lost the fuel third of your equation 

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7 hours ago, watab kid said:

i think there is still gas line freeze to contend with - not uncommon to have water in the gas these days and the alcohol allows it to stay within usable fuel , if that occurs you just lost the fuel third of your equation 


And you’re going NOWHERE until it thaws!!

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Spraying ether into a throttle body on the wife's camaro a few years ago confirmed that the in the tank fuel pump had went out.  The car would start and run for a few seconds, indicating it was a fuel delivery issue that kept it from running.  $400 later, the issue was resolved.  $75 for the fuel pump, $325 to drop the fuel tank and replace it.

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Well, not all diesels have glow plugs. Some don’t  even have block or intake heaters.
I had an old CAT engine without anything. I never had an International with glow plugs, just block heaters and the Internationals would fire right up down to about 10-15 degrees, no problem, even with the block heater unplugged. I think that block heaters may have as much to do with oil flow as it does starting temperature. Not a mechanic so can’t say.

 

But we only get a few days a year of sub freezing cold here in Georgia. So, that old CAT 3208 didn’t have glow plugs or block heater nor an intake heater. I’d have to stick a jet heater under the engine for 15-20 minutes if I absolutely needed it. That truck is long gone.


I’ve got a crane I’m about to sell with a CAT 3126 in it. Real cold natured. It has a block heater and intake heater. It’s not cranking below freezing unless plugged in all night- even after the overhaul. If it wasn’t plugged in,  and it won’t start, the jet heater comes out. My understanding is the intake heater is not for starting, per se. It will start without it, but I believe it’s a CAT thing to get the intake air temperature up pre start up whether the engine is cold or warm. But I don’t know. Hot or cold, it cycles on and off the same amount of time.

 

I had an old GMC diesel from 96,  

If it got below 40 degrees it did not want to crank. Decent running engine. Not much power, but aside from fuel system o-rings, seals and electrical ran great once all that was resolved.  But if it was cold, jet heater came out.

 

Back to ether,  you see the recurring jet heater theme- I don’t use ether as a crutch if it’s simply a matter of being cold and not wanting to start. Diesels are meant to run on diesel, not ether. However, I do keep it around to troubleshoot or get an engine to FIRE OFF ( and only that!), that may have lost it’s fuel prime.
 

If it’s a cold issue, I use a jet heater, if I forgot to plug the block heater in. NOT ETHER.
In the event I surmise that I have lost fuel prime (o-ring or fuel line seal failure somewhere letting air in the fuel system), more often than not it’s on a sub-freezing day where the contraction is most great. Quick shot of ether in air filter, truck fires off, keeps running once diesel reprimes and away I go.  I know I have a small problem in a seal or oring somewhere. And it may be difficult to find. And likely will go away with warm temperatures.


Ether will get the vehicle started if the fuel system only has a little air in the fuel lines and everything will generally reprime immediately . In an extreme case, ether will fire it off but engine won’t run on its own, and you end up bleeding the fuel lines and injectors individually- while looking for the seal or oring that failed. Older trucks with aged HUEI/HPOP systems seem to be the worst as there are a multitude of o-rings seals, etc that can fail. These can be time consuming to find and resolve.

God bless the old mechanical diesels.

 

Im not a diesel mechanic, so my knowledge and experience is limited. I’m not taking too many chances with ether on an expensive engine.

Edited by Dirty Dan Dawkins
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3 hours ago, LawMan Mark, SASS #57095L said:

Spraying ether into a throttle body on the wife's camaro a few years ago confirmed that the in the tank fuel pump had went out.  The car would start and run for a few seconds, indicating it was a fuel delivery issue that kept it from running.  $400 later, the issue was resolved.  $75 for the fuel pump, $325 to drop the fuel tank and replace it.

 

That would be the deal of the decade around here.:(

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11 hours ago, watab kid said:

i think there is still gas line freeze to contend with - not uncommon to have water in the gas these days and the alcohol allows it to stay within usable fuel , if that occurs you just lost the fuel third of your equation 

Easily avoided by keeping the tank full with gasoline.  

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13 hours ago, J.D. Daily said:

Vapor lock happens in gasoline engines due to the low flash point <100F. diesel fuels have flash point near 150F or above (low aromatic diesel, biodiesel and HVO).  Spraying silicone into a diesel's intake because of its high flash point means it will be liquid in the combustion chamber which will reduce the combustion chamber volume thereby increasing the compression chamber more than the unignited diesel that has been purged through the exhaust valve(s).  When the pressure & temperature is high enough for compression ignition of the air fuel mixture the peak cylinder pressure could exceed the pressure the cylinder head to cylinder max. clamping force.  The head bolts or studs will stretch enough to allow combustion gasses to vent to water jacket & cut the head gasket.

They still make ether injection systems for diesel engines both mechanically operated & electric operated.  Even with functioning glow plugs or air intake heaters.  In

arctic climates glow plugs & ind intake air heaters aren't good enough to start a COLD1 diesel.  That is why in those conditions engines will be left running, wasting fuel.  It is better to heat the engines coolant to at least 70F at the cylinder head(s).  If electricity in available use electric heat(s) either inserted in the engine cooling jacket or external forced circulation heater.  Without electricity use diesel* fired or propane fired heater.  Diesel fired are only available in sizes that aren't overkill for <20 liter engines..

Flash point is the temperature where the liquid has evaporate at a level which introduces vapor in sufficient volume to the atmosphere to support ignition. Regular no lead gasoline fits into the range of -45 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit.   Premium unleaded is somewhat higher at - 40 to -31 F. Number #2 diesel flashpoint is in a range of 145 to 180 F.  This is why you can crank a gas engine and it will fire in cold weather versus having to let the glow plug warm the cylinder before you crank a diesel to fire it up.

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12 minutes ago, Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580 said:

Starting fluid makes good wasp spray too. Kills 'em dead on the spot!

90+% isopropyl alcohol kills paper wasps within a couple minutes, and is cheaper than ether. Have a spray bottle of it on the screen porch for the strays that get in.

 

But I have no objection to ether in this application.

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9 hours ago, Cypress Sun said:

 

That would be the deal of the decade around here.:(

Was almost a decade ago.  I'm sure it's more now.

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Starting fluid is so volatile and bad for your engine. 

WD40 is a much better option. 

Just sayin. 

Rooster 

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In lieu of ether, a little spray carburetor cleaner is a fairly safe solution to a cold or low fuel starting problem.  Way less volatile and it quickly evaporates so it’s not as likely to puddle and support flame.

 

For cold and low fuel issues on diesel engines, a rag with a little gasoline on it, held near the intake will usually get it to fire off and will keep it running until fuel pressure returns.  Keep a good hold on the rag to prevent the engine from sucking it into the intake or you’ll be into an extensive teardown!

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On 12/9/2023 at 12:45 PM, sassnetguy50 said:

Starting fluid can help get an engine started in extreme cold.  Fuel injection is only as good as the software and components that run it.  

 

Those same components are going to enrichen the mixture a LOT when it's extremely cold.

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33 minutes ago, Grass Range said:

One of my diesel tractors has a place to mount a can of starting fluid on the side of the block so all I have to do is push a button and it sprays into the air intake. Very helpful in starting


Most of those were dealer installed, (usually aftermarket) and came with warning decals stating that they were NOT to be used when the glow plugs were activated.

 

I have seen a few that were factory installed. They came with the same warning.

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