Block heater life hack

forcebwu19

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So I'll be the first to say I'm new(ish) to diesels. And 100% new to block heaters. I had big reservations with leaving my block heater plugged in all night and it running from the moment I plugged it in to the moment I unplugged it. Seemed wasteful and like it may shorten the life of the heating element. So I set out on a way to make it work for just the 4-5hrs before I needed it, giving it plenty of time to warm up but without having to wake up @ 12:30am to plug it in. Anyway, many of you may have already figured this solution out, but it took me a little time so I figured I'd share.

It all revolves around a smart plug: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CVPKD8Z/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1 - I selected this specific one because it's rated for 15A, meaning it's the same rating as the socket it's being plugged into - AKA I can't overload it....

This plug can be used with this app:

Screenshot_20210214-181252_Google Play Store.jpg


This app allows for some VERY cool things... Check out this schedule I set up for my smart plug:

Screenshot_20210209-204800_Smart Life.jpg


So I plug in my block heater, and if the temp drops below 35degF then it automatically turns on @ 12:30am and turns off @ 9am (encase I'm not driving it that day).

Perfect for what I was looking for. Hope it helps someone else out!! If any of you want to do this and have questions just ask! Happy to help!!
 

Chippy

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So I'll be the first to say I'm new(ish) to diesels. And 100% new to block heaters. I had big reservations with leaving my block heater plugged in all night and it running from the moment I plugged it in to the moment I unplugged it. Seemed wasteful and like it may shorten the life of the heating element. So I set out on a way to make it work for just the 4-5hrs before I needed it, giving it plenty of time to warm up but without having to wake up @ 12:30am to plug it in. Anyway, many of you may have already figured this solution out, but it took me a little time so I figured I'd share.

It all revolves around a smart plug: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CVPKD8Z/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1 - I selected this specific one because it's rated for 15A, meaning it's the same rating as the socket it's being plugged into - AKA I can't overload it....

This plug can be used with this app:

View attachment 17127

This app allows for some VERY cool things... Check out this schedule I set up for my smart plug:

View attachment 17128

So I plug in my block heater, and if the temp drops below 35degF then it automatically turns on @ 12:30am and turns off @ 9am (encase I'm not driving it that day).

Perfect for what I was looking for. Hope it helps someone else out!! If any of you want to do this and have questions just ask! Happy to help!!
Great idea! Just be sure not to run the engine with power turned on to the block heater. This dramatically shortens the life of the heating element. It's always best to unplug (or shut off power) BEFORE starting.
 

Skibum1681

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What causes the shorter life of the block heater element? Isn't it just a heating element threaded into the water jacket of the block and in constant contact with the coolant?
 

Nyvall

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Great idea! Just be sure not to run the engine with power turned on to the block heater. This dramatically shortens the life of the heating element. It's always best to unplug (or shut off power) BEFORE starting.
I've never heard of this before.
 

andrewstclair

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I saw videos of them are torture testing these trucks and leaving them parked for days then cold starting in -40 no block heater and they fired right up. I doubt you even need the block heater in your 35 degree weather and you can set a time for the truck to start and warm up in the Ford pass app. I set mine for ten minutes before I walk out the door and the wheel, seats, heater is all warm by the time I get in. That's a cool device you found but I feel like your over thinking it.
 

Chris21667

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I saw videos of them are torture testing these trucks and leaving them parked for days then cold starting in -40 no block heater and they fired right up. I doubt you even need the block heater in your 35 degree weather and you can set a time for the truck to start and warm up in the Ford pass app. I set mine for ten minutes before I walk out the door and the wheel, seats, heater is all warm by the time I get in. That's a cool device you found but I feel like your over thinking it.
at this point it is more about saving fuel ... if the truck is warm you will drive sooner over waiting for it to warm up then driving .... it know its not much fuel but that's really the only difference if you care about that.
 

Whyte Rhyno

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Great idea! Just be sure not to run the engine with power turned on to the block heater. This dramatically shortens the life of the heating element. It's always best to unplug (or shut off power) BEFORE starting.
Yeah that's not a thing. You can run the truck with the block heater plugged in. Been doing it for years. Don't think I've ever had to replace a block heater
 

Treefiddy

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I’ve always unplugged one air pocket or cold coolant flow and you could blow the element. Honestly rather take the time to unplugged or turn of with a smart plug than replace a block heater.
 

