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    FEATURED ARTICLE
    Diesel white smoke emissions during startup

    Glow Plugs for Diesel Engines

    What are glow plugs?

    Glow plugs look like short longitudinal metal tubes. They are fitted with a heating filament at the tip which is resistant to very high temperatures. While petrol engines use spark plugs, glow plugs are used in diesel engines. They help to improve the starting of diesel engines especially during cold weather and also to reduce exhaust gas emissions.

    How do glow plugs work?

    When the glow plug is turned on, the heating element at its tip gets heated. This heat is focused into the engine cylinders and heats the engine block that surrounds them. While generating heat, glow plugs also emit light causing them to glow. When the engine reaches a certain temperature, fuel mist is sprayed into the cylinder causing it to combust and power the engine.

    Why are glow plugs needed?

    The temperature in a diesel engine is raised by air compression where the piston moves upwards and causes air to compress and heat. Diesel engines are powered when the heat in the cylinder is high enough to cause fuel sprayed into the cylinder to combust and push down the piston.

    Generally during hot weather or after the engine has already been running, the engine block is at a high enough temperature to cause fuel combustion to happen quickly when the ignition switch is turned on.

    However during cold weather or when the engine is to be started in the morning, the engine temperature is not high enough. In this case a diesel engine heating system with glow plugs comes into play. Apart from glow plugs, a diesel engine system generally has a temperature sensor, a glow plug relay, a timer and an indicator lamp. When the ignition key is turned to the "on" position, the glow plug relay turns on the glow plugs in turn causing the indicator lamp to be switched on. The glow plugs are kept on for a few seconds to heat the engine block. When the temperature sensor detects that the engine has reached a certain temperature, the glow plug relay will switch off the glow plugs and the indicator lamp will go off indicating that the ignition key can now be turned to the "start" position. This cycle is the pre-heating cycle. The glow plugs can be kept on even after the pre-heating to cut down on emissions.

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