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How to Choose the Best Engine Block Heater

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Is it just you or everyone is having a hard time finding the right block heater for them? There are different types of block heaters in the market. So, they all work on roughly the same principle. They all heat the engine coolant to get the engine temperature up and survive the cold winter months. But, before you choose an engine block heater, there are some basics you should know about.

Schematic diagram of the engine after heating

To choose the right block heater, you can start off by considering the size of the engine. The engine gives off heat when it works. So, for different engine sizes, you need to choose a heater with different power.

You would need a power source to connect it. So, consider having a power source that is easy to use where you land the heater.

You also need to pay attention to the choice of voltage. Usually, in Europe, you want to choose a heater with a 230V rating. While in North America and Japan, you choose a heater with 110V voltage. In the cities of the United States and Canada, 220V is preferable and available.

Truck Engine Heater

Common heaters on the market rate around 500W to 5000W. So, you have to find out the lowest temperature in your city in the coldest season. It is a crucial step to choose the right block heater. So, find the temperature and choose according to it.

Next, let’s take a look at the basics to focus on finding the right block heater.

What is a block heater and how it works

A block heater is an electric heating device. The main component of this heater is an electric heating element. Block heaters nowadays provide temperature control and a built-in water pump. These components attach to the aluminum housing.

Truck Cooling System
Truck Cooling System

When power surfs into the block heater, the electric heating element starts to work. It provides heat to the coolant inside the heater. When the water pump works, it sends a heated coolant to the engine. It allows the engine temperature to rise. The temperature controller cuts off the power when it reaches the peak.

How do these engines work? Why they need to use heaters, and what are the benefits?

The primary material of an engine is metal. It is a combination of different materials or parts of different shapes.

The main parts of the engine are the piston and the cylinder. Piston rings remain outside of the piston when the piston moves inside the cylinder. It considers the thermal expansion and contraction between the piston and the cylinder. So, the piston ring design allows the piston to move. It also ensures the airtightness of the cylinder. There is a layer of lubricant between the piston and the cylinder to allow the piston to move.


How Car Engine Works

There are cooling lines around the cylinder. It generates a high temperature when the engine works. The coolant flows inside the cooling line next to the cylinder. It helps to cool the cylinder down.

A perfect fit lies between the cylinder and the piston. The fit also exists with the piston rings on average temperature. But, it changes when the temperature change. The change happens when it drops below 0 degrees celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s why the grip of the greasing between the cylinder and piston increases. That is why moving the piston gets harder for starters.

It is necessary to provide heat to the piston and cylinder to bring the status back to normal. Increasing the flow of lubricant helps in such occasions.

With an engine block heater, you can heat up the coolant. Then, let the heated coolant flow into the cooling line next to the cylinder. This heat exchange between the hot coolant and the cylinder. It results in a continuous increase in the temperature of the cylinder. At the same time, the temperature transfers to the piston. So, the size between them also returns to normal once the temperature rises. As a result, the fluidity of the lubricant between the piston and the cylinder increases. This process helps the engine start faster.

How Car Cooling System Works

The cold engines often face failure in the winter. The reason behind this is the low temperature. When the cold climate appears, it causes severe cold shrinkage to the engine parts. The wear between engine parts extends due to these temperature drops. The structure of the engine parts changes due to this. At this rate, the engine can face damage.

The engine’s temperature will increase after you use the heater to heat the engine. As a result, the fit between the engine parts to normal. This way, the parts will not be open to damage. So, with the use of engine heaters engine, the probability of failure is negligible.

Types of block heaters and the differences between them

According to the purpose of contrast, block heaters divides into three categories. They are as given below-

  1. Embedded block heaters,

2. Tank-type engine preheaters,

3. Engine block heaters with built-in water pumps.

Below, let’s take a look at what are the main differences between them:

Embedded block heater

The engine block follows a casting process. So, when casting the coolant lines of the engine, you need to reserve several holes. These holes work as outlets for casting sand. Also, the holes in the engine get to fill up with coolant inside.

