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Hi Sue, White smoke is a sign of air in the diesel system. It seems as if the fuel line is sucking in air. The most likely place is the fuel filter seal. The best way of sorting out the problem is to replace the filter with a good quality replacement fuel filter. Regards John
THE SMOKE YOU HAD IS BECAUSE MANY TRIES TO START COLLECTED FUEL IN THE COMBUSTION CHAMBERS AND SUDDENLY BURNT ON START. ANY WAY THE HESITATION OF CRANK START FOR LONG TIME CHECK WHETHER YOU DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THE FUEL PUMP,FUEL FILTER OR COLD START SENSOR. CHECK YOUR SPARK PLUGS CLEAN THE THROTTLE BODY AND DO WITH SCANNER THE ADAPTATION.S
Sounds like the heater plugs, and as its quite cold it will take longer to heat up, have you tried giving it one heat light then turn the ignition off again, then do it again 3 times in total then try to fire it over if it starts quite easy then its your heater plugs. timing shouldnt be out, if it was then it would seem very lumpy even when turning over.
White smoke from the exhaust is typically oil burning, caused by, worn valve seal(s) - worn or broken piston ring(s) or a broken head gasket, thus allowing excessive oil in to the combustion chamber, but then most auto shops already know this and would require major engine dis-assembly to truly diagnose this issue.
Hard starting could be oil fouled spark plugs, a result of the same issue.
As a side note: I would take a friend who is somewhat mechanically inclined with you to "your workshop" to engage the person(s) to get an in-depth explanation as to how they checked your piston.
Do not purchase a fuel pump or that repair on an assumption, be sure
One of the tell tale signs of a fuel related issue is black smoke...