View Full Version : How to make a self made block heater for your car in the winter


FrozenInMinn
09-29-2004, 09:47 AM
So many of us in the colder states such as i here in Minnesota go through what others will never have to go through. The dead cold of winter and your car won't start because it is way to cold. Block heaters can be expensive to install on an old car and may not be worth it but you have some things arund the house that you can use to make a self made Block heater/Oil Heater....


Take a cake pan or large metal pan or sheet. Go into the shed with your Grill that you haven't used since this summer. Get the old coal and throw a few lumps of new coal in it. Spray a little lighter fluid on it.

Clear out under neath the Oil Pan and engine compartment of the underside of your car, Light the coal, make sure it is good and going and place under neath the oil pan/engine compartment.

What this does is keep your oil and engine compartment warm, which makes it tons easier to start. All last year I did this for my 1990 Corsica because i didn't want to spend more money for the block heater then i did for the car. It doesn't take much and does the trick.


There are also inexpensive oil heaters that you put in your dipstick but i have found those don't work very well, they seem to only heat the top of the oil. I just bought an Isuzu this summer, and of course no block heater....

KissyMissy74
09-29-2004, 07:20 PM
Sounds like a fire hazard to me, but I have never had to use a block heater. I'm in the southern end of WI

Getsome
10-07-2004, 12:59 AM
Sorry but this is a poor idea for the simple reason that both transmission fluid and oil are flamable. Several places sell something for either your dipstick or freeze plugs. I took a quick check on eBay and found these two that will work. I believe that both plug into a regular outlet.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=
7925611044&category=33613

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=
2492915019&category=26437

I'm all for saving money and doing things myself but having coals under my Jeep isn't where to save money. You might alos want to look into going with a lighter weight oil like 10w30 in place of a 10w40 or 20w50. My Jeep is very cool blooded and I run 20w50 in the summer and 10w30 in the winter so that I can get it started. If You have any questions please let me know.

Getsome

FrozenInMinn
10-08-2004, 02:41 PM
Sorry i should have been more specific, once the coals have burned through, meaning there isn't any flame anymore, then place them underneath your engine compartment. I'm sorry I should have explained that a little better. I can see where it could be a fire hazard the other way...lol....

I've done it in the past and it works. Its a temporary solution until you can get or find something else.

kmeg
10-08-2004, 05:16 PM
I remember quite a few years ago when we lived out in the middle of nowhere without a garage when it was waaaayyyyyy below zero we used these magnetic heaters that you put right on your oil pan. They worked pretty slick and the van always started right up, a pain to crawl under to take them off and put on, but the van always started after that. I am sooo not looking forward to another Minnesota winter, but I will be content to b*&%^ about it and stay here. If it wasn't for all my family being here I would be in Morro Bay, Cal where it is nice and toasty.
CJ

B-Ray
10-11-2004, 08:14 PM
In the 10+ years in Alaska I always had the 1500watt inline heater in the heater hose (leave the heater controls open). It would only heat up the water in the engine and heater core which took the chill off the inside a bit too.

Dip stick heaters with enough wattage to heat all the oil, will burn the oil too. Never thought I could trust those expansion freeze plug heater to stay in place. Magnetic heaters can be held in place using two pan bolts and a metal strap.

flygirlaa2
12-21-2004, 07:50 PM
When i had a diesel pickup and lived in Chicago, I simply used a lamp as a heater. They have the portable shop lights where you can hang them beside where you are working. Just put as large a light bulb as it will allow and place it in the engine compartment or under it and close the lid. Works wonders.

techguy
01-23-2005, 08:52 AM
...
Take a cake pan or large metal pan or sheet. Go into the shed with your Grill that you haven't used since this summer. Get the old coal and throw a few lumps of new coal in it. Spray a little lighter fluid on it. Clear out under neath the Oil Pan and engine compartment of the underside of your car, Light the coal, make sure it is good and going and place under neath the oil pan/engine compartment.
...
There are also inexpensive oil heaters that you put in your dipstick but i have found those don't work very well, they seem to only heat the top of the oil. I just bought an Isuzu this summer, and of course no block heater.......

As someone else noted, you risk a car fire with this method. It is not the open flame, but the fact that coals are uneven in their heating and have hot spots well above the flash point of gas/oil. Commercial heaters are carefully controlled to produce even heat that remains below the temperature that will ignite the gas or oil. Cheaper in the long run, too.

I highly recommend the electric magnetic block heaters. They cost about $30 and attach to the bottom of the engine. Safe and effective. The heat is plenty, gets applied right where is needed, and they are easy to use. They are most common in store that sell tractors and tractor parts, since diesels are hell to start when cold, tractors are often stored outside because of their size, and farmers need their tractors in all weather. Someone mentioned light bulbs - yes, 95% of the energy used generates heat, but they get too hot and a drip of cold oil or water could shatter the bulb, so they need to be protected.

HOWEVER.. if you don't have electric handy or haven't bought one in advance, your method has a lot of merit. BUT... please reduce the risk a bit by covering your pan of coals with a larger pan, inverted over your pan. You want it loose to allow oxygen in and to keep the cover away from the coals. You'll get the same amount of heat, but now gas and oil drips will fall on an exposed surface that has a more even temperature, and any wisps of flame will be contained under the pan and not touch the grease on the engine. :thumbsup:

In a real emergency, everything you need is in the kitchen: a small frypan for the coals, and larger one for the cover. Put something non-flammable under the coals to prevent them from ruining the frypan: gravel, potting soil, kitty litter, whatever. Tinfoil (aluminum) will burn through, so that's not good except to contain something else. If you have an empty metal can to use, that would be great, of course.

No coals? You can use candles, too. Just make sure you can cover it with a can or a "teepee" of aluminum foil to shield the open flame. Candles don't provide a lot of heat, but enough to help keep the engine from freezing up overnight. Keeping a small sterno can in your trunk is a cheap emergency preparation.

You can improve the effectiveness of any of this by trapping the heat. Put a blanket over your engine (under the hood) and in front of the radiator. Use newspapers and/or snow to create a skirt and seal the space under the car. Such things can turn a frozen hulk into a running car in a few hours.