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Block heaters, water heaters and electric dipsticks.

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Kevin Lee, Dec 8, 2009.

  1. Kevin Lee
    Joined: Nov 12, 2001
    Posts: 7,440

    Kevin Lee
    Super Moderator
    Staff Member

    So winter is here in Kansas City and as I was letting the truck warm up this morning – fully choked, fouling, sputtering and stinking up the joint – it occurred to me that I could use a heater on a timer to pre-warm the engine this winter.

    So far I have seen magnetic ones which I assume could be stuck to the oil pan or directly to the block, and inline heaters spliced into the radiator hose.

    I was thinking I could get two of the inliners and splice them into the lower hoses on my truck, but wasn't sure about the ability to circulate heat past the water pumps. Splicing into the uppers is an obvious problem since the thermostats would be closed and I would be going the long way through the radiator.

    The magnetic piece seems like a good idea, but I don't know where I could put it other than the oil pan and I'm really looking for heated water instead of oil, and there doesn't seem to be much to conduct heat from the oil up to the block. Just air and the sides of the pan.

    The dipstick seems to be a joke. I have one for some reason and this weekend I plugged it in for the night. Next morning when pulled out the smoking stick with a ring of crud cooked at the top of the oil level... I reached under the truck to feel an ice cold oil pan.

    Has anyone here used either the magnetic or inline and what is your opinion?
  2. thunderbirdesq
    Joined: Feb 15, 2006
    Posts: 6,984


    I have never used one, but as far as I know, they're just used to help ease in starting a cold engine, not get it close to operating temp.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2009
  3. xsquiden
    Joined: Jul 20, 2009
    Posts: 111


    the inlines and freeze plug block heaters work good i think the freeze plug heaters work the best and last the longest at least they are the ones we replace the least at the shop
    later mike
  4. 1950ChevySuburban
    Joined: Dec 20, 2006
    Posts: 6,188

    Member Emeritus
    from Tucson AZ

    I grew up in St.Louis, and never needed one for any reason. I would think the same thing could be accomplished with thinner weight oil in the winter.

    "Fouling, sputtering and choking" tells me something is set wrong, not the temperature's fault. Choke too tight, dead dashpot, etc.....

    I remember one morning, the only car that would start was my dual quad 440 Duster. Had to help my dad get to work, his garaged Buick didn't start!

    I just don't think a tiny spot of heat in a cold engine is going to help much...

  5. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    Extension cord, couple of 100 watt bulbs dangling...and back off a bit on the choke
  6. Kevin Lee
    Joined: Nov 12, 2001
    Posts: 7,440

    Kevin Lee
    Super Moderator
    Staff Member

    The choke is manual. And maybe fouling and sputtering isn't fully accurate.

    I just know I don't want the truck setting in the drive stinking for five minutes. So I don't need one... I just want one.
  7. Sixcarb
    Joined: Mar 5, 2004
    Posts: 1,503

    from North NJ

    Hey Bruce you raising chickens again :) ...........Kev I was just messing around with this as well and just had to adjust the chokes to work accordingly, just a tiny adjustment either way made a big difference.
  8. Kevin Lee
    Joined: Nov 12, 2001
    Posts: 7,440

    Kevin Lee
    Super Moderator
    Staff Member

    So do I just wire them right to the center main or should I rig up some sort of attachment on the bottom of the manifold? :)
  9. 32ratsass
    Joined: Dec 14, 2007
    Posts: 258


    The dipstick ones are junk! The magnetic ones don't really work if it's really cold. Lower radiator hose heaters work ok, but are hard on radiator hoses over time. Tank type works really well, but are hard on heater hoses. The ones that work the best are Zerostart freeze plug heaters. They are a little more difficult to install, becase you have to drain the block, and remove a freeze plug, but after the installation they are much more trouble free,work really well, and are very much worth the time and trouble. Zerostart has the advantage of having a replaceable cord, which is good because thats what usually fails on block heaters.Around here you can't live without them!!:D
  10. H.G. Wells
    Joined: Mar 11, 2006
    Posts: 386

    H.G. Wells

    The block heaters used on diesels are great. Not just to ease starting a cold motor, but your coolant is that much closer to being warm and letting your heater work before you get all the way to work. Not sure of your application but check out the early 80's chevy 5.7 diesel application. Very simple heating element on the back side of a freeze plug. Not sure I would worry about a timer just plug it in at night.
  11. johnod
    Joined: Aug 18, 2009
    Posts: 778


    The Block heater is by far the way to go,I used to live in northern Ont. where the temp will dip below -45 for a week at a time. Truck outside with a block heater will start. It'll start hard and reluctantly but it will start.
    No one in their right mind up there would be without one.
  12. Shifty Shifterton
    Joined: Oct 1, 2006
    Posts: 4,964

    Shifty Shifterton

    I don't think you're really in the target climate for block heaters. They're more of a catastrophe preventer than convenience, and KC just isn't far enough north for catastrophic cold. Damn cold, yes, I will give ya that.

