Pan Heater Paranoia?

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Jun 11, 2004
Just after my Wolverine order and install, I read in BITOG that pan heaters could cause add pack depletion with long term heating on good synthetic oils with esters in them. Apparently long term heat without circulation can cause problems in oil, this info come from a very reputable source in Bitog, I have not been able to shake this oil pad heat issue every time I plug in my pad heaters at night. Wolverine maintains no oil damage, also, Wolverine has 14 watts per sq heat in pads, they say this is too mild for damage. Wolverine actually now sells outlet timer with thermostats that will kick in on out electricity if temps go over +4C and under 2C, meaning a heat pad could be on 24 hours a day just above freezing point. (I installed a 50 watt pad on 4 litre oil pan on Nissan because pan to ridged for the proper 125 watt pad, 12 hours is quite close to 5 hours at 125 watts in my calculation) Would say 12 hours of 50 watts on 4 litres XD3 group 1V syn 0-30 oil deplete oil pack? Or 5 hours 250 watts on 11 litres on my cummins diesel on XD3 0-40 syn oil? Am I paranoid here or is there something to long term heat damage on certain oils without circulation? Cyprs
Why not try a UOA at your normal interval and see how the TBN and wear numbers are. That seems like it is the only way to find out.
The thing to do is measure the temperature of the pan right next to the edge of the heating pad after various times from when you plugged it in. You can use a thermocouple such as the type that are on quality multimeters. Get some data and come back here with it if you don't know what to make of it.
I installed a 125 watt Model 9 Wolverine heater on my Accord this Christmas, and it only heats the sump to about 40°F above ambient temperature. The highest I've seen it get the oil was 120° when the car was parked in the garage, but usually its only the 30°-40° difference. I'd hope that 40°, 60° at most isn't enough to burn out the oil.
WIthout circulation, and on such a small sump, wouldn't you only need about an hour to heat that oil? Then start the car and drive I don't see the benefit of keeping oil at temp for extended periods if you aren't going to drive the car anyway. I'd think a block heater would be a better choice.
If the pan heater heats the oil to around 90F in winter, then it is no worse that without the pan heater in summer.
I've got a 185 watt pan heater @ 5 watts per sq in which is plugged in 24/7 unless I'm driving during the winter. I just posted my 1st UOA. TBN 12.2 after 4 month with 3000 miles on oil and very low wear numbers. I keep my heater plugged in all winter because I feel it could tend to dissipate any moisture that may accumulate in the oil. Keeping the heater plugged in also keeps the engine somewhat warmer than not keeping it plugged in. My heater only keeps the oil at about 50F over ambient during the winter. If your oil was at a constant temp of say 160F, then I would think that would be bad, but anything under 100F is just considered warm to me. I think your 50 watt is just fine. I basically have the same sump capacity as your Cummins. I went with a lower temp heater, because I had a general concern about overheating my oil. Still, I would have no worries about a 250 watt heater on you Cummins. Can you post the link for the add pack depletion ?! [ February 15, 2006, 10:35 PM: Message edited by: savvy ]
It goes back to the last thread on Wolverine Heat Pads this winter in 05/06, I can search it and find it Savvy, once I do find it, how do I post the link on my post? Last night it got down to -18C or about 0F, I plugged in for 8 hours with that 50 watts, this morning I pulled out dipstick and oil was loose, dripping easy, I figure probable about 40F to, the oil was not hot but I am concerned with the oil immediately in direct contact with pad. Going to be a -40F wind chill tonight, plug in in for 10 hours tonight on heat pad and 6 on block heater. I dont care if oil is heated up hot, just want it flowing easy when extreme cold. Should do some analysis as see what is going on, thanks all, Cyprs
In theory the oil in direct contact with the pad should be changing as the convection currents circulate the oil. Even if the temperature stabilized, heat is being lost at the other parts of the pan and so convection will continue. To post a link, click "Full Reply Form" at the bottom of the message reply text window. Then below will be 10 buttons, one being URL. Click it and paste the link.
