Cary’s Garage: Getting an Old Diesel Going



I recently purchased a fairly rare vehicle that has been sitting. It’s a 1983 Chevrolet Celebrity that has a 4.3-liter V6 Diesel. I have two questions I need your advice on.

First, is that I have called around to a few places looking for parts and it seems there isn’t much out there, so where should I look or where can I get stuff for it?

Second, since it has been sitting for several years it isn’t starting and I don’t know a huge amount about diesel engines, what should I look for on it?

Thank you for your advice,


Hey Phil,

Thank you for reaching out with your questions about this car. I am really excited for you as that is a really rare car you picked up! They only offered that engine for a couple of years in the ‘80s, ending production of the diesels in 1985. Now because it is uncommon and not a huge amount of them were produced you will, unfortunately, have a difficult time finding parts for it, depending on what you need for it of course. This is the time you will have to start educating yourself on the vehicle and the diesel engine that’s in it to be able to hunt for parts. There are times that stuff will show up on eBay for that engine, and other times you will need to do some cross-referencing to see what else the part might fit if any. I do know that for instance the glow plugs for that also fit an ’80s Ford 6.9 IDI, maybe that will help a little bit. All in all, you will have to hunt, I wish I had advice on an easier way to locate stuff but that is how it goes sometimes with somewhat rare stuff.

When it comes to it not starting that could be several things but let me start off with DO NOT USE STARTING FLUID!!!! These engines have a high compression ratio and do not like starting fluid, I would hate for you to damage anything on the internals. Start off with the obvious, does it have fuel? Is the fuel pump working (should have an electric pump on the intake manifold)? Is the fuel getting into and out of the filter?

That is the simple stuff to start off with, and with this car, you need two good batteries to crank it over, they take quite a bit of amps and a slow-cranking engine will be harder to start.

Check to make sure you are getting voltage to the glow plugs and see if the glow plugs are working at all. A very easy way to check the glow plugs without checking the resistance in each is to turn on the headlights and cycle the key, if the glow plugs are working the lights will dim since the plugs draw so much juice.

Next is to make sure there is no air in the fuel lines. Crack loose the fuel lines at the injectors and crank over the engine, when you start seeing fuel spit out of the fitting you should be good, and tighten them back up. Now if memory serves those are non-return style injectors and can be a bit picky to bleed.

But if you have a decently healthy engine, and you have glow plugs that mostly work, and fuel at the injectors there is no reason that it shouldn’t start.

Don’t rush anything with the car and try and find whatever technical information you can only, as scarce as it may be. I will look around my collection as I might have some information that I can send over on it for you.

Best of luck with the car and let me know when you get it running or have any other questions.



Please email me any questions you have for the column; I don’t regularly check the comments so please don’t ask in there – send them directly to me. Thanks! 

[Image: MelnikovSergei/]

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