Special Report on Diesel Cars: Easy way to ensure smoother motoring: Keith Howard has some tips on how to get the best from your engine

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Indy Lifestyle Online
SINCE they have no ignition system, damp and cold have little effect on diesel engines and there are no concerns about spark plug condition, distributor cap cracks, ignition lead insulation breakdown or the myriad other ignition-related problems which can cripple a petrol-engined car.

But diesel engines require glow plugs - little electric heating elements within the pre-chamber or cylinder - to ensure sufficient fuel atomisation when starting from cold. To save a frustrating hiatus while they do, all you need do is modify your cockpit procedure. Don't settle into the driver's seat, put on your seatbelt, check your mirrors and then turn on the ignition - turn on the ignition first so that the glow plugs are warming while you install yourself.

Driving style: Diesel engines typically have a broader torque band - one reason they are so good for towing - and a lower rev limit than petrol engines, so they appreciate a change in driving style. You can always tell a petrol car driver - particularly one who is used to high-performance cars - by the inappropriate habits he brings to diesel car driving: habitually revving the engine to the red line; changing down for corners; and generally doing a lot of gear changing.

Filling up: No engine - petrol or diesel - can perform at its optimum if there are excess deposits of carbon within it. They soak up fuel, form 'hot spots' and, if they are present on the fuel injectors, spoil the quality of fuel atomisation. The inevitable result is increased fuel consumption, worsened exhaust emissions and shortened service life.

Detergent additives in the fuel inhibit deposit build-up, but not every diesel fuel on sale contains them. Check the fuel where you habitually fill up. If it does not contain a detergent additive, then go elsewhere. BP, Esso, Mobil and Shell diesel fuels contain a detergent, and beneficial additives such as anti-foaming agents.

Maintenance: Diesel engines are such reliable, durable and generally bomb-proof pieces of machinery that it is tempting to be lax about maintaining them. Complacency over maintenance is an unfortunate corollary of improved car reliability.