We bought a Volvo wagon a year and a half ago, and have been having problems with it starting in the winter. We found out last winter that it did not have a block heater, and have been trying to find one to fit since then. The Volvo part is no longer available and we are now looking for other ideas. The car is already starting rough, and I fear it not starting if we wait to much longer. Thanks for the help!
See if you can find a dipstick that has a heating element. You take out the regular dipstick and put in the heated one instead. Keeping the oil warm and thin should make it much easier to start. It might not be convenient as you might have to remove the heated dipstick and replace it with regular one when running the car.
A block heater is often a unit that is installed into a radiator hose. In Alaska most shops should be able to fix you up with a non Volvo part that will work OK.
Parts stores sell universal block heaters. All you need to know is the diameter of the frost plug on the side of the engine block.
In Alaska, your winter warming “kit” should really consist of 3 items:
- Engine Block Heater
- Oil Pan Warming pad
- Battery heater/blanket
If you can’t find a block heater to fit your car (have you tried eBay?), then you can do what UncleTurbo says and install a coolant warmer in line with one of your radiator hoses - although be sure to watch for leaks.
The oil pan warming pad installs on the bottom of your oil pan with industrial strength adhesive, and warms the oil so it circulates in your engine. In my experience, those “universal” dipstick heaters are only marginally effective, and more trouble than they’re worth.
The third item can either be a passive insulated cover for your battery (i.e., a “blanket”), or another electric warming device. If you use three warming devices, you can plug them into one of those 3-way outlet connectors, and then plug that into a single extension cord.
As was also said, Alaska shops should be intimately familiar with the task of winterizing cars, and should be able to make more targeted recommendations.
The dipstick heater is a bad idea, it fries your oil, There are worthless magnetic heaters that bolt on to the oil pan, and near as worthless 450 watt inline heater hose things, many independent mechs can put a block heater by replacing a freeze plug, and that is the best way to go, experience, Grand Forks ND 46 below real temp.
When I lived in North Dakota I installed a lower radiator hose heater. It’s just a heating coil that’s installed in the hose, and the coolant it heats up causes circulation via comvection. It really works great.
The dipstick heaters had a reputation for not working well, but I confess to never having used one.
It’s also possible this rough starting is not related to engine block warmth at all. The car is 13 years old so maybe this is related to a vacuum leak, state of tune, fuel pressure problem, etc.
+1 for @ok4450 - where are you in AK? At what temperature does the problem start?
Of all the options mentioned above, I’d go with TSMB’s lower radiator hose heater, fairly easy to install and use. Extracting a freeze plug to install a block heater can be a real bear of a job.
I specifically answered the heater question, but also agree with OK4450 that the engine needs a good look-see. It’s entirely possible, even very likely, that there’s need for some basic maintenance and diagnosis.
Also use full synthetic oil if you aren’t already. This will make the below zero starts much easier on your engine, and the engine will crank easier.
Thank you for all of the advice, we did just have the engine replaced, so I assume that all is running well there. We have the oil pan heater as well as the battery pad. So it looks like we need to try the lower radiator hose. I had never heard of the heated dipstick, so thank you for all of the reviews of that! By the way we live in Fairbanks- some one did ask that. This morning we had about -25. So we are thankful for the advice!
This info brings up yet more questions.
The engine was replaced with what; a brand new long block, short block, or used engine?
There’s also the issue of a possible vacuum leak, wire connector fault, damaged engine control component and so on due to the installation.