Cold snaps dire for diesel drivers

Aerial shot of pine forest covered in snow.


Posted June 13, 2017

Each winter, dozens of motorists in Victoria’s ski resorts are stranded when the cold turns their diesel to gel.

Guy Hummerston, RACV General Manager Automotive Services, said winter is always a busy time of the year, particularly for RACV’s Bright depot, which provides Emergency Roadside Assistance in the alpine areas of Mount Hotham and Falls Creek.

When temperatures drop as low as minus 10 degrees Celsius, motorists can start having trouble with their vehicles. The Bright depot responded to 173 calls for help in last year’s winter season, about a third of which were for frozen diesel.

It's the most common roadside emergency that our members need help with in alpine areas during the snow season, accounting for up to 32 per cent of call-outs during the season.

“Standard diesel turns to a gel at around minus six degrees Celsius, which can be a problem when visitors to the alpine region fill their fuel tanks with standard diesel in Melbourne, for example,” Mr Hummerston said.

“It won’t be a problem while the vehicle is running because the fuel is flowing, but when you try to start the vehicle after it has been parked in the cold for some time, the engine may not start.

“When called out, RACV patrols will place a device under the vehicle to heat the fuel lines, but this will only work if the fuel is frozen in the fuel lines, not the tank.

“If the vehicle has been left overnight and the diesel has frozen in the tank, the vehicle is usually towed down the mountain where it defrosts naturally.

“While RACV patrols are always happy to help members get going again, RACV encourages motorists to fill up with alpine diesel to make the most of their time up at the snow.

“Alpine diesel can be difficult to source in Melbourne, but motorists can fill up at fuel stations in alpine areas.”

Mr Hummerston said alpine diesel can be added to regular diesel, but the ratio should be approximately 8:1. There is also an additive which can be added to standard diesel to lower the freezing point.