effects on oil due to daily use of block heater

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Jul 1, 2002
Aldergrove, B.C.
I hope the experts on this board can tell me wether the daily use of a block heater will affect the life of the oil used in my vehicle ('98 Chev K1500, 4.3 l V6). I'm sure that many of you will say that in my moderate climate (Vancouver, BC) the use of a block heater is not necessary. I agree but I believe that it is easier for the engine to start if the oil has been heated for a couple of hours. What I also like is that I can immediately defog my windows (no AC) and that the cabin is warm within a minute or so of driving. My truck uses a dual filter (bypass) system and all fluids are synthetic. Oil (presently Amsoil 5W-30, previously Mobil 1 5W30), 10-12 K oil change intervals. I'd appreciate any comments.
Originally posted by highmiler: I hope the experts on this board can tell me wether the daily use of a block heater will affect the life of the oil used in my vehicle ('98 Chev K1500, 4.3 l V6).
I'm certainly no expert, but I'd say just the mere fact that your engine starts out partially warmed up will mean less (or maybe no) condensation inside the engine, meaning less moisture in the oil. Also, it could mean the EFI runs a little less rich, hence less raw fuel getting into the oil. These two factors can only be beneficial for the life of the oil, IMO.
Pre-heating should also reduce shearing. It might be interesting to know pre-change viscosity before & after a heater is installed. David
Howdy neighbor [Big Grin] )I'm in Lynden, WA May I ask what kind of block heater? A gentle heating of the oil on our Fraser Valley blast freezer nights certainly wouldn't hurt. OTOH A Cal-Rod 440V, 200A heating element jammed in the oil would even cook the best oil.... [Dummy!]
I can think of no accessory more effective at extending the life of your engine and engine oil than a block heater. I live in a mild climate also, but I pull right out of my driveway into 60 mph traffic then go uphill, so I installed one on my car. The block heater is poorly designed and doesn't work very good so I stopped using it.
Hi Pablo, I have no idea what brand of block heater is used in this truck. All I know is that it is standard equipment on this vehicle when it is destined for the Canadian market. After installing an Amsoil dual filter with bypass, using synthetic oil, installing a heavy duty transmission filter for hot summer days (towing) I wanted to go one more step to increase the life on the engine in my truck. I even considered installing a PRE-LUBER but concluded that the installed cost was too high to justify (a little over $ 1000). By the way, using the block heater daily for about 1 hour, fuel consumption increased notably (about 1 gal less per week). How do I know? Well, I carefully recorded my mileage weekly last winter, using the block heater one week and not using it the next one. After 6 weeks I can say that the money saved is not much but I believe that both the oil and the engine should last somewhat longer. May be it's just wishful thinking and the goal of 300k miles would be reachable anyway, without the block heater or the synthetic oil. At least it makes me feel better.
The problem is, at least in Ontario, that our electricity costs are so high that you spend more in electric bills by plugging in the block heater than you save in fuel costs. [Frown] My Firebird has a block heater but I've never used it. I find it a bit of a pain to keep the hood open to have the cord sticking out and there is nowhere for the plug to come out otherwise (if you see the front end of an LT1 Firebird, there is no rad opening where the plug could come out)
In BC we have the lowest possible electricity costs (about 6 cents per KWH, less than 4 cents US). I believe that the block heater uses about 600 watts per hour. Since I use the block heater only for 1 hour per day, 30 days per month would cost me about 72 cents (american). Saving just 1 liter of gasoline per day would mean saving aprox. 8 gallon of gas per month (30 liters = 7.92 gallons). At US$ 1.50 per gallon that's US$ 12 per month. I would say that leaves me ahead by more than US$ 11 per month, not considering the possible increased engine life.
I know I'm getting off topic, but for a while this summer, our Ontario electricity costs were over 8 cents per kilowatt hour. This is after enjoying years and years at 4 cents. Now the Ontario government has stepped in and guaranteed that our rates will be down to 4.3 cents per kilowatt hour until 2006! Plus we get rebates too. So I guess we aren't that bad off, although it would still cost a bit of money to run the block heater a few hours a day. To really get it to make a difference on my Firebird, I'd need to plug it in for at least 3-4 hours, since the cooling system is so huge. A smaller car could get away with an hour or two, but not this one. But like I said, I can't run mine anyways. Not unless I want to leave my hood open overnight which is not a good thing since I point the nose outwards towards the street so someone would see that the hood is unlatched. [ November 18, 2002, 04:41 PM: Message edited by: Patman ]
I don't have a block heater on my Firebird but I can still warm up the entire engine by using a small electric space heater. I position it under the front end of the car so it blows warm air toward the engine. It is not positioned under the engine itself so it is not near anything flammable. It has a thermostat so if the temp in my garage gets above a certain point it turns off automatically. It also turns off if it should tip over for some reason. Laying towels over the vents in the hood further trap the warm air around the engine so it doesn't escape immediately. I'm sure the airflow also helps reduce rust by drying out salt water on the body.
