How to Install a Block Heater

Vehicle owners living in cold climates have to contend with the effects of low temperatures on the performance of their … Continued

Vehicle owners living in cold climates have to contend with the effects of low temperatures on the performance of their engine. Cold starting an engine can be a real problem if you do not use a block heater. Unfortunately, most cars today do not have these devices preinstalled in their engines. As such, the vehicle owner must install the gadget himself.

What is a Block Heater?

Before we learn how to install an engine block heater, let us understand a few basic things about this gadget first.

Block heaters are ingenious pieces of technology that can help your engine perform better in cold weather. The device warms up the engine and the different fluids in it. This warms up the motor oil so that it will be able to circulate throughout the engine in a more efficient manner. This helps shorten the time that your engine will reach its ideal working temperatures.

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Detail of new car engine

Know the Different Types of Block Heaters

An important aspect of learning how to install a block heater is knowing the different types of the gadget. This will also help determine the correct process of installation. Regardless of the type, however, these gadgets will have to connect to the electrical system of your car.

  • In-Line Coolant Heaters

This is one of the oldest methods of heating up the engine coolant. It remains one of the best alternatives for those who may have difficulty installing a more contemporary block heater. One installs this type of heater anywhere along the hose between the radiator and the thermostat.

The process of this engine block heater installation is very easy. Cut the coolant hose. Connect one end of the coolant hose to the input port of the in-line coolant heater. Connect the output port of the device to the other cut end of the coolant hose. As the coolant passes through this heating element, it gets warmed up before it reaches the engine.

  • Oil Pan Heaters

This type of engine block heater is also very easy to install. The heating element is encased in a plastic pad. The idea is to stick the pad to a surface with liquid inside. The heating element will also raise the temperature of the liquid on the other side of the surface.

There are two places where you can install this type of engine heating device. First is under the engine oil pan. The second is under the transmission oil pan. Some vehicle owners like to heat both pans to make their cars run a lot better in cold weather.

When installing these heaters, it is important to clean the outer surface of the oil pans. There should be no dirt, grime, or grease. A brake cleaner will be suitable for this kind of work. Once cleaned, remove the backing paper on the oil pan heater pad. This will reveal an adhesive layer. Stick this to the outer surface of the oil pan.

  • Freeze Plug Heaters

If your car already comes with a freeze plug, then installing a freeze plug heater is a sound advice. This device will replace one of the freeze plugs in the engine. You can see these on the outer side of the engine’s cylinders. Freeze plug heaters are very efficient at warming up the engine and its fluids. However, installing them can be tricky.

Installing a freeze plug block heater requires draining the engine coolant in the radiator. Before you remove the freeze plug, it is important to check your owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to remove the plug. Also, one of these plugs is a lot easier to remove than the others.

Before you install the freeze plug heater, make sure that the level of the engine coolant is lower than the freeze plug. Clean the inner surface of the hole. Remove the O-ring of the engine block heater. Insert the heater through the hole, making sure that it will not touch anything else. Mark the heater’s position and remove it from the hole.

Lubricate the O-ring with silicone grease. Insert through the hole. Reinsert the heater and align it to the marked position. Connect the device to your car’s electrical system and you should be good to go.

Close up of car engine

  • Drain Plug Heaters

These engine heating gadgets work in the same way as freeze plug heaters. They only differ in the manner of engine block heater installation. Instead of replacing one of the freeze plugs, you will be replacing the engine block drain plug with this gadget instead.

Installing this type of engine heating device requires draining of the coolant within the engine itself. Once drained, clean the threaded inner surface of the drain port. Get a thread seal tape and cover the thread of the heater. This will help create a better seal, preventing leaks.

Screw the heater’s threads through the drain port. Make sure to tighten it to the manufacturer’s recommended torque settings. Refill the engine coolant and check for signs of leakage. If there isn’t any, you can proceed to connect the heater to the car’s electrical system.

  • Cartridge Heaters

If you are looking for an engine heater that is effective and easy to install, then cartridge heaters are for you. The only downside to this type of heater is that it does not fit all cars. You must find out if your car has a metal housing adjacent to the engine coolant chamber. This is where you will place the cartridge header. If your car does not come with such a compartment, then you have to think of other ways on how to install a block heater.

This gadget works by warming up the engine coolant in the coolant passages using the process of thermal conduction. The installation process takes only several minutes. However, this type of engine heater can be quite expensive. On the plus side, there is no danger of a coolant leak in the freeze plugs or the drain plug.

There are other products on the market that work to increase the temperature of your engine to help with cold starts. Some are very easy to install. However, they may not be as efficient as freeze plug or drain plug heaters. Installing the right engine block heater can help get your engine to normal operating temperatures in no time.

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Sources:

  1. Installing an Engine Block Heater – Do It Your Self
  2. How long does it take to install a block heater? – Your Mechanic