TECH TALK: Do You Need an Engine Block Heater?

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Ford - Engine Block Heater

Can leaving an engine block heater plugged in too long cause problems down the road?

For folks who live in severely cold climates, an engine block heater can be a real life saver. Block heaters do exactly what you think they would: keep your engine warm, which protects certain parts and makes it easier for the vehicle to start. Even though modern trucks are designed and tested in extreme temperatures, starting it in bitterly cold conditions still takes a toll on your engine.

Severe cold thickens your engine oil, which increases the load on your starter. Thicker oil also moves slower through your engine, damaging its ability to properly lubricate components. An engine block heater helps prevent these issues, plus it keeps engine coolant warm so that your heater blows hot air almost immediately upon startup.

Now that we’ve established why you need a block heater, how long and when do you plug it in? Most people leave their heater plugged in all night without a second though. But block heaters only need around three to four hours to properly warm the engine, and leaving them on all night can run up your electric bill.

Instead of waking up in the middle of the night to plug it in, you can simply buy a timer that will automatically turn it on and off. Regardless, leaving your engine block heater plugged in all night won’t hurt anything other than your wallet.

It’s also important to keep in mind that you don’t need to run your engine heater unless temperatures drop below 5 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 10 degrees Celsius. You can certainly run it in warmer temperatures, however, if you don’t mind paying for the electricity.


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