How to Install a Block Heater | Easy Steps

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Getting your car up and running in the wintertime can be a challenge for most, but installing a simple block heater can eliminate most, if not all, of your car troubles. If you’re wondering how to install a block heater, this quick guide will provide you with all of the information you need to get your car heated up and ready to roll in sub-zero temperatures.

What Is a Block Heater?

A block heater is an ingenious, invaluable piece of automotive technology that can help your car perform and start up more reliably in frigid temperatures. A block heater works by warming up the car’s engine and engine fluids, allowing motor oil to circulate through the engine more efficiently. The final result is less time spent waiting for the engine to reach optimal working temperatures.

Block heaters are made up of two key components—a heating element and a power cord. The heating element is installed in the port of the engine block (the part of the engine that contains the cylinders, among other things). The heating element delivers heat to the engine using power supplied through the cord.

Types of Block Heaters and How to Set It Up

Before you decide to purchase a block heater, it’s crucial that you know the various block heater types. There are five types to go through—inline heaters, freeze plug heaters, cartridge heaters, drain plug heaters, and oil pan heaters. Allow us to briefly summarize each type of block heater and the installation process.

Inline Heater

Inline heaters are the most traditional way of delivering heat to your car engine, and it’s also one of the most reliable block heater types. The way inline heaters work is simple but highly efficient. Fluids circulating through the coolant hose passes the newly installed heater.

Installation Steps

  • Use aviator snips to cut the coolant hose into two parts
  • Take the block heater’s input port and connect it to one end of the newly cut hose
  • Take the block heater’s output port and connect it to the other end of the newly cut hose

Freeze Plug Heater

This type of block heater is ideal for cars with freeze plugs. Freeze plug heaters are highly efficient and can bring engine fluids up to temp in no time. However, installation can be a hassle for the not-so-car-savvy.

A freeze plug heater directly supplies heat to the engine coolant to keep it at a thin consistency. Getting the heater set up can be tricky at first, but you’ll immediately get the hang of it after the first shot.

Installation Steps

  • Drain the coolant from your car engine
  • Check the owner’s manual to see how to remove the freezer plug
  • Check to see that the remaining coolant level is lower than the freezer plug
  • Wipe away any residual coolant from the freeze plug hole
  • Remove the block heater’s O-ring
  • Test the hole by placing the block heater in the freeze hole plug momentarily, ensuring there is no contact with other components
  • Remove the block heater and mark its position relative to the freeze plug hole
  • Reinsert the O-ring
  • Reinsert the block heater into the previous hole
  • Refill the engine with coolant while checking for leaks
  • Connect the car’s electrical system to the block heater

Tip: One of the engine’s freeze plugs is easier to remove than the others. Locate this plug for quicker setup. Also, use a silicone sealant around the O-ring for extra protection against moisture and leaking.

Cartridge Heater

Cartridge heaters are incredibly effective and easy to install, but they’re not for every vehicle model. This type of heater is only compatible with cars with adjacent metal housings and coolant tanks. If this does not describe the layout of your car’s engine, then you need to seek other heating options.

Cartridge heaters use thermal conduction to quickly deliver heat to the engine coolant. Installation is done in a matter of mere minutes, and there’s virtually zero-risk of leaking. These two factors make cartridge heaters a costly yet worthwhile option.

Installation Steps

  • Locate the hole on the engine’s head-side
  • Slide the cartridge heater through the engine block
  • Snap the clip on the side of the block to keep it from sliding out
  • Take the power cord and feed it toward your car’s grill for easy access in the future

Tip: Apply a liberal amount of silicone sealant around the cartridge heater’s connection to prevent moisture damage.

Drain Plug Heater

A drain plug heater is practically identical to a freeze plug heater. The only key difference is that this device replaces the engine’s drain plug rather than one of the freeze plugs.

Installing a drain plug heater is pretty much identical to the setup process of a freeze plug heater.

Installation Steps

  • Drain the coolant from your car engine
  • Wipe away residual coolant from the hole’s inner threads
  • Use seal tape on the inner threads for extra leak protection
  • Fasten the block heater into the threaded drain port hole
  • Refill the engine with coolant while checking for leaks
  • Connect the car’s electrical system to the block heater

Oil Pan Heaters

The concept of an oil pan heater is simple yet effective. This block heater type comes with an adhesive pad that allows it to stick onto the car’s engine oil pan or transmission oil pan. Installing these heaters couldn’t be easier.

Installation Steps

  • Clean the outer surface of the engine oil pan and/or transmission oil pan using brake cleaner
  • Remove the block heater’s backing paper to reveal the adhesive layer
  • Stick the block heater onto the outer surface of the engine oil pan and/or transmission oil pan

Tip: Feel free to stick an oil pan heater onto both pans for better heating efficiency

Last Words

And that, grease monkeys, concludes our guide on how to install a block heater in your car. First, familiarize yourself with the various block heater types and see which methods are compatible with your vehicle. If your car supports it, we highly recommend using a cartridge heater, but any type will work just fine in the winter.

The post How to Install a Block Heater | Easy Steps appeared first on The Mechanic Doctor.

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