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Poll

What cold-start heaters (engine block heater, dipstick heater, battery warmer, etc.) do you have for your car?

Nothing
- 17 (89.5%)
Engine block heater
- 2 (10.5%)
Dipstick heater
- 0 (0%)
Battery warmer
- 0 (0%)
Other (please specify)
- 0 (0%)
Some combination of the foregoing options (please specify)
- 0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 19


Author Topic: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?  (Read 6708 times)

J N Winkler

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What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« on: March 02, 2015, 11:48:07 AM »

This is inspired by the parallel thread on winter tires.  "Cold-start heater" is a general name for any appliance that is run off wall current and is designed to heat the engine oil, coolant, or battery acid in a car to promote easy starting and quick warm-up in extreme cold.

My guess is that equipment of this kind will be quite rare outside of Canada, but I am interested to see how far south it is available.  I understand that new cars are purchased with engine block heaters as a factory option as far south as South Dakota, but I have never actually seen one so equipped in Kansas.
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jeffandnicole

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2015, 12:26:04 PM »

We had a Sebring Convertible.  One day when I was under the hood, I noticed a cord sticking out, and realized the car had a engine block heater!  Couldn't wait till the next winter to try it out.  Unfortunately, the car didn't make it to that point and was totaled in an accident!
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wxfree

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2015, 12:31:47 PM »

I live in Texas and have never traveled to places having extreme cold, so I don't have or need such a thing.  Over the years I've seen several large pickups with electric plugs in the front, presumably for a block heater.  I don't know anyone who has a vehicle so equipped, but I assume they're probably owned by the people you hear about around here who work in the gas fields making too much money and don't know how to handle it.  Such people often buy huge brand-new pickups with more size, power, and accessories than they need, often just to drive alone on paved or well-maintained roads.  Block heaters may sometimes be used around here as status symbols.
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DaBigE

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2015, 12:41:27 PM »

I've found nearly all Ford's sold in the northern tier of states come standard with an engine block heater. Other brands may be similar. The last four Ford's my immediate family has purchased included one, dating back to the late 90s. Whether I actually use it or not is another story. Don't need it at my apartment since I have a heated garage spot; would love to use it at work since it's a wide-open parking lot, but there's no place to plug in.
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Pete from Boston

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2015, 12:50:41 PM »

I thought about getting one this year, but really had only minimal trouble turning over on our plentiful 0-to-10-degree days.  I guess they really come into play in places with consistent subzero weather.
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cpzilliacus

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2015, 02:17:31 PM »

My guess is that equipment of this kind will be quite rare outside of Canada, but I am interested to see how far south it is available.  I understand that new cars are purchased with engine block heaters as a factory option as far south as South Dakota, but I have never actually seen one so equipped in Kansas.

Most pickup trucks and vans sold in the U.S. with Diesel engines have them (and IMO a good thing too, after the cold of winters 2013-2014 and 2014-2015).

My Diesel will start without being plugged-on, but a big cloud of noxious particulate emissions can be expected from the tailpipe of a vehicle with a cold oil burner under its hood (my truck does not otherwise emit visible emissions).
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6a

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2015, 08:35:50 PM »

The Ohio block heater :D
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corco

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2015, 08:49:15 PM »

I know many folks that have them here in Montana, but both of my cars have started up successfully in temperatures as low as -30. Last year we had a full week where temperatures didn't crack -20, and I never had much trouble. My main issue was that in the Liberty the power steering unit was essentially frozen, so I had to let it warm up for about 10 minutes before the car had power steering.

I buy high-end car batteries and maintain them as best as possible and test them before winter hits to make sure they're cranking full amperage, and that has worked fine for me. The batteries may not last as long with the heavy winter wear and tear, but that's worth not having to hassle with plugging the car in for me.

I do have jackets on both batteries, but not the kind you plug in.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2015, 08:52:45 PM by corco »
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Duke87

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2015, 12:05:18 AM »

I have never had to start a car in a temperature lower than about -4F. Don't think I've ever experienced a temperature lower than that, period. Such is life near the coast.

So no, I don't have any special pre-heater devices and the idea of one being used for a gasoline-powered vehicle would seem absurd to most people around here.
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cpzilliacus

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2015, 07:54:02 PM »

I have never had to start a car in a temperature lower than about -4F. Don't think I've ever experienced a temperature lower than that, period. Such is life near the coast.

So no, I don't have any special pre-heater devices and the idea of one being used for a gasoline-powered vehicle would seem absurd to most people around here.

