Combustion in a diesel engine during cold starting under normal and border-line conditions was investigated. Experiments were conducted on a single cylinder, air-cooled, 4-stroke-cycle engine in a cold room. Tests covered different fuels, injection timings and ambient temperatures. Motoring tests, without fuel injection indicated that the compression pressure and temperature are dependent on the ambient temperature and cranking speeds. The tests with JP-5, with a static injection timing of 23° BTDC indicated that the engine may operate on the regular 4-stroke-cycle at normal operating ambient temperatures or may skip one cycle before each firing at moderately low temperatures, i.e. operate on an 8-stroke-cycle mode. At lower temperatures the engine may skip two cycles before each firing cycle, i.e. operate on a 12-stroke-cycle mode. These modes were reproducible and were found to depend mainly on the ambient temperature. The actual cycle analysis under-border line conditions indicated that the gas compression pressure, temperature, cyclic fuel injection, ignition delay, rate of heat release and cumulative heat release varied from one cycle to another in any set of 8-stroke-cycle or 12-stroke-cycle modes. The mass of fuel burned in each cycle was calculated and compared with the mass of fuel injected.