Pachmayr

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I have been using block heaters on diesel engines of tractors, trucks, pickups, etc for >25 yrs.
The question (ie: future argument), “does my engine need a block heater in order to (properly/easily) start on a cold morning?” is oh-so-very subjective.
Personally, if the ambient temp. (at the location my truck is sitting) is
< 20°F, I plug-in the block heater if I’m going to be starting it first thing in the morning. A truck sitting outside is obviously in a different situation than one sitting in an insulated shop. This morning it was -12°F; and yes, I had block heaters going on our diesel pickups when we went to start them. Would they have popped-off without a block heater? Most likely.
There’s no doubt that engines have gotten better [about] starting on a cold morning, but I try to make it easy on my equipment as possible. As a farmer & rancher that depends on equipment, I am not into “torture testing” my engine(s), seeing how/if they’ll start when it’s cold, nor do I care what “some guy has done” on an internet video. (Extreme) Cold starts are hard on an engine. I’d much rather replace a worn-out block heater (because it finally fizzled-out after being used for 7 yrs) than subject my machinery to brutal cold starts.
Back in the 1980’s, we began hooking our pickup block heaters to an outdoor, 24 hr elec timer (similar to the one in the attached pic) and let the timer run the block heater 4-6 hours prior to starting. A timer works good on smaller engines (like pickups that have 400-600w block heaters), but I’m not comfortable running larger block heaters (tractors for example, with >1000w block heaters) on/with timers. If you use a timer to manage the run time of your block heater, make sure it’s rated [for] enough amps., as OP stated.
I def. prefer to unplug the block heater before starting the engine; but over the years, I’ve forgotten to unplug it several times .. I’ve never experienced any damage, but I do unplug asap.
I’m not trying to convince or advise any of you one way or the other...simply relaying what’s worked well for us over the years.
3B45A2A2-3E1F-4D62-AF86-F6128B38008F.jpeg

PS: if your Diesel engine did not come equipped with a block heater, you can always use an aftermarket, magnetic heater. I have a few pieces of equipment that sometimes need a little extra help on a cold morning, and a magnetic engine heater works great—simply slap it onto the oil pan (steel, not cast). ✅
 
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Chippy

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Yeah that's not a thing. You can run the truck with the block heater plugged in. Been doing it for years. Don't think I've ever had to replace a block heater
Actually, it is "a thing."
I maintain a fleet of 27 school buses here in Montana. If you want to replace a hand full of block heaters on the first good cold snap, let your drivers leave them plugged in. Someone touched upon the issue up above. The element needs to be submerged in coolant to operate correctly and not overheat. After starting, this does not happen. (depending on location of the heating element) With starting comes air pockets, steam pockets, and on a bus - ice cold coolant from the many heater cores downstream. You may get away with it, but have you seen where the element lives in a 7.3 Tremor? I wouldn't want to replace it very often! (not my favorite job on ANY engine)
As usual YMMV. It's yours, do what works best for you.
 

Whyte Rhyno

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Actually, it is "a thing."
I maintain a fleet of 27 school buses here in Montana. If you want to replace a hand full of block heaters on the first good cold snap, let your drivers leave them plugged in. Someone touched upon the issue up above. The element needs to be submerged in coolant to operate correctly and not overheat. After starting, this does not happen. (depending on location of the heating element) With starting comes air pockets, steam pockets, and on a bus - ice cold coolant from the many heater cores downstream. You may get away with it, but have you seen where the element lives in a 7.3 Tremor? I wouldn't want to replace it very often! (not my favorite job on ANY engine)
As usual YMMV. It's yours, do what works best for you.
You may be right. I’ve not had a problem ever. I don’t know anything about buses but the heater on the 6.7 sits on the side of the block in a water passage and not in the water pump, inlet, or outlet. Shouldn’t have any issues with lack of coolant flow. If there was a big enough air pocket in that water passage to keep the element exposed enough to cause a failure i think I’d have bigger issues to deal with. But as you said to each his own.
 

