What You Need to Know About Engine Block Heaters & Their Plugs

VoltSafe Blog Team – November 23, 2021


How does a block heater actually work?
Now that we’re hunkering down for a brisk winter, shovelled off sidewalks, and finally squeezed in that appointment to get our car some new winter tires, life settles into a bit more of a routine. For many of us in really crisp winter weather, this routine includes plugging our vehicle into an engine block heater either 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 an engine 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 either 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 etc. 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. Let’s face it, driving in the winter can be treacherous so we should give ourselves every little advantage to be comfortable and safe where we can.

Different types of engine block heaters
While some cars in some regions already come equipped with an engine block heater, yours may not. There are a few different types of heaters for vehicles, depending on what you’re driving and how easy of an installation you’re looking for. Many are relatively easy to self-install. If you know how to change your own oil, it should be a breeze. Some block heaters may need to be professionally installed and we recommend going to your local shop or auto technician to help install it safely.

  • 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.

It IS easy being green!
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.


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

Sounds easy, plug in the extension cord – but make sure you unplug it or you’ll experience that dreaded drive of shame with your cord trailing behind your car or truck down the street. What’s worse, not unplugging can cause damage to your grille or the cord itself and frayed cords can be a fire hazard! And if you’ve ever struggled trying to plug in a pronged plug in sub zero weather with or without thick winter gloves on, it’s not the easiest task. So, why struggle with frozen fingers or cords? There is a better way!

The VoltSafe Winter magnetic block heater extension makes plugging in your engine block heater effortless with the ease of its quick connect and disconnect ability. VoltSafe Winter uses magnets and VoltSafe’s patented tech, saving you time, energy and money. This magnetic block heater extension cord also allows users to time their energy usage directly from their mobile device through the use of the VoltSafe App. VoltSafe’s patented technology is comparable to tech-giant Apple, and alters the future of electric connection, making power more accessible, easier to use, and offers an attractive solution to issues presented by traditional extension cords, which may be more prone to damage and freezing.

Check out how much energy you could save using this handy Savings Calculator! You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that within a season or so, the cost of the energy you save will pay for the price of a VoltSafe Winter magnetic plug, making your wallet (and your vehicle) very happy.

VoltSafe Winter is available in over two hundred authorized retail stores across Canada and the US (find a store), as well as Amazon or ONLINE through the VoltSafe website. Make sure you complete the winterization of your vehicle and enjoy a safer, ‘cooler’ driving experience!


About VoltSafe Inc.

Fearless creators, obsessed with progress, VoltSafe Inc. is changing the way people connect to power. Headquartered in Vancouver, BC, the Canadian tech startup has reinvented the electrical plug by eliminating prongs, adding magnets and an “electrical fingerprint”. Using patented technology, VoltSafe has created the world’s safest, simplest, and smartest plug design since electricity came into homes more than 140 years ago. In 2018, VoltSafe successfully pitched on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, receiving three offers above ask and won the BC Cleantech Newcomer award at GLOBE Cleantech 2020 along with other accolades to date. The company’s first certified product to market, VoltSafe Winter (a magnetic extension cord for engine block heaters), is on store shelves in numerous big box retailers across Canada and the USA. The company’s product pipeline includes magnetic plug replacement solutions for household, commercial, industrial, marine, electric and autonomous vehicles, emergency services, data centres and more.