Top Tip of the Day: Block Heaters in Winter

Winter Driving Tip


Block Heaters

Block heaters are a must in northern regions.

Plug in the block heater while the engine is still warm.

In extreme cold, install two block heaters.

Avoid using ether for cold starts. Use as little ether as possible, about a one second spray into the air intake, while the engine is turning over.

A block heater needs to be mounted as low as possible—at least 2” below the point where the heated fluid will enter the motor or fluid reservoir.

A block heater will provide many years of service with little danger of the element burning out—provided there is good circulation of the coolant at all times.

There is no “pump” inside a block heater. Instead the coolant flows based due to natural convection.

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Top Tips for Cold-Weather Starts

Icy dump


As the temperatures drop into single digits or lower, batteries lose their cranking power and can fail. Here are a few winter starting tips to extend battery life.

Top Tip No. 1: Turn the lights on before cranking the engine

If the temperature drops to single digits or colder, run the four-way or emergency flashers for 15 to 20 seconds before starting the vehicle. Another option is to turn the headlights on for the same amount of time. This helps to energize a chilled battery.

Caution: Be sure to turn any lights off before cranking the starter. The electrical current load while starting or cranking an engine can burn out the light bulbs or cut the life of the lights in half.

Top Tip Number 2: Heat your diesel’s aluminum air-intake pipe

Diesels do not have spark plugs; they ignite fuel by heating up air blended with a mist of diesel fuel. If your diesel engine does not have a block heater (or it fails or wasn’t plugged in), one way to help get the engine going on a cold day is to heat the aluminum air-intake pipe. Aluminum melts easily, so be sure to fan the heat over the pipe.

Caution: If you are not sure what to do or what the aluminum air-intake pipe is or where to find it, then do not attempt this.

Top Tip Number 3: The 24-hour Battery Recharge

In making short trips around town, the battery might not get fully charged. If the battery is totally run-down, it might need to be re-charged. For a lead-acid battery, this won’t happen in ten to fifteen minutes. A recommended practice is to charge the battery for 24 hours to fully charge the battery. Follow the instructions on your battery charger or any tips from the battery maker.

Top Tip Number 4: Wear Proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

Always wear safety glasses and gloves if working with batteries. If working around batteries or recharging batteries or jumping batteries, sparks and hydrogen can occur and this might result in a battery explosion. Battery acid in the eyes can result in blindness.

Top Tip Number 5: Never Drop a Battery

Dropping a battery can kill it. Dead. Never drop a lead-acid battery. Treat batteries with the respect they deserve and they will never fail you.

The technology of the lead-acid battery has not changed much in the last sixty years or so. But a vehicle’s batteries can last the life of a vehicle, if properly maintained and managed.