1. #1
    Junior Member

    Join Date
    Jul 2003

    Default Block Heaters for diesel apparatus

    Our department has 5 large apparatus that all run Cummins engines. Two have block heaters. The Other 3 do not. I have recommended to the chief that we purchase and install either block or oil heaters. I have tried to explain the benefits to him, but he says until a mechanic of fire apparatus tells him they are necessary, he will not budge. Although I am not a certified mechanic, I have been around diesels most of my life and feel the benefits outweigh any other issues. As head of support services I would like some "professional opinions on this. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Nov 2003

    Default Block heaters

    Being a mechanic on fire equipment for 20 years, my thoughts are run block heaters. The facts are like this. In your personal vehicle you start the engine and allow it to warm up before taking off on your drive. Now if you live where it gets below 50 at night or day and have bays that are not heated, having an added aid to warm the engine is a benefit. Does your chief take his pov when it has been sitting for 2 days or 2 hours start it and drive balls to the walls for 4-5 min slam on the brakes and then let it idle for 30 min? Then race back to the station and shut down the unit without allowing it to idle before shutdown? Probaly not. If you have a preheated engine either oil or water, the shock on the inital startup from sitting cold is not as harsh as not having it warmed. I live in the Phoenix valley where in the summer temps reach 115 and above and the lows drop to the 30s at night. I know of several depts that run block heaters year round for the simple reason that it does aid in the life of the engine and fluids able to lubricate. I hope that this helps if you need more info let me know Jeff

  3. #3
    Forum Member
    Fire304's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    At the Helm


    Since most block heaters only heat the engine to 50-80 degrees you don't need one if you keep the truck in a warm barn. Our station runs right about 65F so we don't need heaters.

    I'd like to point out some of the differences between a block heater and an oil heater.

    Block heaters work by warming the coolant up and thereby heating the entire engine. Some simple models are just heat elements which fit into a freeze plug hole in the engine block. Better models mount outside the engine and have circulator pumps to spread the heat around a little better. Since most of the engine oil is sitting in the bottom of the oil pan and not touching the engine block a block heater does not do much for the oil, especially if the truck is left outside for long periods. As a result, when starting your engine will start easy but your oil is still cold and does not protect much better than w/o a heater (it will warm up quicker once the engine is running so there is a benefit). Engines w/o cold starting assist (glow plugs, intake heaters, ether injectors) benifit the most from block heaters.

    An oil heater actually warms the engine oil. Its a heating element sitting inside the oil pan. Since the oil is in the bottom of the pan this does very little to warm the engine up, but warm oil protects your engine much better than cold syrup does. Engines with oil heaters will not start much better than w/o one, but it will last longer due to the oil being warm.

    So an engine will start better with a block heater, but an oil heater is actually better for the engine and given the choice between the two I'd put an oil heater in if the engines start well. However, if your station is heated you probably don't need one at all.
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