Block Heater
Block Heater

The embedded block heater refers to the heater that stays attach inside these holes. With the use of electricity, the electric elements of the embedded block heat up. Then, the heating elements transfer the temperature over to the coolant.

The advantage of the embedded block heater is that it is cheap. Its disadvantage is also pronounced. Its power is usually low, about 200-500W. There is no temperature sensor, and the healing time takes a long time. If the electric heating element faulty, it is very troublesome to replace the heater.

Canister Engine Preheater

A canister engine heater, also known as a convection type engine preheater, is a type of block heater. The heating element and controller are set in an aluminum case. The electrical and coolant part of the heater takes place on either side of a bulkhead.

Canister Engine Preheater
Canister Engine Preheater

There are two connections with a diameter of 16 mm (5/8 inch) on the heater housing. It can connect to the engine’s cooling circulation system.

The installation of the convection engine preheater needs to ascend 20 cm (7.87 in.) below the tank and make sure that the outlet faces upwards. These outlets allow the heat of coolant to flow into the engine through hot convection.

The convection engine preheater charges around 500-1500W. It is suitable for most engine use and ideal for small gensets.

Engine block heater with built-in water pump

An engine block heater is a type of heater with a built-in circulation pump.

It is one of the best engine block heaters.

VVKB Engine preheater Titan-P3
Vvkb Engine Block Heater Titan-P3

It has the advantage that the water pump can assist in the circulation of the heated coolant while the electric heating element is working.

It also has a built-in temperature controller. It stops the heater automatically when the temperature reaches its peak.

Vvkb Engine Block Heater Titan-P3

It has the exact interface dimensions as a convection engine preheater. But, again, it is a tank heater with the addition of an internal water pump.

It also has a variety of plug styles to choose from. Rated power from 500W to 3000W, suitable for all kinds of engines and generator sets.

The structure and accessories of the block heater

engine preheater-3D
Vvkb Engine Block Heater Internal Structure Map

The block heater gets divided into some parts. They are:

1. Heating element,

2. Temperature controller,

3. Pump,

4. Housing,

5. Connecting wires or cables.

The heating element of the block heater

The electrical part of the heater and the heating distributes into two separate spaces from each other. This space is essential for the safety performance of the heater. As a result, the electrical part is not in contact with liquid, and the heater is very safe.

The heating element of the block heater
The heating element of the block heater

The heating elements are usually chosen from electric heaters and PTC ceramic plates. To protect the electric heaters, some of them are die-cast inside an aluminum ingot. As a result, the lifespan of such electric heaters extends.

The working principle and material of the pump of the block heater

The water pump of the heater is a kind of magnetic pump. Its working principle is that two coils are set on the motor frame made of silicon steel sheet. In the middle of the motor frame, there is a cylindrical shape magnet. In the middle of the magnet is a stainless steel shaft. The stainless steel shaft connects the magnet and the water pump impeller. The magnet and the impeller are the movers of the pump. They rotate together around the stainless steel shaft and the coil. The motor frame made of silicon steel is the stator of the pump.

Pump of the block heater
Pump of the block heater

The alternating current passes through the coil and generates an alternating magnetic field. This alternating field cuts the magnet of the pump movers and generates power. After that, the rotor rotates, and the impeller rotates with the rotor. Between the impeller and the heater casing, there is a small space jam with coolant. So, the impeller rotates and generating centrifugal force on the coolant in the space. It then allows the coolant to appear to flow.

The coil generates a high temperature from water pumping. It goes over 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit). The makers of the Cylinder heater often pick the enameled wire for its long lifespan. Enameled wire is the primary material for the coils. The wire can live up to 180 degrees Celsius (356 degrees Fahrenheit) heat.

Because of fast water pump rotating, the impeller material needs to be abrasion-resistant. Nylon 66 is one of the best impeller materials.

Temperature controller of block heater

The sensor uses a ceramic covering with rubber wood. This way, it prevents damage from high heat. Some heaters also use two controllers. They add an extra layer of protection to the heater.

