How does using a engine block heater benefit the engine and oil?

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Al

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I think its a really big deal as Patman said. The other point is that as soon as the oil goes thru the oil pump it hits oil galeries and bearings that are warmer. Whereas an unheated engine even it the oil were warmed up at the pan-it would cool down and thicken the oil in the process of getting to the bearings.
 
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I plug in both our Subarus in our attached (but uninsulated and unheated) garage. Both cars' coolant reaches operating temp much faster, and, on the wifes car, the heater plugs into the block immediately adjacent to the oil cooler, so, while I have no evidence, I'm convinced the oil starts out warmer and reaches temp faster. I think the two biggest benefits long term are easier starts (easier on everything) and less time running on a rich mixture, especially when making short trips. Dave
 
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I have an oil pan warmer. Wouldn't that be better than a block heater? Does a block heater go in the coolant line and heat the coolant? Why does a plugged in car start much easier with warm coolant?
 
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Man even with the GC in the car if it gets cold enough doesn't start well, if at all unless you have block heater plugged in. I left my car sitting for a few hours today unplugged and almost didn't start, and once it did start, made major screeching noises, etc. If it had been plugged in would have started smoothly, and no noises coming from engine. Yes the GC is in there, but the Temperature is currently sitting around -40, and no I am not including the windchill since the car doesn't car about windchill, which is currently around the -60F (-52C) range [ January 27, 2004, 04:14 PM: Message edited by: Vivisector ]
 
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I got a oil pan heater (250 watt) and it serves me very well in the Detroit area where it rarely goes below 0 F, though this year areas not far from me have gone well below that. At 0F the other morning it still helped the engine start much easier, but I think I was pushing the lower limit of the heater. As Al notes, the cold block cools the oil. I checked it out once on a warmer winter day. Felt the pan and it was nice and warm. Started it up and then could feel the colder oil draining back into the sump, while the other side of the sump was still warmer. But it does help. If I lived where these folks are reporting -40, I think I would move [Big Grin] , er ah, I mean I would get both the block and oil pan heater and maybe a battery heater too.
 
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I just cranked up my 1994 Honda Accord this morning at a temp. of -30 F. My vehicle's engine block heater was plugged in so my baby started with no hesitation. I'm currently running German Castrol 0W-30 with a brand new Sears Die Hard Gold battery. What direct benefits do you get from using your engine block heater on frigid mornings? How does using your block heater on a consistent basis during the winter months help your engine and oil?
 
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A block heater is a great aid in starting a vehicle in arctic temps. I think an oil pan heater serves two functions, it heats the oil and as heat rises it aids in warming the block.
 

Patman

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Here are the two big tangible benefits I notice from using a block heater in my Firebird, which is parked outside at night. Number one, when I first fire it up in the morning, the peak rpm it shoots up to is lower and it settles into a lower idle right away. On a true cold start it might rev up to 1500rpm and settle on an 1100rpm idle, but with the heater, it only revs up to about 1100 to 1200rpm, and then settles in at about an 800rpm idle. Number two, is the time it takes to reach full operating temperature. Without the block heater plugged in, it would take at least 2-3 miles more driving to reach operating temp compared to with it plugged in. It probably doesn't change the overall oil temperature by very much, but by having the coolant slightly warmer, the oil temperature should end up warming up faster than it would without the heater. I also think by having the block warmer, the pistons seal up better on the cold start, so you'll get less fuel dilution too. I'm almost crazy enough to consider using my block heater in the summer months now too! I wish my wife's Civic had a block heater. I left her car outside last weekend and started it up in -10F weather and her rpms immediately shot up to 2000! Then it took a few seconds for it to settle down, but even then it settled in at a 1600rpm idle! That cannot be good for the engine. Strangely enough, her idle seems like it's too low once the engine is warmed up. [I dont know] [ January 27, 2004, 01:01 PM: Message edited by: Patman ]
 
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Keeps the oil warm enough to allow flow while cranking. With something like GC 0W-30 you would probably have started anyway, but users of conventional oils might have been in trouble in the conditions you stated. I use a block heater, too. It's called "California"...
 
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quote:
Originally posted by pepper32: A block heater is a great aid in starting a vehicle in arctic temps. I think an oil pan heater serves two functions, it heats the oil and as heat rises it aids in warming the block.
Yeah, maybe I should have got the 500 watt pan heater. My 250 watt pan heater does provide a tad bit of warmth to the engine. It warms up a bit sooner, but still has to warm up. There is enough heat rise to keep the hood clear of a thin layer of snow (1/4 to 1/2 inch maybe).
 
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Well, even the Esso Lubricants Products Handbook chimes in on this. They claim an oil pan heater provides "partial" engine starting benefits but "definite" oil pumping benefits. Remember heat rises, so the oil pan heater will partially heat the block. A block heater provides "definite" starting benefits but "partial" oil pumping benefits. Which is better?? Actually BOTH are, so if you have that option, use both. The type of block heater makes a big difference too. Car makers use the "frost plug" style which just heats up the area adjacent to the element: a very cheap heater for them to use. Ok for moderate temps, but real cold, say -30C, and topped with a windchill, and it becomes iffy. A far superior solution is a "circulation" or Tank heater. It plumbs into your heater hose and as it heats the coolant, it uses convection to circulate the warm coolant through the heater core and engine block. An immediate advantage is that as soon as you start the car, instant warm air from the defroster. Another advantage is that the entire block is warm, so it starts easier, and will also work better in a strong windchill. Never mind the obvious benefits to just getting the car started, and the less wear and tear. How about better fuel economy? I keep my truck in an unheated but insulated garage. The Vortec fires right up whether I plug it in for an hour or not. I have noticed if I don't plug it in when the temps are colder than say -15 C, I will consistently use about $1.25 more gasoline driving the same route. At -40 C more like $2.50 extra. It also takes about 3km more to reach a normal operating temp. The block heater is a 600 watt thing that screws into the bottom of my Vortec V8. To plug it in for one hour costs me all of five cents. So I figure I'm money ahead. WAY AHEAD. Right?? I wish I could run a Tank heater in my GMC, but the heater core temp is controlled by a little electric valve. Shut the motor off and the valve closes, so the tank heater wouldn't work. My 1984 Ford F-150 has the good 'ole fashioned lever on the dash, with a cable that goes to a manual valve on the heater core. I just leave the valve on HOT all the time, so the 1,500 watt tank heater works fine. Parked in the garage, plugged in for 30 minutes, that 'old Ford 302 V8 actually becomes WARM. Instant cold start. Oh, careful with frozen batteries. Odds are, if the battery is dead and it's real cold, say -30 C or colder, the battery is starting to freeze. Do NOT try to jump start under these conditions! A frozen battery can EXPLODE and cause serious injuries. Disconnect the battery, take it inside, and let it thaw 2-4 hours. Then try to hook up a battery charger and see if it takes a charge. Jerry
 