Cyprs I did a search of heating pads, and found all the threads so you won't need to bother yourself posting anything. I know your concerned with the possibility of the heating pads cooking and possibly depleting your oil. I also understand that you want to be responsible for the recommendation and purchase you have made of these pads to your family and friends. I wouldn't be as concerned about all of this if I were you. I've read the posts about potential add pack depletion under high heat conditions. I don't think you or anyone else falls into this category using heating pad during the winter. In my estimation, the benefits of using a heating pad in cold and sub zero conditions far exceed the minor possible risk of add pack depletion. It is better to start your engine during winter IMO with warm easily flowing oil than it is to start your engine with cold, potentially thick oil. I am also taking into consideration a 0-xxx as well. Don't worry about this issue. When spring gets here, just don't use your heating pads until the following fall-winter. I just had my 1st 3000 mile UOA done. I had very low wear numbers in part IMO because of my oil pan heater. Be thankful you have been astute enough to incorporate oil pan heaters in your vehicles. Enjoy your Cummins : )
Thanks TallPaul, I think these pads are a great tool, they do eliminate winter sort of speak. There always seems to be a glitch, things seems to be too good to be true, probably worried about nothing here. Will search the link and try posting it, thanks, Cyprs
Glad I checked for more responses before doing the search you did for me Savvy. Thanks for your trouble Savvy in doing that ground work for me and easing my mind. I did buy a pile of these heatpads and I was concerned. What you explained is exactly my wrestle, hard thick oil starts or easy starts with possible add pack depletion, my wrestle was which is the "lesser evil", I am going to use these pads, will check oil temp in morning after a -40F night, bet the oil is loose again with only a 50 watt pad on 4 liters. Thanks for tip on how to post a link TallPaul and again thanks for your efforts Savvy and easing my concience and worries here. Hope I didn't get others in here concerned for their oil using these pads too. [Cheers!] Cyprs
Now you've done it!! Mass hysteria will follow. Now the "I saw big foot once" (no insult intended for any here who may infact seen big foot [Big Grin] ) type stories of those who've grenaded engines following your exact procedure will surely follow here. Remember matter what "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!" [Big Grin]
:)Funny post Gary, sarcasm as good as I have ever heard, I get your point and take it in good humor. {even if humor isn't your intention). My concern/paranoid hysteria is the price of having a concience Gary, I'm cursed. I did post "Pan Heater Paranoi", shoe does probably fit me but........ Thing is, I did buy 25 of these heat pads with full assurance from the company literature that these pads would not damage the oil. Other Heat pads sold in this local area did burn oil and sludge oil pan, they could not be plugged in in -40F as does Wolverine's claim, the dealer fully warned customers never to plug their pad systems in cold, only when oil hot. I am using these pads on my own new X-Trail with 10K and my real baby a 1992 Dodge Cummins diesel just bought with a 100,000 original miles on it a couple years ago, it is pristine, rare find and my gem, I like it more than my new X-Trail. In this forum people can be finatical about syn vrs dino,oil brand vrs brand, grades, ratings etc. cold idling, even hot idling. Yet some do put a 500 watt heat source on their pan for 24 hours and think nothing of it. Savvy eased my mind on the apparent success his oil analysis shows using a heat pad. To my understanding, some oils may be safe as others may not. Esters was the main concern on depletion in the post I speak of, XD3 Group IV HDEO syn is the choice I and most people who got these heat pads from me use, to my understanding, there is ester content in this oil. If this heat source concern on non circulationg oil is purceived as petty paranoi or laughable then I will let it go in good humor in peace and try to find out if these pads are safe to use elsewhere. I will give my Esso Tech line a call, they may have to phone me back, this one might stump them. (if anyone interested in what they say I would post it) I do use Esso XD3 0-30 with pour point of -60F and have a block heater but the heat pad in invalueable on aiding cold starts, I plugged in my 50 watt Wolverine for 8 hours last night in -30 , block heater for 6 hours, started like a summer start. "lesser evil"? no heat pad starts or possible loss of add pack on 99.999% rest of time idling or driving, "possibly I'm paranoid in mass hysteria," I can live with that and even laugh at myself on it, makes me no less concerned for my or anyone else's vehicle using these heaters. These heat pads work, if they were as safe as effective I would never think twice using them or buying another 25 tommorrow. Cyprs
It is always a pleasure to start my truck on a cold morning after the pad has been on all night. There are some hotter pads, I think 500 watt, sold at places like JEGGs that are for quick heating of oil for racing cars. They are only meant to be plugged in for maybe half an hour and probably would damage the oil in long term use, but since racing cars usually don't log that many miles on their oil it works for them. I bought my pad at Wolverine and they have recommendations. I could have gotten a 125 watt and been at the top of that range for crankcase capacity, but opted (at the sales person at Wolverine's advice) to go with a 250 and be in the lower end of the crankcase volume range for that pad. I am very happy with the 250 watt pad.
I have a Wolverine and merely roughed up the paint surface a bit with very fine sand paper then cleaned with electronic contact cleaner (CRC QD leaves no residue), squeege the pad down good, and run the high temp silicon bead around edge. Has been on several years. No problem. My 250 watt does tend to keep the center area of the hood clear of snow on light snowfalls. Does not get the upper block that warm because once I started up and immediately crawled under and felt the pan. I could feel cold oil draining down the pan from the block. Apparently the hot oil cools from the cold block, but on balance it ends up a lot warmer than if no pad. Also, the hot oil is there for the initial startup before cooling in the block. Last night it was 50F at 11 pm. I plugged in but left the circuit turned off. At 3 am I saw the outdoor was 35 F and knew it was dropping fast, so I turned on the circuit. By 7 am it was 28 F and it started up as well as on mornings when it had been plugged in 24/7. The main reason to be plugged in 24/7 IMO is you never know when you may have to run out for a beer (or milk if the wife sent you) or some other errand. Oh yeah, I tend to not plug in if it is over 32F.
