Difficulties in the starting and operation of diesel engines at low temperatures are an important consideration in their design and operation, and in selection of the fuels for their use. Improvements in operation have been achieved primarily through external components of the engine and associated subsystems.A Rapid Compression Machine (RCM) has been modified to operate over a wide range of temperatures (−20°C to 100°C). It is used to isolate the combustion chamber in an environment in which all significant parameters are carefully defined and monitored. The influence of temperature and cetane number on the ignition and combustion processes are analyzed.Examination of the combustion characteristics show that temperature is by far the most influential factor affecting both ignition delay and heat release profiles. Cetane number (ASTM D-613) is not found to be a strong indicator of ignition delay for the conditions investigated.