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Also, if there is no windchill (esp. inside a garage) a block heater (even our 400w screw-in-the-block type) can heat the transmission, making the gear lube start out NOTICEABLY thinner (closer to operating temp). Yes, I have synthetic gear lube (now Amsoil, was Mobil1), but even synthetics are smoother warm than cccccold. Dave
 
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Well today I see how well the GC and my block heater work together to get my car started, if it starts. Currently -45C (-49F) and the windchill is at -60C (-76F) ouch. I can honestly tell you without the block heater, no chance at all that my car would start.
 
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TIP: Don't forget to unplug! I forgot the other day. Good thing I was using a 50-foot extension cord that was mostly laying on the ground in a coil. Backed down the driveway, looked back to the house and saw this orange cord spiraling out from garage to me. Stopped just in time. [Embarrassed]
 
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windchill clarification. Technically, an engine isn't affected by windchill. For example : if the temp is 0 degrees, no matter hard the wind blows, the engine will not get colder than 0 degrees. But ................. the wind will cause the engine to LOOSE it's heat faster than if there is no wind. So... if you are putting 750 watts into an engine with a block heater, that block is getting warm and if the wind is blowing at the engine, the block will be looking that heat faster than if the wind were not blowing. DEWFPO
 
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quote:
Originally posted by TallPaul: TIP: Don't forget to unplug! I forgot the other day. Good thing I was using a 50-foot extension cord that was mostly laying on the ground in a coil. Backed down the driveway, looked back to the house and saw this orange cord spiraling out from garage to me. Stopped just in time. [Embarrassed]
Geez good point! Couple of weeks ago I saw this little old lady putt-putting down the street. The block heater cord was whipping behind the car like an angry snake. Folks tried to get her attention but she was oblivious. Wonder if she has run anybody over, hit the windshield washer, and kept driving?? Makes you wonder ... Jerry
 
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quote:
Originally posted by DEWFPO: windchill clarification. Technically, an engine isn't affected by windchill. For example : if the temp is 0 degrees, no matter hard the wind blows, the engine will not get colder than 0 degrees. But ................. the wind will cause the engine to LOOSE it's heat faster than if there is no wind. So... if you are putting 750 watts into an engine with a block heater, that block is getting warm and if the wind is blowing at the engine, the block will be looking that heat faster than if the wind were not blowing. DEWFPO
If you're parked outside, it's colder than -30 F, and there is a HUGE wind, that frost plug heater will make little if any difference. That's why I like the circulation or "tank" coolant heater. They seem to have way more capacity to deal with things like severe windchill. True, the block won't get any "colder" as windchill only deals with heat loss. Here in Canada they sometimes mention windchill in so many watts per square metre: if the heat loss is say 1,500 watts per square metre, will the block heater keep up? No. That's why around here folks will sometimes throw a huge piece of canvas over the hood of the car and secure it with cinderblocks. The canvas keeps the wind off the motor and really helps the frost plug heater. Heavy commercial equipment, especially forestry skidders, use "canopy" heaters. They run off propane or diesel fuel and, just like the preheater for an airplane motor (That's where they got the idea from), they heat up the entire engine compartment. At one time, loggers around here used "slave" coolant systems. You'd see these quick-connect couplers, like hydraulic hose couplers, poking out the winter front of their pickup truck. They'd drive deep into the bush to the skidder that had been parked overnight or over the weekend at -40. No electricity so no coolant heaters. You'd use short hoses to hook up the skidder motor cooling system to the pickup cooling system. The hot coolant from the pickup would then circulate through the cold skidder engine block. The temp gauge on the pickup would drop from 185 F to the bottom of the peg. You'd also hook up booster cables to the skidder to start charging the batteries. After 15-20 minutes, you'd disconnect the coolant lines and boooster cable, and spray ether into the intake plenum for 10 seconds. It would usually fire right up. This is really rough on the pickup cooling system, and isn't used anymore. Folks figured out that for the price of a generator, you can fire up a small genny for 3-4 hours to heat up the circulation heaters and pan heater. Cheaper than a blown engine - +$10,000. Winter: it's fun. Jerry
 

Patman

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I had a bad feeling something was wrong over my last two mornings when my engine revved up a little higher on the cold start, and did not heat up as quickly, and now I'm pretty sure that my block heater is dead. [Frown] I wonder if it's worth it to get it fixed, who on earth could I take it to, and how much would something like this cost? Why did it have to die during the coldest winter we've had here in my lifetime? [Bang Head]
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Patman: ... and now I'm pretty sure that my block heater is dead. [Frown] ...
If you are using a timer, make sure the timer is ok.
 
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