What is Engine Block Heater? | How does a Block Heater work?

The engine temperature plays a big role in the proper working of the engine. As the temperature drops less than the freezing point, the engine may have starting problem. Therefore, the engine block heater uses to warm up the engine. These heaters help to increase the vehicle’s engine life and keep it running at all times.

What is Engine Block Heater?

An engine block heater is a mechanical device used to heat up the engine and fluids before starting the car engine. This heater is best suitable for below-freezing temperatures as it decreases the risk of damage due to “cold start” and idling.

As you turn ON your vehicle engine, the block heater in the car quickly warms the fluid up to the ideal operating temperature.

engine block heater

In cold weather, it is vital to heat the vehicle fluid for the efficient working of the engine. In a cold environment, the engine oil converts into thick oil due to that the components of the engine may rub against each other, but idling is not suggested.

Warming the engine oil before starting the car also reduces the emission rate and improves the fuel economy. The refrigerant helps to maintain the normal temperature of the vehicle engine, and it can also be heated by a heater.

However, refrigerant affects the heat in the compartment, so using a heater reduces the time it takes to heat up the vehicle’s internal compartment. Engine heaters have the ability to decrease the risk of engine damage and increase the service life of the car.

Working of Engine Block Heater

The engine block heater works in the following way:

working of engine block heater

  • As you turn on the block heater, it heats up the coolant of the vehicle.
  • As the coolant is heated, the water pump uses to pump it throughout the engine. The coolant flows throughout the engine.
  • The hot coolant transfers its heat to the engine and increases the engine temperature up to the normal temperature. As the engine heats up, you can easily start it.

Types of Engine Block Heaters

The engine block heater has the following major types:

  1. Frost Plug Heater
  2. Engine Warming Blanket
  3. Oil Pan Heater
  4. Dipstick Heater
  5. In-line Heater (Circulating Heater)
  6. In-line Heater (Non-circulating Heater)
  7. Bolt-on External Heater

1) Frost Plug Block Heater

It installs on the engine block to warm up the refrigerant directly. You must hire a professional to install it properly.  

2) Engine Warming Blanket

This is a specially designed blanket that directs heat back into the engine. You can easily install it inside the hood or on the engine.

Read More: Different Types of Engines

3) Oil Pan Heater

As the name of this heater suggests, it uses to heat up the oil pan, which then indirectly warms the oil. Bolts or magnets are used to connect it to the oil pan. Contact the mechanic for its installation.  

4) Dipstick Heater 

This type of engine block heater replaces the normal engine oil dipstick. It directly heats the engine oil. It has an easy installation.  

5) In-line Heater (Circulation Heater)

The in-line heater contains a pump to circulate warm refrigerant throughout the engine. You must hire a professional for its installation.  

6) In-line Heater (non-circulating)

It uses to heat the engine refrigerant directly by connecting it to the coolant hose. You should also hire a professional for the installation of this heater.  

7) Bolt-on External Heater

This heater uses to heat the engine directly while the coolant is heated indirectly. It is connected to the engine block.

Read More: Working of Rocker Arm

Function of Engine Block Heater

The engine fluid is preheated for the efficient working of the engine. The pre-heating has the following advantages:

  • The compartment heater generates heat more quickly for comfort.
  • The preheating process of the engine fluids helps to achieve the normal temperature of the fluid and ensures an easy start of the vehicle.
  • The engine block heater helps to reduce the emission rate and fuel consumption.

Who needs the Engine Block Heater?

Engine heaters are useful for Cleveland because this area has less temperature than the freezing point. Therefore, you must install a heater in your vehicle to protect your engine.

Engine block heaters are also useful if you don’t use your car every day.

The engine heater is also used in the diesel engine because diesel engine requires a higher temperature to burn fuel than gasoline vehicles. The diesel engine has a high compression ratio. The cars that use non-synthetic oils can also take advantage of heaters.

How and when to use an Engine Block Heater?

The engine heater using method varies according to the atmospheric temperature. If it’s cold enough to gel the coolant (by hand or check the brand of coolant used) and the block cracks, you must plug in your heater overnight.

When it’s less cold, you can use a timer to save on your electricity bill. This timer allows you to turn on the heater a few hours before your trip. The heaters typically only take 1-3 hours to adequately warm up the engine in cold weather.

Engine heaters lessen the risk of engine damage and increase the life cycle of the vehicle.

Read More: Signs of Engine Overheating

How to Install a Block Heater

The installation of the engine block heater is very simple and easy. Follow the below-given steps to install the heater:

  • Use a jack to raise the vehicle front and secure it with the jack stand. The high-clearance vehicles may leave this step.
  • Now, open the hood.
  • If your car contains a block heater port, then find the open port in the engine block. To find the heater port, move the coolant hose to the side or go underneath the engine and look under the exhaust manifold.
  • If your car does not contain the block heater port, then locate the freeze plug and remove it to install the heater.
  • Now wear gloves and apply thermal grease to the heating element.
  • Slowly slide the heating element over the block until it connects and fixes into its place.
  • Insert the wiring into the heating element and connect it.
  • Route the cable away from the engine compartment to the desired location, e.g., under the grill. Stay away from the hot engine parts such as exhaust manifolds and rotating components such as the crankshaft. The outlet must be easily accessible from outside the car.
  • Secure the cable with zip ties.
  • Cover the cable exit to protect the cable from the elements when not in use.
  • Insert block heater 2-3 hours before the operation.

FAQ Section

What is the Purpose of the Engine Block Heater?

The primary purpose of block heaters is to make the engine start easier, but by preheating the engine oil, antifreeze, and engine interior, it speeds up the heating, which reduces wear and emissions. It can also make the interior of the car more comfortable.

When to Plug in an Engine Block Heater?

The exact temperature to consider for hooking up an engine block heater varies, but it’s important to remember that you’ll likely need to hook up a vehicle if it gets really cold at night or early in the morning.

Typically, new vehicles can be started in temperatures as low as -30°C, but without the built-in heater, the engine can be subjected to heavier loads. A general rule of thumb is to connect your engine block heater in a way that it is safe when the weather gets to -15°C or below. If you drive a diesel car, you may need to hook up an engine block heater before the temperature drops that far.

How long does it take for a block heater to warm an engine?

In maximum cases, the block heater warms the engine for up to 5 minutes but in some cases, it takes 10 minutes to warm the engine.

When should I use my engine block heater?

The latest vehicle models have the ability to start in temperatures as low as -30°C, but without the engine block heater, the engine can be subjected to more stress. As a rule of thumb, you should plug in your block heater when the weather drops below -15°C.

Should I unplug block heater before starting?

Make sure the heater block spark plug wires are not damaged, cracked or frayed by salt. Do not drive over extension cords. Don’t leave the car running while it’s still plugged in. Unplug the heater before starting the car.

How cold does it need to be to use engine block heater?

The heater typically only takes 2-4 hours to properly warm up the engine in cold weather. In addition, you don’t need an engine heater every day on cold days. This is only necessary on days when the temperature is below 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

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