It may not matter that much in the eastern U.S. (since winter air quality is not that much of an issue), but there is one environmental advantage to an engine block warmer, even for a gasoline engine - the emission control system gets up to working temperature much more quickly if the block is not as cold as its surroundings.
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SSOWorld

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2015, 08:00:28 PM »

I have the perfect one, it's call a garage.
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corco

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2015, 08:07:32 PM »

I have never had to start a car in a temperature lower than about -4F. Don't think I've ever experienced a temperature lower than that, period. Such is life near the coast.

So no, I don't have any special pre-heater devices and the idea of one being used for a gasoline-powered vehicle would seem absurd to most people around here.

It may not matter that much in the eastern U.S. (since winter air quality is not that much of an issue), but there is one environmental advantage to an engine block warmer, even for a gasoline engine - the emission control system gets up to working temperature much more quickly if the block is not as cold as its surroundings.

Oh come on, it's fun standing behind a running car and breathing when it's 15 below outside.

J N Winkler

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2015, 09:19:57 PM »

I buy high-end car batteries and maintain them as best as possible and test them before winter hits to make sure they're cranking full amperage, and that has worked fine for me. The batteries may not last as long with the heavy winter wear and tear, but that's worth not having to hassle with plugging the car in for me.

Optima Red Top?

I live in Texas and have never traveled to places having extreme cold, so I don't have or need such a thing.  Over the years I've seen several large pickups with electric plugs in the front, presumably for a block heater.  I don't know anyone who has a vehicle so equipped, but I assume they're probably owned by the people you hear about around here who work in the gas fields making too much money and don't know how to handle it.  Such people often buy huge brand-new pickups with more size, power, and accessories than they need, often just to drive alone on paved or well-maintained roads.  Block heaters may sometimes be used around here as status symbols.

Another possible explanation is that these drivers have read Bob Sikorsky's Drive it Forever:  he forcefully advocates the use of engine block heaters even in warm locales (Miami, southern Arizona, etc.) for the express purpose of cutting engine warmup time down to nothing.  He suggests teaming up an engine block heater with a dipstick heater so that both the cylinder heads and the bearings can warm up, and carrying either a deep-discharge battery with a 12 V-to-120 V inverter or a 50-foot extension cord so that the heaters can be run when the car is not garaged or not near a convenient power outlet.  He also recommends that the heaters either be run on timers (coming on three to four hours before startup) or be thermostatically controlled.

I have a couple of Sikorsky's books on my shelf (Bumper to Bumper, which is a collection of his syndicated columns for the New York Times, as well as the aforementioned title), and I have toyed with the idea of ordering a car with an OEM engine block heater if I ever buy new, but I feel that a strategy of routinely plugging in a car just to eliminate engine warmup--even in warm climates--is more hassle than it is worth without easy access to an attached garage in a house you own.
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corco

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2015, 09:33:31 PM »

Quote
Optima Red Top?

Yes

Brian556

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2015, 10:24:20 PM »

 At a former job here in Texas, a couple of co-workers had Ford pickups that had to be plugged in during cold weather.
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J N Winkler

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2015, 10:50:34 PM »

Quote
Optima Red Top?

Yes

I had to modify a hold-down strap to install one in my current car.  The only widely available size that fits a Saturn S-Series (which uses GM side posts) straddles two BCS battery groups and thus has top as well as side posts.

It hardly ever gets colder than 0° F here, so I went for a Red Top less for cold cranking performance and more to avoid the hassle and cost of dealing with a conventional wet-cell battery in its death throes.  A direct-fit replacement battery for my car would have cost around $85, while the online retailer I bought my Red Top from sold it to me for $170 (about $50 cheaper than retail) with a full-replacement warranty.  I figured absorbent glass mat technology would give me about double the life of a conventional wet cell, which cuts in half the end-of-life hassles while keeping the annual cost of battery provisioning about the same.  (Amazon is a further $50 cheaper but doesn't warranty Optimas, and numerous Amazon reviews mention shoddy packaging.)
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JREwing78

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Re: What cold-start heaters do you have for your car?
« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2015, 01:23:42 PM »

I buy high-end car batteries and maintain them as best as possible and test them before winter hits to make sure they're cranking full amperage, and that has worked fine for me.

At least in southern Wisconsin (which sometimes hits lows of -20F), that is generally sufficient. My last car (initially sold in Minnesota) had an engine block heater; I used it exactly once when I had my fuel lines ice up. My apartment doesn't have power outlets available to power one.

Remote start units are vastly more popular here, and given their ability to either heat or cool, that popularity is understandable. Since my car is a manual, and my commute is 2 miles, I don't bother.
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