Diesel Fuel Gelling Stalls Trucks as Temps Drop

January 08, 2014

Photo via Elliot Plack/Flickr.
Photo via Elliot Plack/Flickr.

Fleet managers overseeing snowplows and diesel trucks in several states reported fuel gelling as a result of frigid temperatures in the Midwest and eastern U.S.

Vehicles that run on diesel fuel are susceptible in frigid temperatures, because the paraffin in the fuel hardens, coating the engine filter, and preventing fuel from flowing.

In Franklin County, Pa., diesel-powered trucks and snowplows were given a fuel additive as well as the winter blend of thinner diesel fuel, reports Public Opinion News.

"Trucks coming from the south that don't have treated diesel fuel could have a problem," said David Rock, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's manager for Franklin County.

The Missouri Department of Transportation reported a few trucks out of service due to fuel gelling in Springfield, reports KSMU. The agency's Gary Shisler told KSMU that diesel fuel had gelled in storage tanks at the MoDOT garage, which has 300 trucks and snowplows that run on diesel fuel.

In Dent County, Mo., cold temperatures caused fuel gelling in county graders and other road equipment. The computers in the graders also failed to work, reports the Salem News.


  1. 1. Tim [ January 09, 2014 @ 10:53AM ]

    A driver who stays on top of things should have been prepared for frigid weather. That means you take a proactive approach to fuel gelling issues vs.a reactive approach. Simply put, add anti-gelling chemicals to your fuel tanks BEFORE you get into frigid situations.

  2. 2. Joseph [ January 09, 2014 @ 01:20PM ]

    That used to be a huge problem but given low sulphur fuels one would think they'd also be low paraffin, at least as good as the old #1 that replaced #2 in the Fall.

  3. 3. JP [ January 12, 2014 @ 02:50PM ]

    Thinking ahead is a Big part of not having problems with this. Also be aware that Bio-diesel is a BIG part of the problem too. Bio-diesel starts to thicken already at only 39 degrees. In the past you could run number 2 diesel with an additive down to about 5-10 below zero before having to put number 1 fuel in. Now because of bio-diesel that is no longer the case. Especially if your truck sits outside overnight parked. I live in Minnesota and the State of MN passed a law that diesel fuel (#2), has to have bio in it year around. So now if temps get down to zero or less you better be putting in some number 1 fuel or expect problems. Mn used to mandate bio in the number 1 fuel even up until 2 years ago when there were so many problems with fuel gelling even with number 1 fuel. So, in the illustrious state of MN the ONLY fuel you can buy here without bio in it is number one. There are alot of MN based companies that buy the majority of their fuel out of state in the winter months to totally get away from the bio-diesel. Bio diesel in the winter months is nothing but headaches and it costs us more by having to dilute it with number 1 fuel. I see ALOT of out of state trucks here having problems in the winter months because of this. But we all know state decision makers are never wrong. When I buy fuel out of state I don't have these problems. When I buy fuel in MN I really have to stay on top of the cold weather fuel management issues.

  4. 4. Bob [ January 14, 2014 @ 01:30PM ]

    I don't buy the "blame the biodiesel" argument. Tim is right, ANY diesel driver/owner/fleet manager has to prepare for temperatures like this in Minnesota, so having the right winter blend is important. I can tell you that plenty of people are using B5 with no trouble at all, and MN will move to B10 this summer, with B5 in the winter months.

  5. 5. JR [ January 15, 2014 @ 01:36PM ]

    Permanent and economical solution is to install a fuel warmer either in the fuel line or fuel tank. They've been around for 25 years and do the job.

  6. 6. Rod Roc [ January 15, 2014 @ 02:52PM ]

    Interesting news. I had no idea that this was happening and that some fleets were having problems with their diesel.


  7. 7. DOP [ January 22, 2014 @ 12:55PM ]

    Using "winterized diesel" and supplement is the only real insurance against jell up! If your truck sits for any length of time in the below zero weather. You should also have the engine heater plugged in to insure a trouble free start.

  8. 8. Rich [ February 24, 2015 @ 05:39AM ]

    Additives are not the answer. DAVCO offers heating solutions to prevent cold weather gelling of diesel fuels. Ask any major fleet in the northern states and they will say DAVCO is the way to go.


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