Now that we’ve huddled down for the winter, shoveled off sidewalks, and finally squeezed in that appointment to switch to winter tires, life settles into more of a routine. For many of us, this routine includes plugging into an engine block heater overnight or before leaving the house. If you live in a typically cold climate and have considered getting an engine block heater installed, you may want to give this a read.

Why do I need a block heater?

To put it simply, you don’t! If you’re fine with battery output being cut in half when the temperature hits -18°C, and your fuel economy increasing by up to 20%, then you’re also probably happy to run outside 30 minutes before you leave the house to idle your vehicle to solve this problem… If that doesn’t sound great to you, it’s probably time to install that block heater you’ve had sitting in your garage for three months, or run out and get one!

Your vehicle needs fluids to operate smoothly; transmission fluid, engine oil, antifreeze. In the cold, these fluids become more dense and thicken, making it more difficult for them to circulate and do their jobs properly, which takes time and a higher energy output. A block heater warms these liquids, allowing them to flow quickly and more efficiently, which in turn makes it easier to start your engine and reduce wear and tear. It also allows for the interior to heat faster, making for a more comfortable ride.

Different types of engine heaters

There are a few different types of block heaters, depending on what you’re driving and how easy of an installation you’re looking for. Most are relatively easy to self-install, if you know how to change your own oil, it should be a breeze. Some may need to be professionally installed.

Oil Pan Heater- Heats oil indirectly by sticking to the oil pan and warming it.

Blanket Style Heater- Essentially a high powered electric blank for your engine.

In-line Coolant Heaters-  Uses a pump to circulate heat through the engine coolant.

Bolt-on Block Heaters- an external heater which heats the engine on contact, and indirectly heats the coolant as well.

Freeze-plug Heater- Installed directly onto the engine block, in place of one of the freeze plugs.

Cartridge Heater- Fastened to a channel of the coolant chamber and indirectly heats the coolant.

No matter what type of heater you decide suits your vehicle’s needs, the one common denominator is the engine block heater cord. This electrical cord needs to be safely directed under the hood to connect to power. Make sure your cord is kept tucked away from moving parts, or this could lead to some serious damage.

Another benefit to using a block heater is that it will save on greenhouse gas emissions, with research indicating that the use of a block heater timer shows a decrease of 64% of emissions compared to vehicles without a block heater in cold climates.

(The VoltSafe Winter magnetic block heater plug makes this process effortless with the ease of its quick connect and disconnect to power, saving you time and energy.)