Temperature controller of block heater
Temperature controller of block heater

The controller stays off on average temperature. This way, the current can pass through the switch. If the heat exceeds the limit, the silver contacts disconnect and cut off power. The silver contacts are set on the head of the bimetal. This bimetal stays inside the thermostat. If the temperature is lower than average, the silver contacts combine. The bimetal makes it happen and conducts the current.

The switch contacts are of silver meld. They can withstand 16 amps of current passing through them. Also, the thermostat connection uses the hard copper sheet as the media. These copper sheets can allow high currents to pass through.

Block heater installation considerations.

You may install a heater well or not. But, the workability and longevity of a heater can’t be judge by that.

If the heater is not installed correctly, it may not work correctly. And it will shorten the service life of the heater.

Installation of embedded block heater

The installation process of the embedded block heater is simple. Yet, it can turn boring because of the add-ons around the engine. If the embedded block heater is faulty, stop using it. Try replacing it with a canister engine heater. An engine block heater with a built-in water pump is also good.

Installation precautions for canister engine preheaters.

We all know about how simple engine block heaters set up is. The canister engine preheater is also the same. Yet, they are different in a few terms. The canister engine preheater operates at high temperatures. If the temperature doesn’t heat up, then the heater is faulty.

Installation precautions for engine block heaters with built-in water pumps.

The engine block heater takes place in the warm air circulation system of the vehicle. The coolant hose of this system has an inner diameter of 16 mm (5/8 inch).

The heater housing in regular operation will not feel the high temperature.


How to Install Engine Block Heater

The heater needs to locate 20 cm (7.87 in.) below the water tank (lowest position of the engine) for installment.

For fuel safety, keep the heater more than 10 cm (3.97 in.) away from the fuel delivery line.

The water outlet of the heater should tilt to face upward, not downward, or straight.

After installation, you have to make sure to remove excess air. It’s done from inside the heater and the coolant hoses.

If the air stays inside the coolant system, the heater housing temperature will be high. On that point, the water pump will gap work.

Block heater malfunctions and how to solve them

Different heaters have different issues. And different issues need different solutions.

Listed below are the causes and solutions for three types of heater failures.

Problems encountered with embedded block heaters and solutions.

Faulty embedded block heaters often face the issue that; the heater does not heat well.

The problem can be a worn wire in use. Worn wires do not allow the current to pass through. The solution is to replace the heater power wire.

Or, it could be that the heater is working for a long time. If a heater works for a long time, it causes burnout. So, again, the solution is to replace the heater.

Problems encountered with canister engine heaters and solutions.

Faulty canister engine heater often faces problems. One of that problem is the heater shell not feeling very hot.

Cause of failure: Damaged heating element.

Solution: Use a voltmeter to measure the heater plug. If the friction is close to infinity, replace the electric heating element.

Cause of failure: Failure of the thermostat.

Solution: Check the switch and replace the switch.

Cause of failure: When the power is on to the heater, the leakage switch works.

Solution: The heater may have an electrical fault. Use a multimeter to measure the resistance of the heater. For example, if the resistance is 0 ohms, you need to open the heater and look for the cause of the electrical fault.

It is also possible that the load of the heater is too large. So, you need to replace the leakage switch with a larger capacity.

Engine block heater with built-in water pump encountered problems and solutions.

Engine block heaters with built-in water pumps have many advantages. They are-

1. Easy to install,

2. Fast heating speed,

3. High compatibility,

4. High thermal efficiency,

5. Small form factor.

The following problems are usually encountered.

If there is air inside the engine or the coolant hose, the water pump may not work well. This happens because of using a magnetic pump.

The heater issues may appear in many situations. Suppose your house temperature is very high and the heater hoses on each side of the connection to the heater, each 10-20 cm (4″ – 8″) apart. In such a case, it will feel warmer than it does when the hose is further away. The heater pump will also appear to work with intervals. For example, the heater may work for 2 minutes depending on the outside temperature. After that, it will stop for a bit. Then the pump will start working again.

