LAST UPDATED: October 7, 2019
Best Starting Fluid for Diesel Engines: Avoid Getting Stranded
These top starting fluids will get your diesel engine up and running in no time
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON October 7, 2019
When it gets really cold outside, it can be challenging to start your diesel engine. That's where starting fuel comes in. The product is intended to help start a stubborn engine quickly and efficiently. As long as you choose the best product for your engine type, you'll be ready to go in no time. Check out our buying guide for the best starting fluid for diesel engines.
CRC's starter fluid improves cold and humid starts on both gasoline and diesel engines and is effective to minus 65 degrees Fahrenheit. It also lubricates upper cylinders and promotes starter life.
When you use this product, it starts your engine up quickly every time, even if it’s an old diesel tractor.
It contains 20 percent ether and isn't recommended for diesel engines with glow plugs because it can damage the engine. It’s also extremely flammable.
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Benefits of Starting Fluid for Diesel Engines
- Start an engine in cold temperatures. It can be really difficult to start some engines when it's bitterly cold outside. The right starter fluid can instantaneously get the engine going with very little effort.
- Start an engine that's been sitting for a long time. If you have a tractor or piece of lawn equipment that you haven't used in a season or two, it may stubbornly refuse to start. Starter fluid can get it going again.
- Avoid wear and tear. If you're having a hard time starting an engine, you may be causing more harm than you realize to components such as the starter and ignition. Starting fluid can prevent this type of damage.
Prestone, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, has been in business since 1927. The company is most known for its antifreeze/coolant, but it also produces brake fluid, power steering fluid, and windshield washer fluid as well as radiator additives and Prestone Premium Starting Fluid.
The chemical company Motor Medic was founded in 1924 and produces a variety of products for brake, cooling, diesel, fuel, oil, power steering, and transmission systems. Its corporate headquarters are in Dallas, Texas. We recommend the Motor Medic Thrust Starting Fluid.
CRC got its start as Corrosion Reaction Consultants in 1958 in Pennsylvania with the production of a multi-purpose lubricant called CRC Corrosion Inhibitor. Today, the company produces over 1,300 items and owns several brands, such as Sta-Lube, SmartWasher, and WELD-AID. One top product is the CRC Jump Starting Fluid with Lubricity.
STA-BIL has been making fuel stabilizers and treatments for more than 60 years and is America's number-one producer of stabilizer. But the company also makes other products, including diesel power boost, two-cycle oil, carb and choke cleaner, and STA-BIL Starting Fluid.
Penray, based in Downers Grove, Illinois, has been in the chemical solutions business for nearly 70 years. It produces over 150 automotive-related products, including cleaners, lubricants, maintenance service kits, and the Penray High Ether Content Starting Fluid.
Texas-based Johnsen's has been making aftermarket car care products since 1928. After getting its start packaging brake fluid, the company expanded and now provides a whole line of automotive fluids, such as Johnsen's Starting Fluid.
Starting Fluid for Diesel Engines Pricing
- $4-$15: Starting fluid is quite affordable, particularly considering how much it costs compared to taking a vehicle, tractor, or garden equipment to a shop for repairs. These aerosol cans all have similar properties, and very little sets one brand apart from another.
The most important factor to consider when choosing a starting fluid is whether it works with the type of engine you have. Vehicles and equipment run on either gasoline or diesel. Most products can be used with gasoline engines, but not all of them are compatible with diesel engines. Also, if your diesel engine has glow plugs, you have to be particularly careful about the starting fluid that you choose.
Most aerosol starting fluids use either ether or diethyl ether as the central combustion agent. The higher the ether content, the easier it is for the fluid to create a spark. In extremely cold or hot conditions, starting fluid with more ether is a better option. However, it is also more volatile, so you need to be cautious when using it.
When mixed with gas, corrosion inhibitors reduce the amount of rust on the metal that makes contact with the starting fluid. Another fuel additive, called upper cylinder lubricant, lubricates the cylinder to prevent rust and corrosion, which in turn minimizes wear. If you keep these areas lubricated and clean, they will perform better. Over time, fluids with these fuel additives can reduce problems with the starter.
- Flooded Engines: As we already noted, you can use starting fluid to get a tractor, vehicle, or other equipment running in cold temps or after it's been sitting for a while. However, if you've made several failed attempts to get the machinery started, you run the risk of flooding the engine. Some starting fluid brands can be used in these circumstances, while others cannot. Make sure to check the instructions.
Best Starting Fluid for Diesel Engines Reviews & Recommendations 2020
This 10-ounce can contains a premium ethyl ether formula for both gasoline and diesel engines. It's designed to start engines in temperatures as low as -65 degrees Fahrenheit as well as flooded engines. The Prestone fluid meets federal low-sulfur content requirements, so it's fine for diesel motor vehicles as well as non-road engines, including lawnmowers and construction equipment.
This fluid aids in starting your vehicle even if it's been sitting for a while. One shot of this starting fluid, and your diesel engine should spring to life. It has a broad range of flammability, which is why it works so well with an engine's ignition. Plus, Prestone has a reputable name in the industry.
There really aren't many downsides with this starting fluid. Some users don't like the smell of the ether, but that's hard to avoid. Also, it doesn't necessarily do a superior job compared to some other options.
The Motor Medic starting fluid is for use in both gas and diesel engines. It works in temperatures as low as -65 degrees Fahrenheit and quickly starts up a diesel engine without glow plugs. The fluid also contains upper cylinder lubricants.
