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How to Troubleshoot Glow Plug Problems

by Tammy Bronson

Glow plugs in a diesel engine preheat the injection chamber, making it easier to start the engine. The glow plug relay controls the glow plug system by the pre-heat cycle based on the reading from the temperature sensor of the cylinder head. Troubleshoot for glow plug problems if your car is running rough and has no pick-up, or if black smoke is pouring out of the rear of your car.

Evaluate which parts of the glow plug system are easily accessible. Start with the easiest and work your way to the hardest. This process will help determine the logical order for testing the various parts of the glow plug system.

Find the wire from the glow plug temperature relay. If the wire is disconnected, reconnect it.

Observe if the glow plugs are getting the power they require by connecting a test light to the plug. If the test light lights up, the plug is receiving power.

Evaluate whether or not the relay is able to supply the power required to start the diesel engine by testing the ohms of the circuit with an ohmmeter. A working relay will produce between 50 and 120 ohms. If the circuit is producing less than 50 ohms, the relay is suspect.

Use a relay socket to test each individual pin, which must have voltage and/or power: 30 must have battery voltage, 50 must have power when the engine is running, 85 must show battery voltage, 86 must have power when the key is turned to the pre-glow slot, 87 must have power to the plugs directly, L must show that power is sent to the LED in the dashboard and T must show that the temperature sender is receiving input from the cylinder head. If any of these pins are not receiving or sending voltage and/or power, the relay is not working properly.

Check the fusible link for loose wires or nuts, and if the contacts are dirty.

Run a wire from the glow plug to the LED on the dashboard. If you hear a clicking and see the light go on and off, yet there is no power reaching the glow plug, you know that the relay is faulty.

Tip

  • Once the glow plug demonstrates that it is receiving power, stop the supply of power to the plug. Keeping the power to the glow plug on for too long may cause the plug to burn out.

Warning

  • Don't just assume that the new glow plugs work. Check the new plugs before you replace the old ones with the new. New means unused; new does not mean the plugs work.

Items you will need

About the Author

Tammy Bronson has been a freelance writer since 1994. As a writer for Thompson Gale Publishing she wrote autobiographies and legal reviews. With Remilon.com Bronson wrote innovative informative articles about colleges and universities nationwide. She lives in the Greater Boston Area and has a Master of Arts degree in literature and writing from the State University of New York.

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