Chippy

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You may be right. I’ve not had a problem ever. I don’t know anything about buses but the heater on the 6.7 sits on the side of the block in a water passage and not in the water pump, inlet, or outlet. Shouldn’t have any issues with lack of coolant flow. If there was a big enough air pocket in that water passage to keep the element exposed enough to cause a failure i think I’d have bigger issues to deal with. But as you said to each his own.
 

Chippy

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On a side note, my new buses are coming with Ford 7.3 Godzilla engines. ( I have a few V10's already ) Roush Performance does the install for Blue Bird. I'm pretty excited about that. Nothing will test durability like giving them to a bunch of bus drivers to torture! ;)
 

DanMan583

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The upside to using a block heater aside from helping the engine start easier is the oil is also warmer and in turn flows better and provides better lubrication on start up, which as most mechanics and engineers will tell you that a good majority of engine wear occurs during start up.
I maintain a large number of stationary generators for my day job. We use block heaters, sometimes 2 depending on the size of the unit along with circulating pumps to ensure all portions of the block receive a good flow of warm coolant. A few smaller ones simply use convection like the ones in Pickup Trucks. We leave the block heaters on 24/7/365, even while they run! This is because we simply don’t have the manpower or the time to turn them Off, then On again based on temperature. We see a very low number of block heater failures. Usually it is a thermostat failure, rather than a heating element failure.

On my old Powerstroke I would usually start the truck, then disconnect my block heater. I think it finally gave out at the 15 year mark, but it’s a heating element. They burn out just like a light bulb would. That’s all a light bulb really is.

Soooo, just do what makes you most comfortable. In the end, it is YOUR truck. 😎
 

Chris21667

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The upside to using a block heater aside from helping the engine start easier is the oil is also warmer and in turn flows better and provides better lubrication on start up, which as most mechanics and engineers will tell you that a good majority of engine wear occurs during start up.
I maintain a large number of stationary generators for my day job. We use block heaters, sometimes 2 depending on the size of the unit along with circulating pumps to ensure all portions of the block receive a good flow of warm coolant. A few smaller ones simply use convection like the ones in Pickup Trucks. We leave the block heaters on 24/7/365, even while they run! This is because we simply don’t have the manpower or the time to turn them Off, then On again based on temperature. We see a very low number of block heater failures. Usually it is a thermostat failure, rather than a heating element failure.

On my old Powerstroke I would usually start the truck, then disconnect my block heater. I think it finally gave out at the 15 year mark, but it’s a heating element. They burn out just like a light bulb would. That’s all a light bulb really is.

Soooo, just do what makes you most comfortable. In the end, it is YOUR truck. 😎
also your not burning fuel on remote start and the truck is warm and ready to drive sooner
 

Whyte Rhyno

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On a side note, my new buses are coming with Ford 7.3 Godzilla engines. ( I have a few V10's already ) Roush Performance does the install for Blue Bird. I'm pretty excited about that. Nothing will test durability like giving them to a bunch of bus drivers to torture! ;)
Appreciate the info. I’m no expert. Based on my history I’ve not had issues with the heater. Good luck with the new Godzilla. Those v10s were awesome. I’m looking at a Godzilla swap for a future ramp truck build using a 1966 f350 dually
 

Chippy

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So far, I love my 7.3.
I worked for Ford 20 years before the bus gig. Mainly diesel driveability and electrical. I was invited back to Detroit to visit the Roush facility while they were finishing up with the Godzilla design process. I was impressed enough to actually buy one. I would have NEVER bought a first year engine before.
On a down side, it was 5 above this morning. I have two 6.4L diesels (International MaxForce 7/ Ford Powerstroke) to replace engine heaters on today. One took the extension cord down the road with them!
 
OP
forcebwu19

forcebwu19

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I saw videos of them are torture testing these trucks and leaving them parked for days then cold starting in -40 no block heater and they fired right up. I doubt you even need the block heater in your 35 degree weather and you can set a time for the truck to start and warm up in the Ford pass app. I set mine for ten minutes before I walk out the door and the wheel, seats, heater is all warm by the time I get in. That's a cool device you found but I feel like your over thinking it.

That's the beauty of it! I don't have to think about it (anymore).
 

Pig9r

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If you plug it in, it becomes a hybrid right?😀

I came across this video a while back and it has some good info about how the heater works and how long to have it on. He does misstate how many watts it draws. Based on his numbers it should be about 960 watts.
 
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