In many parts of Canada, plugging in your vehicle at night is just a part of the end-of-day routine in the winter. Before bed, plug in the truck, set the coffee timer and lock the doors. But why do we plug in our vehicles, and how long does the block heater really need to run?
Although cords dangle from the front hood of cars in a lot of Canadian cities, block heaters and winter tires are a must in northern regions and the Prairies, where temperatures reach extremes.
Why? Winter can be hard on your vehicle, and a block heater keeps your engine warm to protect several parts and components, and to make it easier for your vehicle to start.
The benefits of using a block heater
Reduce stress to your engine, battery, starter motor and more
Starting an engine when it’s severely cold stresses your engine. When it’s cold, your oil gets thick, resulting in a couple of negative side effects.
First, thicker oil increases the amount of work required by the starter to turn the crank engine. That creates longer starting times. Second, when oil is too thick, it can’t shoot through all the engine’s channels to lubricate critical components. The result is when your engine starts, those parts scrape against each other without any lubrication. Plus, if the engine’s running with cold parts that haven’t been able to warm and expand to the right size, they can get damaged.
Starting is harder for the engine and it really wears out your parts, and not just your engine, but your battery and your starter motor too.
Warm up your cabin more quickly
Those first few seconds inside a cold vehicle can be just as painful for you as they are for your vehicle. With engine coolant fluid that’s been warmed by the block heater, your cabin can draw in warm air almost immediately after you start it in the morning.
So, how long should your vehicle be plugged in? And when should you plug it in?
While many drivers plug their vehicles in every night in the winter, you only need to use your block heater once the temperature reaches – 15 C.
Your block heater only needs four hours to warm your engine before you start it. Timers can now be installed on your block heater so you can set it to turn on a few hours before you think you’ll leave the house. Timers can help save up to $25 on your utility bill, and right now, CAA Saskatchewan is giving out free block heater timers until Feb. 28, 2014.
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