To use this product all you need to do is spray a little bit of it on the engine, and it will ignite almost instantly. The fluid performs exactly as it's supposed to, and it's a good value. It also has a little lube oil mixed in with the ether for engine protection.
However, this starting fluid may not work as well as similar products when used with certain engines, particularly if the vehicle or lawn equipment has been sitting around for a long period of time.
This 11-ounce can of starter fluid is ideal for both cold and humid starts on gasoline and diesel engines. It works effectively in temperatures as low as -65 degrees Fahrenheit. This CRC starting fluid also lubricates upper cylinders and improves starter life.
This product does exactly as it advertises. When you use this starting fluid, it starts your engine up quickly every time, even if it’s an old diesel tractor, a motorcycle, or lawn equipment.
Unfortunately, the formula contains 20 percent ether and isn't good for diesel engines with glow plugs because it can damage the engine. It may cause some damage to this type of diesel engine. It’s also extremely flammable. In addition, if you use it regularly over the years, you may need it every time you start the engine.
The STA-BIL starting fluid comes in a pack of six 11-ounce cans. It ensures a faster start on both gas and diesel engines in temperatures as low as - 65 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be used on buses, cars, construction equipment, lawnmowers, marine engines, motorcycles, tractors, trucks, and snowmobiles.
The product has corrosion inhibitors as well as upper cylinder lubricant. It will not damage catalytic converters or oxygen sensors. If you want to avoid taking your vehicle or weed wacker to the shop for repairs, this stuff will do the trick.
However, like all starting fluids this product is flammable. Also, it may not come with any straws, so you don't have the ability to direct the flow of the fluid. This can cause a big mess.
This 11-ounce can of high ether content starting fluid can be used in gasoline or diesel engines in cars, trucks, tractors, generators, buses, marine engines, outboards, and power mowers. You can quickly and smoothly start your engine in temperatures as low as -70 degrees Fahrenheit.
The fluid has corrosion inhibitors and provides upper cylinder lubrication. It's designed to keep batteries, starters, and engines from wearing down. One benefit with this fluid is that it can start engines that have been sitting for several years.
Like most brands of starting fluid, it’s worth noting that this product contains the chemicals chloroethane, which may cause cancer, and toluene, which may cause birth defects.
Johnsen's starting fluid is composed of a 20 percent ether blend. It's designed for both gasoline and diesel engines and works well in passenger cars, diesel engines, lawn mowers, chainsaws, outboard motors, and fractional horse power engines.
The product performs in temperatures as low as -65 degrees Fahrenheit and quickly starts stubborn engines when it's cold outside. It saves batteries and, like many starter fluids, contains upper cylinder lubricant. The additives in the fluid meet federal low-sulfur content requirements, so it's safe for diesel motor vehicles and non-road engines.
There are few downsides with this product. It contains chemicals that are harmful if ingested just like other brands, and it isn't necessarily superior to its competition. Overall, it works as advertised.
Valvoline's starter fluid is designed for use in gasoline, diesel, and two-cycle engines, including lawn mowers, trimmers, chainsaws, motorcycles, and stalled engines or engines that aren't used very often. It contains a blend of ether and petroleum-based distillates that aid in its operation in subzero temperatures.
This starter fluid can fit diesel injector systems. It promotes a smooth start and minimizes battery drain. Since it ignites at a lower temperature than gasoline, it creates quicker starts as well as decreases the wear on the starter. Overall, it's a great product if you have a stubborn engine that won't run.
Like several of the products on this list, this one has few, if any, downsides. Like other brands, it works as advertised on engines that have a tough time starting. However, there have been a small number of complaints that it may be shipped without the plastic nozzle.
This Polar premium starting fluid comes in a pack of 12 11-ounce cans. The formula contains a high concentration of ethyl ethers, and it's designed to quickly and efficiently start both gasoline and diesel engines. It also works in cold temperatures and severe weather conditions.
This product works well if your engine has been sitting around for a while. It saves the battery, and the 12-pack is a good value if you need to stock up on a product that you use often. Overall, it works as advertised.
The biggest downside with this product is that you may not need a dozen cans to start your engine. If you need just one can, look elsewhere. Another problem is that there have been some complaints that the packaging may get damaged during shipping.
- Not all starting fluids are suitable for diesel engines. Make sure the product you purchase is compatible with your engine, so you don't accidentally put fluid meant for gasoline engines into your vehicle.
- Be particularly careful if your engine is flooded. Some products can be used in a flooded engine, while others cannot. Be sure to read the directions carefully before attempting to put starter fluid in a flooded engine.
- The more ether a product contains, the easier it will be to create a spark that is needed to start the engine. High-ether fluids work best in very cold or humid conditions. However, they also tend to be more volatile.
Q: Can I use starting fluid on my diesel engine if it has glow plugs?
A: We do not recommend using starting fluid on a diesel engine with glow plugs or preheat systems unless a product specifically says you can. The starting fluid can pre-ignite, which can hurt you as well as the engine.
Q: How do I use starter fluid?
A: Hold the can's nozzle about 12 inches away from your vehicle’s air intake. Spray it for about two seconds, and then try to start the engine.
Q: Does starting fluid contain upper cylinder lubricant?
A: It depends on the product. Some starting fluid for diesel engines do contain this feature, while others do not. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s specifications before you purchase the product.
Our pick for the best starting fluid for diesel engines is Prestone Premium Starting Fluid.
It works almost immediately to start your engine, even in extremely low temperatures.
For a more budget-friendly option, consider Motor Medic Thrust Starting Fluid.