The reasons for such issues are-

Air exists inside the heater or inside the heater hose, causing the coolant not to flow at pace. But, in the narrow interior of the heater, the heating element allows the heat of the coolant to reach the set goal. This triggers the thermostat to work again.

When the heater cools down, it causes the heat of the coolant inside to decrease. This way the switch starts working again.

This results in a situation where the heater pump does not stop working.


To fix the issue with the heater, you need to remove and install it again. After installing the heater, you need to start the engine and let the engine run faster. This helps to remove the air inside the heater or the coolant hose.

The engine block heaters with built-in water pumps also face the issue of the heater not heating. That is why the leakage switch shuts off.

The solution refers to the canister engine preheater.

How to choose the right block heater

By now, you may have a comprehensive understanding of engine block heaters. You are also ready to choose the right engine heater at this point.

But, there are some problems you may face. There are so many types of engine heaters. How do I choose the right one?

Read the following article, and you will become an expert in heater selection.

Choose a heater according to the size of the engine.

The engine heater heats the engine, which is metal-made. Because of the heat, it becomes easier to transform into metal. This way, the engine experiences heat depletion.

You have to consider the size of the engine while choosing a heater. The larger the size of the engine, the more coolant it will use. The more coolant it uses, the more heat it will give off under the same conditions.

So, you need to choose a heater with more power.

Choose a heater based on the lowest temperature in your location.

The heat reduces the function of the engine happens at

– 0 degree Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit),

-10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit)

-20 degree Celsius (04 degrees Fahrenheit)

-40 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees Fahrenheit). They are all different. The amount of heat that needs to produce by the engine also varies.

The lower the outside temperature is, the powerful heater needs to be.

Selecting a heater based on the rated power

When choosing a heater, you also need to consider all the electrical loads connected to the power supply. If the electrical loads exceed, then a leakage switch will trigger. So, if you must use a high-power heater, you will need to replace the leakage switch.

Choose a heater based on the voltage rating.

Engine heaters are primarily used in colder regions at high latitudes. The voltage ratings are different in the United States and Europe, and Australia. You will want to consider the voltage rating for your area.

Usually, in the US and Canada, and Japan, the voltage ratings are 110V and 120V. However, in the US, some cities will provide 220V power for the heater to choose a heater with a 220V rating.

In Europe and Russia, and Mongolia, the voltage rating is 230V.

And in Australia, the voltage rating is 240V.

Choose the right style of heater plug according to the country.

The plug of the heater is not the most crucial part. But, if you choosing the wrong plug can change the voltage rating.

Usually, 110V and 120V voltage heaters, their plug style is the US standard plug. So, they are suitable for use in the United States, Canada, and Japan.

220V and 230V voltage heaters, their plug style is usually the European standard plug. Thus, European standard plug usually can only be usable in countries nearby Europe. They are Europe, Russia, Mongolia, and South America.

The 240V heater plugs are only available in Australia.

Engine block heaters are suitable for those machines.

Engine heaters are often used to provide heat to the engines of various vehicles in high space. Trucks, cars, snowmobiles, ATVs, beach bikes, tractors, construction machineries, etc. uses this.

Vvkb Van heater

Various diesel generator sets also use this heater. This is for a time of crisis. It is also vital to keep the generator set warm at all times. Thus, an engine block heater is an essential accessory for diesel generator sets.

Final Word

In the digital era we live in, vehicles are part of our life. So, we need to take care of our vehicles just like we take care of ourselves.

A block engine heater is one of the necessary accessories for the engine of the truck. It allows the engine of a truck to start in cold temperatures. It protects the vehicle from freezing away. So, we hope this guide comes in handy for you. That way you can choose the right heater and bring change in vehicle efficiency.

You can contact us if you are a manufacturer of such vehicles. Be it equipment or accessory provider, we can work together if you are the distributor.


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