I have a 1994 Toyota truck… The freeze plug is very inaccessible and I need to install either a block heater, oil pan heater or battery heater for my move to Alaska. Any suggestions on what works the best, fairly easy to install and where I can order necessary parts?
Something like this should work nicely:
Don’t forget to unplug before you drive off!
When I lived in NOrth Dakota I had a lower radiator hose heater. It clamps right into an accessible area of the hose and convection circulates the heated coolant. It worked great.
I never tried them…but there are block heaters that use the dip-stick tube.
Also wait til you get to Alaska and ask the locals what they use.
Another thought is to use Synthetic oil. It will flow fine to about -40.
I don’t know where you are going in Alaska, but I would use 0W30 synthetic oil as a start. It will allow your car to start at -35 to -40F. You will not always be able to plug in your car. If you can’t get at the frost plug, a rad hose heater works well.
To heat the crankcase oil, I would avoid the dipstick heater; they have caused problems. A magnetic clamp-on heater for the crankcase works well; make sure it is not too powerful, or you will cook the oil.
You would only use the oil pan heater in really bad weather ( -30 to -40) and never use it inside the garage. If you only use an oil pan heater the car will still be hard to start, since you are only heating a small quantity of oil.
My own experience has been, since 0W30 mobil 1 has a pour point of -44 or so, the oil pan heater is only needed in extreme cold. It was invented before there was 0W30 oil.
Keep in mind if you park outside in extreme weather, after the engine starts, you still have to run it for a while to heat up the transmission fluid. You can’t just drive off as in the Lower 48. Some oil companies on the North Slope have transmission magnetic heaters as well!
A block heater is generally a wise choice. You can call your local Toyota dealer or parts store to see if there even is a block heater for your model. I know the Hyundai Accent I used to own didn’t have a block heater, and Hyundai didn’t make any for it.
As for the dipstick tube heater, Canadian Tire stopped selling them after a few months when fires developed in the oil. Last I heard they weren’t available anywhere in Canada because of this serious fire hazard.
I almost forgot, a battery blanket/heater is inexpensive, easy to install and great if you have to park outside in extremely cold weather. You will end up with three cords sticking out of your radiator grill but that is the sign of an experienced Northerner.
The heater sometimes goes in the head. No I wasn’t in the Navy.
The dipstick heaters only warm the oil, whereas the block or hose heaters warm the coolant and convection helps keep the engine warm. When I was in North Dakota dipstck heaters were considered of little use for that reason. Perhaps in a milder climate they help by keeping the oil thinner, but in real extremes heating the coolant is the best way to go.
There are more than one freeze plug on any engine that I’ve ever seen. Even if the recommended freeze plug is inaccessible, any freeze plug will do because they are all at the same coolant level in the engine. The toughest one I ever ran into was the removal of an exhaust manifold to be able to get to any of the freeze plugs. This was an OLds V-8 350 engine. The second toughest one was I had to unbolt an engine mount and raise the engine about 2" to get to a freeze plug. Your Toyota truck has one accessible freeze plug, I’ll bet. The auto repair manuals don’t always give you the best option. So see what your auto parts guys say about the proper freeze plug and the recommended plug to be replaced with the block heater. One other thing about the dipstick heaters. Some will burn your oil.
I will agree with you about the dipstick heater. I had a couple of them and they didn’t seem to last very long. I don’t think they did much to warm the oil. I didn’t think it helped my car turn over any easier in temperatures below zero. IMHO the dipstick heater is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
The heater that NYBo referred you to will work nicely, too. These are installed into one of the heater hoses under the hood. Just ensure that you get the direction of flow right. I use this type of heater for my '56 Allis-Chalmers WD-45 tractor. No heater hoses on the “Wacky-Tracky” but there is a 5/8" tapping from the factory. (“Wacky-Tracky”, a.k.a. Lee’s carnival tractor, because it’s painted Allis-Chalmers orange with a yellow front bucket/blade assembly off a Massey Ferguson tractor and a medium blue fuel tank because that’s the color of paint I had handy at the time). The other types of heaters, the magnetic ones, only heat your engine oil in the oil pan. That heat never migrates to the water jackets due to an oil pan gasket isolating that temperature to the block and they’re only about 150 watts, which is not enough to heat anything else except the oil. The water temp. of my heaters gets up to about 110 deg. F. That, in turn, heats the whole block. The weight of oil determines if the oil will gel or not, or gets thick enough to cause problems. None of my old stuff has ever had a problem, even at 25 below.
When you install one of these you MUST LEAVE THE HEATER CONTROL VALVE ON HOT!!! Otherwise, the water cannot circluate and the heater will burn out. Many users have found this and this product has been called unreliable unfairly. I have sed them, but still prefer the block heater because it lasts the longest. The hose heater relies on the thermosiphon effect, much like a coffee machine, to push the hot water through.
Factory installed heaters are all block heaters like in my Toyota. They give the fewest problems.
When you install one of these you MUST LEAVE THE HEATER CONTROL VALVE ON HOT!!! Otherwise, the water cannot circluate and the heater will burn out.
The heaters have a thermostat to prevent this. Of course, the engine won’t be warmed up either. So if your car has a heater control valve (many don’t), be sure to leave the HVAC controls in the hot position to ensure that the valve doesn’t close.
Dipstick heaters are incapable of transferring enough heat to be of any use. Except maybe in Florida or Hawaii.
Thanks for the further explanation; in-line heaters defintely have a shorter life than block heaters. I’ve gone through 3 of them, after which I had a block heater installed.
Agree, anything that heats the oil only is supplementary. When I lived in he High Arctic, we had -55F temperatures in the “daytime”, and a block heater, magnetic oil pan heater and battery blanket/warmer were all necessary, in addition to 0W30 synthetic oil. With that you still could not move off after the engine started, since the transmnission had to gradually warm up before you put the car in gear.