    Dipstick heaters get too locally hot and are reputed oil-ruiners

    Plug in heaters are a general pain in the ass IMO. Leave em to the Canadians & diesels.

    Good luck!
  13. 325w
    Joined: Feb 18, 2008
    Posts: 5,608


    when i had to worry about getting up and getting to work i used thr 100 watt bulbb . just laid it on the intake at the valve cover. also if it was that cold we left one on under the sink. used 30 weight pennzoil year around
  14. 32ratsass
    Joined: Dec 14, 2007
    Posts: 258


    If it's really cold and you're using a block heater outside, overnight, be sure to bang on the hood before you get in and start the vehicle! The area cats like to sleep on top of the warm engine:eek:. Really noisy, messy, and costly!!!:(
  15. Dan10
    Joined: Aug 14, 2007
    Posts: 386

    from Joplin

    I use the block heater on my 2500 HD gas engine from December through March. My truck will be at operating temperature in 5 miles or less compared to 15 miles normally. I don't need it, but my morning commute is only 15 miles and my daughter likes it to get warm quick.
  16. When I was in the service in Fairbanks Alaska there was a guy with a corvair that had a heat lamp bulb mounted on a piece of ply wood , he'd slide it under the oil pan when he parked the car, it was right up next to the pan. I don't remember him ever having any starting problems with it, even at -20º
  17. Engine-Ear
    Joined: Jun 12, 2008
    Posts: 706

    Alliance Vendor

    Kevin, (cool avatar logo, BTW)

    Perhaps I am lazy but I prefer the type that heats and circulates the water, mounted inline with one of the heater hoses.

    The block heaters require that you knock out a freeze plug and install the block heater there (if you can reach it).

    my $0.02...
  18. Tman
    Joined: Mar 2, 2001
    Posts: 34,431


    Kev, I bought a magnetic one when I had the Rocky33. I now use it on my wifes van. Works awesome. Keeps the oil and bottom end warm enough to fire at 20 below like it was 50 degrees outside.

    I also have an inline one, one would be enough on your flatty, it gets HOT. The heat radiates enough to make firing easy. But what do I know, it is 4 degrees outside ;)
  19. Bosco1956
    Joined: Sep 21, 2008
    Posts: 545

    from Jokelahoma

    I lived in Iowa for years -20 degrees I have run the freeze plug style and they work GREAT almost instant heat from the heater much easier on the engine and trouble free. If I lived that far north again I sure would have one.
  20. Frank36
    Joined: Aug 27, 2007
    Posts: 45


    Head bolt heaters were invented by Andy Freeman from Upham, ND. I knew him, real nice guy. I have used all types. For cars and pickups the kind that go in a frost plug work good. I have a big heater called a tank heater on the tractor, set on a timer that goes off at 5 am. I think it is 1800 watts.
    This link tells the story of Andy and his heater.
  21. mrpowderkeg
    Joined: Mar 11, 2009
    Posts: 178


    Freeze plug/block heater is the only way to go. When it absolutely has to start, that's what will work.
  22. jonnycola
    Joined: Oct 12, 2003
    Posts: 2,061


    I've always run the spliced in heater hose ones on my flat fender willys plow jeeps. (Thats right, I even plow totally trad!)

    Anyways, those ones work awesome on the jeeps. They have a heater element, as well as a small pump to circulate the water. You just have to set it lower than the block so it has a gravity feed going to it. I have my feed in coming off the side of the block, and the return spliced right into my heater core line, which normally comes off the top of the head.

    I've had the dipstick, and the magnet ones, and they just burn the oil. I've never had a freeze plug one though.

    The recirculating ones keep the little jeep motor at 140. And it takes about three hours to get it there, from 20 degrees or so.

