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I had the same problem as the original poster --- I had bought a 2002 F250 on eBay with 230k miles. It ran fine warm, but every morning it took forever to start, and then would idle VERY rough and not rev past idle. Then once it warmed up it was like somebody flipped a switch and it ran perfectly. "Cleared Throat and off to the races" is a good analogy--- exactly the same issue for sure.
I took it to a supposedly good Ford diesel mechanic who tried a bunch of things, glow plugs, sensors, wiring, but then finally did a compression test and said the engine had low compression in a couple cylinders... when would supposedly explain the poor starting when cold, not enough compression to fire things. Then once the engine got warm enough to compress/fire properly, it could run ok. Apparently the air box had a crack in it and it was a Texas truck so it got "dusted".
That was his theory... so I got a new shortblock from Ron's performance, rebuilt the heads, bought some new alliant injectors (my old ones were pretty bad, something about poppet valve clearance), and am putting it all back together. I HOPE one or all of those things fix it!!
I'll post my results when I get it all together (in a week or two)...
Not that anyone cares, but since this is sort of a project/hobby truck, I went ahead and used forged rods, arp head studs, comp 910 valve springs and had RCD modified the injectors slightly (165cc or something). I figure now's the time to do that stuff.
In summary: A good starting point to your diagnosis may be a compression test.
Last edited by Novicaine; 11-25-2011 at 06:10 AM.