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Tool Talk Discussion Forum

diesel engine heaters ?

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Wile E

01-31-2013 13:45:14

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I have a compact diesel tractor, it almost didnt start today. What is the best type of engine heater? Oil dipstick type, or other kind? What about using a torpedo heater on the engine at 3 feet away? Anybody try it before?

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02-01-2013 15:54:55

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to Wile E, 01-31-2013 13:45:14  
I live in western Canada, and we regularly get -25f temperatures, and most years get to -40 at least once, i use a circulating heater in all my diesel engines, a couple of hours with it on and the engine warm to touch... my Dodge doesn't even cycle the grid intake heater in the mornings.

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02-01-2013 12:05:20

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to Wile E, 01-31-2013 13:45:14  
Never owned a diesel tractor with glow plugs; never owned a diesel tractor that didn't have a heater installed. Years ago, many JD tractors came with a removable plug in the oil pan where you could stick a 120v heater.....designed for the purpose. (does not burn the oil regardless of what the 'experts' say) On the rest of the tractors, I used a self-installed freeze-plug heater. I measured the current draw one Winter; at the rates I was paying at the time, the oil pan heaters cost about 25 per 24 hours and they stayed plugged in all Winter....when they weren't in use; the water jacket ones cost $1.25 per day and I put them on a timer. In the great frozen North, I understand that folks use heaters which circulate the coolant.

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Hal/Eastern WA

02-01-2013 11:41:04

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to Wile E, 01-31-2013 13:45:14  
I would check with the manufacturer to see what they recommend. There are different kinds and models of heaters that may work great for one engine and not at all for another.

I live in the Northwest and most newer diesel tractors I have seen sold here have some sort of a plug in engine heater from the factory. Probably the most effective is the core hole, or freeze plug heater, which goes right into the water jacket, usually in the head. But unless you get the exact right heater, you may very well run into problems with the heating element touching metal inside the head, which will probably make the heater burn out very quickly.

On my old 641D Ford, I decided that replacing the lower radiator hose heater was the most practical way to repair the heating assembly on that model. I wish that they would last longer. The first one I had lasted 20+ years, but I seldom get more than 3 or 4 years out of the recent ones with the "safety" components.

If you have the right external coolant hoses (like heater hoses) it might be easy to install a percolator tank heater. They usually are higher wattage heaters and will heat up a small engine fairly fast.

A dipstick heater might help a little, but they are very low wattage, so the heating would be very slow. I also never liked the fact that they get the oil very hot right at their surface and always tended to get black deposits on the stick. Not too good for the oil, in my opinion.

When I was a kid, sometimes we helped start old flathead Chryslers by shining heat lamps on the carb and manifolds. Then I discovered that a headbolt heater was easy to install and cheap. My old Plymouth always started easily after that even at 20 below zero. I wish it was possible to get headbolt heaters for newer engines, but I don"t think they make them any more. They were great!

I have never tried a torpedo heater. As someone else wrote, I would worry about applying too much intense heat to the external surface of the tractor. If it was all cast iron, that might not be a problem, except to the paint, but on a modern compact tractor, there is a lot of plastic and other soft material. Heat can definitely damage lots of kinds of plastic. I would not do it, except as a last resort in an emergency. And then I think I would build a "tent" out of cardboard to direct the hot air over the engine from a distance.

I would sure try to figure out a way to be able to plug in your tractor for a while before you try to start it. If you heat up the coolant, my experience is that a diesel will start like Summer. It is also a lot easier on the rest of the electrical system than cranking over and over.

It is also important to use an antigell additive to the fuel if it is very cold. A gelled up fuel system will make a diesel hard or impossible to start, or will make it run real bad.

Again, I would check with the manufacturer or dealer to see what kind of heater works best with your tractor. Doing so might save you a bunch of time, money and effort experimenting with different heaters. Good luck!

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01-31-2013 20:38:45

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to Wile E, 01-31-2013 13:45:14  
Only way to go is block heater. I just installed a Kats 11407 screw in block heater. Engine is hot enough to start with out glow plugs in about an hour. Took me about 2 hours to install.$18.00 shipped from Ebay (the one with no pic)

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01-31-2013 18:32:05

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to Wile E, 01-31-2013 13:45:14  
Asuming the battery is good (not decent but good) and the engine is in decent shape and has been properly maintained it should start in 0 temperatures without an auxiliary heater.

Operate the glow plugs for at least 60 seconds and hold the clutch disengaged while cranking. Do not expect success if the glow plugs are not functional.

Regarding engine heaters, the freeze plug heaters and tank type coolant hose heaters are most effective.

I certainly would not recommend the torpedo heater alternative without extraordinary care and observation.


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01-31-2013 19:40:43

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to Dean, 01-31-2013 18:32:05  
Even if the diesel would start at 0F on glow plugs. The engine should still be pre-heated with a coolant heater.

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Brian Dan

01-31-2013 14:41:05

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to Wile E, 01-31-2013 13:45:14  
Be carefull of the torpedo heater, anything of plastic on your tractor will melt then you will have another problem to fix.

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01-31-2013 14:30:11

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to Wile E, 01-31-2013 13:45:14  
First choice would be an in-block heater. Jind that goes into the side of the water jacket in place of a freeze plug. If that's not an option, a externally mounted tank type, but plumbing one of them may cequire some very creative engineering. Third choice would be the lower radiator hose type.

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01-31-2013 15:49:54

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to RayP(MI), 01-31-2013 14:30:11  
I agree, first comes the freeze plug heater, then the LR hose heater, if it can be shoehorned in, in the right position (Read the manual!), then the coffeepot heater, on the bypass hose. On my skidloader, I put a freeze plug heater in, and while I had the antifreeze drained, I put in the LR hose heater, as a back-up, in case the Freeze plug heater wears out. I leave mine plugged in 24/7 because I need the loader for loading hay, in the winter.

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farmer boy

02-01-2013 06:03:35

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to Diydave, 01-31-2013 15:49:54  
How often do you have to replace it? They'll die an early death if they're left on all the time. You should consider getting a timer. Set it to turn on for 1 hour, then off for a 1/2 hour. Timers should only cost about $10-15.

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02-01-2013 18:27:52

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to farmer boy, 02-01-2013 06:03:35  
I believe the Kat heater I installed said in the instructions it is ok to run the frost plug heaters all the time, in the winter. I never have had one burn out, before I put this one in, I had a LR hose heater burn out after 2-3 years. It's an expense that I can live with.

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01-31-2013 14:24:57

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to Wile E, 01-31-2013 13:45:14  
Water or air cooled?? Know that makes a difference as to what you can or should use. If water a block heater is the best way to go since it heats the whole engine but if air cooled you have to go with a magnetic type oil heater to do the best jump. Dipstick heaters can/will burn the oil and that is not good

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David G

01-31-2013 14:14:27

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to Wile E, 01-31-2013 13:45:14  
Block heater for engine, magnetic heater for transmission

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01-31-2013 14:13:20

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to Wile E, 01-31-2013 13:45:14  
Quoting Removed, click Modern View to see

An engine coolant heater is the best way to go, but in an emergency, that torpedo heater will get the job done. Just be careful.

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farmer boy

01-31-2013 13:49:53

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 Re: diesel engine heaters ? in reply to Wile E, 01-31-2013 13:45:14  
Block heater is by far the most effective type, though it will still leave the hydraulic oils very cold and hard to pump.

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