Edit: A pan heater shouldn't cook the oil nor should a block heater. The oil is going to warm by convection from the hot spot where the heater is attached. It would be interesting for someone to point an IR thermometer at the block near and away from the heater to see the pan temps. I would think a block heater OR a pan heater would be effective in preventing sludge and prolonging the life of the oil, since most moisture would be driven out of the oil. [ November 19, 2002, 02:38 PM: Message edited by: MolaKule ]
Side note for anyone unfamiliar: Block heater warms the coolant (eventually also warming the oil somewhat). Oil pan heater warms the oil. I'm a big advocate of the block heater. I try to use the block heater and battery blanket anytime the temp is below 0 deg. C. There are a number of good reasons for this: no need for more than 15 seconds of idling, warm air from the vents immediately, battery can charge much easier (especially in real cold weather), O2 sensor goes into operation quicker, alternator likes not ever having to use the rear window defrost. I don't agree with letting a vehicle sit and idle to operating temp, but it usually takes a couple minutes in cold weather for the engine to drop from its 2400 rpm fast idle to its 1600 rpm fast idle if not plugged in, and a few more to reach normal idle. I usually let it reach the 1600 rpm idle. Even if you begin driving immediately you will have horrible mileage for the first bit of driving. I left my car plugged in for about 16 hours a day last year for the 3 coldest months (during work and overnight). My coolant temp was between 40 and 60 deg. C (based on std. dash gauge) whenever I started it. The total cost of this (if I had been paying for power): about $60 cdn. at 7 cents per kw-hr. Worth it for the gas I saved and the extended engine, oil, starter, and battery life. Ideally though (if possible), plug in for 1-2 hr before starting down to 10 deg. C, 2-3 hr down to 20 deg. C, 3-4 hr down to 30 deg. C, and 4-5 hr down to 40 deg. C for better use of electricity.
I like block heaters. I've never had one, but when it would get very cold when I was younger, my father would put an old blanket over the engine at night, and a 60 watt lamp under the engine. The engine would always fire right up. When he would forget, or a suprise cold snap would come around, it would always take longer to start and warm up. The shorter the warm up, the better...
rpn453, I was seeing the "Block Heater" wording and thinking "pan" heater. I was referring to an oil "pan" heater when I wrote the above. See edited correction. [ November 19, 2002, 02:37 PM: Message edited by: MolaKule ]
rpn453: I completely agree with you. This confirms that what I have been doing is beneficial not just for the engine but for the starter, the battery, alternator, etc. It would be interesting to find out whether it makes sense to use the block heater the whole year. Maybe warming up the coolant for 30 minutes every day would save a lot of money in the long run. Thanks everybody for the comments. [ November 19, 2002, 02:49 PM: Message edited by: highmiler ]
For what it's worth, I use both a block heater and an interior car heater in the winter. both of these are on timers for about 4 hours before I go to work in the morning. The interior car heater uses 900W and the block heater uses about 400W, I think. They are definitely worth it. When I go out in the morning when everyone else is scraping and scraping for 5 or 10 or 15 minutes, I just unplug the heaters and coil up the cords. Then I get in the car and fire it up like it is summer time, and drive off, since the interior is warm and the windows are completely clear of frost. The engine doesn't even go into fast idle most times. I assume that because of this, the engine is running cleaner and more efficiently as well. Also, the oil is getting less contaminated. All this benefit for less than the price of a small coffee.
OK, so now you guys have got me thinking about getting the factory block heater for my Saab. The biggest problem I see is that it's for the car my wife drives 95% of the time, so that means it's going to be up to her to disconnect it before driving off. Do any of you use block heaters for spouse's cars? And how eagerly was it received? Oh, and any "learning-curve" tips to help them remember it's plugged in?
Greg: Well, my wife has a block heater in her car. She doesn't mind having to disconnect the block heater power cord. The cord is impossible to miss. If she wants to open the drivers door, she has to step over the cord to avoid tripping. So she has never forgotten to disconnect the thing (yet). What she likes is the instant heat and not having to worry about revving the engine. After about 2 miles she has to get on the highway and drive at 60 to 70 Mph so to have a pre-warmed engine to start with seems like a very good idea. The installation of a block heater should not cost more than about $ 100, including labour. At that price it seems a very good investment to me.
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