Engine Glow Plugs and Push Button Start – What You Need to Know

I recently drove a brand new amazing diesel truck but when I buckled in and went to start it up, it had a push button start. It was cold out, the car wasn’t warmed up and I didn’t even know how to activate the glow plugs! I started it normally anyways but I was wondering, was there something I was supposed to do to give it time to warm the glow plugs?

I asked my friend who has basically driven nothing but diesel trucks, and he let me in on just what I needed to know. I was worried I might be causing unnecessary damage to the truck, and learning these things helped me understand how the truck operates and how to treat it!

How to warm glow plugs on push button start?

The glow plugs are cycled automatically before the car starts on new vehicles with push button starts. On trucks with push button starts, there is nothing extra that the operator needs to do. Modern glow plugs heat up to over 2300°F and allow for a smooth reliable start in under 2 seconds.

Center Console with push button start by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Activate Engine Glow Plugs with a Push-Button Start

In the past few years, more and more manufacturers are managing to make their diesel truck models with push button starts. We were all used to turning the key to the accessories/run position, hesitating 30 seconds, and then starting the truck, but now there is no need! If you have a push button start vehicle, the glow plugs will cycle automatically.

When you press and hold the push start button, the glow plugs activate and heat up almost instantly! You will notice now after reading this that your truck will hesitate for a moment though, especially when it is cold out.

When temperatures are extremely low, the truck system will delay the start for a few moments to adequately heat the air in the combustion chambers before starting.

I have generalized here, and the big recommendation of how to properly start your car is to consult the manual for your particular vehicle. Each truck may be different and some manufacturers provide specific instructions.

If there are no instructions for your vehicle then my information presented here is a reliable guide.

Ford has included instructions for their vehicles to press the start button, hold the brake pedal, and then hold the start button to allow time for the glow plugs to heat up, but many Ford truck owners have told me that they do now follow these instructions and their truck seems to cold-start just fine.

Which would make sense for Ford to still include the proper programming for automated glow plug heating before a cold start knowing that most owners would not pay attention to the proper procedures.

But you are no ordinary truck owner, so keep taking extra good care of your truck. I have included a video provided by Ford a bit further down with the exact procedures for starting your Ford diesel truck!

Modern Glow Plugs Heat Up In Seconds

Old glow plugs heat up slowly.

It used to be common to wait 30 seconds for the glow plug light to switch off before starting a diesel.

Modern glow plugs heat up nearly instantly to over 2300°F!

Then they run for 2-5 seconds depending on surrounding temperatures.

Push Button Start Activating Glow Plugs when it is Extremely Cold

When it is extremely cold and you press on the brake and press the start button, the automatic start routine of the truck will display a “Waiting to Start” message and then it will fire.

The automated start up program factors in the outside air temperature, coolant temperature, and is set to give the glow plugs an adequate amount of time to heat up.

Even when it is extremely cold weather, you will only notice up to a 3 second delay before the glow plug has had adequate time to preheat the engine and the engine initiates start-up.

The cold-start process is programmed to work the same way with the remote start feature, so simply hit the start button and appreciate the fine engineering that has gone into our amazing modern diesel trucks!

Is There a Way to Activate Glow Plugs Manually with a Push Start?

Okay, I get it. The system is automated. But, if I really really want to activate the glow plugs manually, is there a way to activate them manually in a push button car?

And, not all trucks are the same. I have generalized that push start equipped trucks do not need manual activation of the glow plugs, but one resource created by Ford contradicts that.

The glow plugs in your truck with a push button start are activated manually by:

Pressing the start button WITHOUT your foot on the brake pedal. This activates the ignition.

Then, press and hold the brake pedal which allows the glow plugs to heat up.

Finally, once the glow plug warming indication goes away, you are free to start the car!

Activate glow plugs with a push-button start in a Ford diesel truck.

Following these steps will ensure that your truck has adequate time to warm up before a cold-start that otherwise can be very tough on your engine.

More Ways to Properly Warm Up Car for Cold Starts

Most of us live where it may get cold, but never cold enough to ruin our stout diesel engines! Glow plugs are engineered to be able to support a col-start engine in down to -30°C. That is cold, an most places won’t get below that, but maybe it gets close and you are worried about your beautiful truck!

If you live where it gets extremely cold, it is a valid concern to want to do what you can for those rough cold starts. Rough cold-starts are one of the hardest things on your engine and so there are two things that I recommend for you.

They are both products:

1.Install an Engine Block Heater

Engine block heaters can either heat the coolant or the engine oil and are easily added to a vehicle.

An oil heater is a bit less invasive and is very DIY friendly so that is what I recommend here.

This type of engine block heater simply sticks onto the bottom of the oil pan and warms the engine oil before starting the car. Set up your car so that it can be plugged in 30 minutes before you start the car, and don’t forget to unplug it before driving off!

Go to amazon and take a look at this easy to install Silicone Engine Oil Pan Heater.

2.Battery Warmer

When it is cold out, your battery is going to struggle. Do yourself a favor and prolong your battery life and boost the cold cranking capacity of your battery immensely with a battery warmer like this one on Amazon for about $30.

A battery warmer will maintain the battery at its optimal temperature to produce the highest current possible. This will make cranking the starter easier, less time cranking the engine to start, and prolonged battery life.

I created a page will all of my favorite, highest recommended vehicle accessories.

Take a look on my Recommended Car Stuff page.

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