Just talked to the Esso Tech Line. He told me to be very careful with these heat pads, my concern is validated but with common sence and few methods he believes the oil is fine with them. He told me that in extreme cold weather plug the heat pad in immediately after engine shutdown if you plan on drivine vehicle in next 24 hours. He said that when the oil warm at heat pad plug then the heat will convect through oil and not be trapped in causing localized heat damage on thick cold oil. He also stated his preferrence would be a lower wattage pad for longer length of time plugged in immediately on oil that is warm at plug in. He told me that in my case of my diesel sitting for weeks on end and started periodly in cold sub zero weather that plugging in my 250 watts on cold oil will probably not hurt too much, if that diesel was to start daily then he still maintains plugging in immediately will do less damage to oil in not allow localized extreme heating. He also state the least wattage per sq
(sorry, I have large hands, hit wrong key and posted above accidently) He also stated the least wattage per sq in the better, Savvy 6 watts per sq in is probably better than 14 watts per sq in. He recommended a timer on days the oil really doesn't thicken due to cold and a timer on my diesel when plugged in extremely cold weather without constant use. If oil reaches operating temps in 6 hours then no need for that heat source for 6 more. He said to learn and study what the pad does and use it accordlyly rather than for sake of using it if the heat pad is quite high in wattage. Most his opinions were based on the 0-30 and 0-40 XD3 oils with flow rates of -60F, he said for me to understand the great flow qualities of that oil, he believes the 50 watt heat pad plugged in my QR25DE all night after shutdown in extreme cold is all I need and safe with warm oil right at plugin. . He said with XD3 -60 flow with ambient start temp rating of -40F, just taking edge off oil as my 50 watter pad does is safe. He said synthetics will fair better than dinos with these pads, he said to be careful on wattage, immersion heaters do damage oil and hotter head pads than recommended deserve some caution. Oil that does not circulate is extremely vulnerable and use common sence and caution with these pads, monitor the oil temps, he said to keep testing oil temps versus hours plug in. Anyway, I for one will monitor my heat pad hours vrs oil temp to the touch, time plugged in from -30 oil temp to around +70F oil temp, to me 70F (room temp oil) is enough on a cold start, I dont believe that will cause anydamage to oil, leaving it to 180 on top of sump, I wander what temp may be at heat pad, dont know. He said to be careful, if all oil can reach 180F in 6 hours then the heat at bottom pan may be getting a little to hot for uncirculating oil, he advises the recommended Heat Pad times per wattage and oil capacity as good starting point to be safe or as I said, a lower wattage on longer plugins with plug in on warm oil at shut down. I believe he does make sence as far as using a -60F flow oil, he said just taking cold edge off that oil along with block heater will be safe on oil and easy on engine. I am no longer paranoid but will use caution and common sence on these heat pads in both my circumstance on diesel and X-Trail. Ruggerman did tell me that he used a lesser heat wattage for longer extended plug in on his wolverine, I also prefer 6 watts per sq in on larger area as Savvy's heat pad is. Sorry I rambled a bit, right off top head and I am busy, in a hurry. Cyprs
I should not have made the above post, I was extremely hurried and rambling. To the Esso tech I explained my temp flucs from -40F to +40F within a weeks time which occurs at any time through out a winter . X-TRail starts once in morning, once at night. Diesel can sit weeks at a time. I use XD3 Group 1V POA syn oil with pour point of -60F and -40F ambient temp rating. This XD3 use is a major factor in the Esso techs adice on heat pad use for my conditions. His point was this, putting a heat source on non cirulating oil is a concern if the oil is cold and thick or long term uneccessarily during warm or light moderate temps. His main concern was heat can be highly localised until it convects, thicker the oil the harder it is for heat to convect. He recommends plugging heat source at engine shutdown in cold extreme temps so heat convects immediately, With the high quality oil I use, he does not recommend long extended heat on XD3 in moderate/warm temps, use timer and common sence. In moderate temps my oil will convect quickly with my choice of oil. If Wolverine pads warm up oil from -40 to +150 in 6 hours, then he suggests doing some math and trial and error with a timer in moderate temps and get proper results without over use and possible risk on oil. On my diesel/periodic use, he said to use timer on oil in -30 from time to time, should be okay occaisionally, dont do it on daily basis, on daily basis use of truck in -30 plug in heater immediately at shut down to convect heat properly with no localization. Basically I now have full confidence I can use my heatpads safely and effectively on my oil. I did not post his advice to put him on hot seat in here, he advised me in good faith and I believe he gave me an excellent game plan for my conditions and oil used. I fully agree that with the oil I use the heatpads are just an accessory to my oil considering the flow rate of XD3 syn. Overuse of heatpads may ironically nulify this oil's great benefit, I agree with him fully. If I were using a heavy dino oil his advice may have been different. I offered his advice incase anyone else agrees with him and can get a possitive from this as I did. He also told me he is going to check out and run it buy some lab guys, if they see any red flags on these heat pads he will get back to me. Sorry bout the long and numerous posts, I am in busy season now, I have no time and like last year I leave Bitog for thehectic business season. Looking forward to next winter's bitog, have a great summer. Cyprs
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