    You could tie it into the heater core, and then rig a second power wire off a trickle charger or something, to your blower fan, and just plug the whole works in, and then you never have to worry about scraping ice off of your windows.
  23. Thanks for starting the thread Kevin. It reminded me to put my magnetic on my A. Don't drive it much from Dec to Feb, but I like to keep the oil/engine a degree or two above the everything around it to prevent condensation when the weather changes.
  24. billygoat67
    Joined: Jul 13, 2007
    Posts: 341


    the best heaters are the frost plug heaters, use on on each side if you want the best result, one willhelp alot . i've lived in iowa my whole life and worked on diesels and that's the only thing that realy helps.
    or you could go old school like my dad and he would keep a old tin BBQ grill, the ones that look like a garbage can lid, would light the briquets let them turn white and slide them under the truck with the hood closed.
    i don't know how he never burned up his thuck but it was affective.
    he was quite the guy, rest his soul. miss him daily.

    but seriously i'd use the softplug heaters.
  25. Canuck
    Joined: Jan 4, 2002
    Posts: 1,080


    32 nailed it in his first reply. Take it from those that know and use block heaters every year, northern states and Canada. One installed in a accessable frost plug will be all you need. Use it only when needed and/or hooked up to a timer to come on a couple of hours before you need the vehicle and you will be good to go.

    Had a friend that had two installed in a SBF and used them when parked outside and it got cold (-40) and his engine would be at operating temp, had to disconnect one when it warmed up a little.

  26. I moved to Montana from Seattle WA, the first winter in Montana was rough on my 50 chev truck my only vehicle. After dicking around with a magnetic one on the oil pan, burning my hands having to pry it off everymorning, I ended up putting one of the zerostarts in the 235 and it was easy to install and worked slick.

    It was a balmy -10 here last night, my driver is a 1970 C-10 with a 175k mile 1993 TBI 350, that had one installed before I got the donor motor, when plugged in startup is quieter, oil pressure comes up right away (it jumps up in steps when not plugged in and real cold, could be the factory gauge), the 700r4 trans doesn't howl in the first couple shifts, I don't get that slight whiff of anti-freeze in the cab, I think my heater core seeps slightly when it gets hit with the first blast of hot coolant and best of all I don't have to let the truck sit in my driveway at idle for 5 minutes.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2009
  27. OldBuzzard
    Joined: Mar 8, 2008
    Posts: 878


    Don't forget your battery. It is the source of all power when starting. A zero degree battery can make very little power. The chemical reaction inside slows way down. There are heaters made for batteries. They are well worth using. Even a 60 watt bulb beside the battery with a piece of fiberglass insulation over it will work wonders.
  28. slepe67
    Joined: Jan 22, 2008
    Posts: 1,146


    Kev, I grew up in Montana, and drove a carbureted, and very tempermental F-150 4x4. If i parked it outside of the garage, I HAD to plug in the block heaters. (Is yours parked outside?) Block heaters=No argument. They are a must, and you can hide them pretty well. Also, I recommend a cover for your radiator (it's a cover that goes behind your grill and in front of your radiator-anything from naugehyde, to aluminum with holes in it, or a simple piece of cardboard). HOLES ARE A MUST, just don't put too many in there;) If it gets REALLY cold in your area, you will want this to keep your car at proper operating temperature. They also help keep YOU warm inside. I have seen more than my share of people's radiators freezing up (most likely operator error, as the stuff ISN'T supposed to freeze up-but, I have seen perfectly mixed coolant ice up).

    Inline water heaters work great, though not sure how they will work on your application. I liked them becuase it didn't take long for my windows to defrost after start-up (e.g. the cab gets warm faster). Downside, can't hide them all that well.

    I also used a battery tray heater for the REALLY cold mornings. Cold cranking amps...your battery does slow down a bit when it's freezin out...not sure if any of this helps, but...

    All I know is- being stationed in Florida isn't a BAD thing in the winter:) haha can't wait to plug one of my cars in after I retire! I love to go play in the snow, but hate it when it comes to ME and I have to work in it!
  29. R Pope
    Joined: Jan 23, 2006
    Posts: 3,309

    R Pope

    Take it from a guy who's been doing it for fifty years, the frost plug heaters are the only way to go. Those heater hose ones work, but I set my El Camino on fire with one, won't use 'em any more. Chev's and Fords won't go without 'em at -40. A 318 Dodge will start, but you will be 15 miles down the road before the heater starts to do anything. Up here, they are a necessity.
  30. 8flat
    Joined: Apr 2, 2006
    Posts: 1,381


    Another vote for frost plug heaters. It was -29 degrees this morning (ambient)!!

    Starting with warm oil is better for your engine.

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