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Oil Pan Heater Vs. Block Heater: What’s The Difference?

Engines often need help starting when the temperature drops below freezing. Engine heaters are a terrific investment if you want to extend the life of your car and make sure it's ready to go on cold mornings.  If you're trying to decide on an engine heater, keep reading. We researched oil pan heaters and block heaters so you will know their differences.

The main difference between an oil pan heater and a block heater is their functions. An oil pan heater heats the engine oil to achieve better wear protection when the engine starts, whereas a block heater heats the engine coolant system as it sits on the engine's exterior.

Continue reading to learn more about the differences between block and oil pan heaters. Additionally, we will discuss the different types of engine heaters, their benefits and drawbacks, as well as how and when you might need one. 

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What Is The Difference Between An Oil Pan And A Block Heater? 

An oil pan heater heats the oil pan or another engine component. It has a heating pad of automotive quality that keeps the engine oil's viscosity consistent. Heat is generated by the pad, which is frequently secured with magnets or bolts, heating the oil pan and its contents. It helps reduce friction. 

For large engines with complex oil systems, oil pan heaters are the most appropriate. Installation isn't easy because the oil pan needs to be taken out first. You should consult a qualified mechanic to be on the safe side.

Another heating device is a block heater that heats the engine coolant system. As the term implies, "block" refers to the lower portion of the engine. When the engine is turned off, oil gathers by gravity in the pan at the bottom of the block.

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Since it is placed outside the engine, the block heater is easier to install. 

Block heater cable plugged into a vehicle parked in a snowy winter driveway

How And When Do You Need To Use An Engine Heater? 

How and when do you need to use an engine heater, Oil Pan Heater Vs Block Heater: What's The Difference?

If you live where the temperature drops below 5 degrees Fahrenheit, you should try using an engine heater.  You will need to leave the heater plugged in overnight if the temperature is low enough to cause the coolant to gel.

You can reduce your electricity bills by using a timer when it's not as chilly outside. A few hours before driving, you can switch on the heater using this timer. In cold conditions, a heater normally needs two to four hours to warm the engine sufficiently.

What Are Other Types Of Engine Heaters? 

Cars with plugged engine heater cords on cold winter day

Engine heaters come in various types. Some heaters are used internally, inside the engine, and externally, outside the block. Other types directly heat the fluids, while others heat the block. To choose the right kind, you should have a basic knowledge of how they function.

Built-In Heater

Typically, an engine is included with this type of heater. Most manufacturers include heaters inside the machine to keep it warm in cold weather. However, many built-in heaters, especially those in vehicles, quickly wear out, mostly due to mechanical issues.

Frost-Plug Heater

The freeze plug, also known as the core plug, is replaced by the frost plug heater. To heat the coolant inside the engine, a component submerged in the coolant is used. 

These are uncommon because they have many difficulties, such as a complicated setup.  For instance, a technician will usually need to remove the engine block to install a frost plug. 

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Inline Coolant Heater 

Sometimes referred to as an inline coolant heater, a radiator heater is easier to install and more effective. It performs better than a block heater since it warms the cooling system of the engine. In addition to protecting against cold starts, it heats the entire engine from the outside.

You must drain the engine's coolant before installing a radiator engine system. The lower radiator hose should be cut, and the heater hose should be plugged in. Refill the drained coolant, then cover it with the appropriate hose sealant.

A water pump is an essential component of most radiator engine heaters. Before using it, make sure you read the manufacturer's instructions.

Non-Circulating Inline Heater

The inline heater can be attached to a coolant pipe. But only that area will receive heat circulation.

Circulating Inline Heater

It requires effort to connect a circulating inline heater to a coolant hose so that it can work. A circulating model distributes heat throughout the system, and it does so by making use of the current pump.

Bolt-On External Heater

The engine block is heated from the outside by plugging in the bolt-on external heater outside the engine. The heater can be difficult to install, but it will quickly heat the engine. Before selecting an external heater that can be bolted on, be sure the engine can accommodate it.

Dipstick Heater

To warm the oil, you can also use a dipstick heater, a long heating device. Its name derives from the installation, where the dipstick is mounted. To improve performance, it warms the engine's oil.

To prevent cold starts, a dipstick heater keeps the engine warm. It can also protect against engine freeze. Even if attaching it is simple, it's better to just put it where the oil dipstick is to ensure the motor oil is heated.

Engine Heating Blanket

This engine heater distributes heat evenly throughout the engine block. To make it work, you may need to place it above, to one side of, or below the hood, depending on the make.

Click to see this heating blanket on Amazon.

The heater must not sit on any of the electrical components of the car for it to work properly. It is simple to install. Engine warming blankets use a strong electric motor to maintain heat throughout the engine.

What Are The Advantages Of An Engine Heater? 

Vehicle Block Heater used in cold climates to warm engine

There are numerous advantages to using an engine heater, which include the following:

Increase The Engine's Lifespan

Your car will last longer, and the chance of engine damage will be decreased with an engine heater. During cold weather, engine heaters reduce the thickness and sludge of your fuel.

Starting your engine in the cold can be challenging and detrimental to its performance. This will make the engine work harder and cause it to operate less smoothly at first.  An engine heater will heat the engine oil to the proper operating temperature so it can start running and perform optimally.

Better Fuel Economy 

The engine can move easily to get to its typical operating temperature range with the help of an engine heater. An engine uses substantially less fuel when it is heated.

If you have a continuously variable transmission (CVT), a faster warm-up implies your transmission will change into a high range at low speeds rapidly.

Less Pollution

When you consider the performance of your engine, you probably associate it with how your car drives. The connection between the engine's performance and the environment is frequently overlooked. 

Since engine heaters produce fewer emissions, they do not harm the environment. A car that is preheated when it is started releases less nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons than one that isn't.

Additionally, depending on the model of your car, you may only need to plug it in for three or four hours before driving to see these advantages, making it economical on your power bill.

What Are The Disadvantages Of An Engine Heater?

Power cord plugged into a vehicle engine heating block on a bus in a cold climate

Engine heaters have limitations regarding what they can do and how long they can run. A notable disadvantage is that they can be challenging to install. Some types require a specialized installation which may result in an added cost.

It's A Wrap!

Knowing the differences between block heaters and oil pan heaters will help you make the right choice when purchasing a heater. You should have a basic understanding of the heaters to determine what you'll need when winter rolls around.

An engine heater can improve the performance of your engine and extend the lifespan of your car, improving fuel efficiency and reducing pollution. 

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