Cold Starts

It’s been a little chilly around here recently. Nothing serious, just mid-teens at night. But I drive a VW diesel, and they don’t much like the cold. It’ll start and run, but for the first ten or fifteen minutes there isn’t enough extra heat from the engine to defrost the windows or warm the cabin efficiently. If I only have to drive six miles to a school, it’s not good for the engine or oil, bad for fuel efficiency, and not overly comfortable because it’s just starting to get warm by the time I get there. I had a small oil-pan heater similar to this one, but it no longer works, and I need a new oil pan anyway. So I investigated what the possibilities were. None looked particularly good to me for, until I came across FrostHeater, an independently developed aftermarket part that fills a need. (Hmmm, seems I know someone that did something similar. If I could just remember who…)

Basically, it splices into the coolant circulation system with a small pump and a 1kw heater. Put it on a timer, and you get hot water circulating around your engine block starting an hour before you plan on having to leave. Sounds like a pretty good idea, and the reviews I can find are fairly positive. So, I ordered one. When I get it installed, I’ll post how the install went, and how well it works.

8 thoughts on “Cold Starts

  1. That looks like just what you need. Various types of coolant heaters have been the standard in Minnesota for decades. Modern cars with tight clearances under the hood require care in locating the heater and routing the plumbing. It looks like this kit takes care of that. It says the heater itself is Zero-start brand, which sounds familiar. It should work as advertised.

  2. I installed and engine block heater in a Mercedes diesel many moons ago. It replaced one of the threaded plugs in the block, and worked directly in the cooling system. On the coldest mornings the engine started like it did in summer. Very worth while. If I left the defrost vents open and the cabin heat controls up high, the windows would be largely clear on a cold morning due to convection heating– a nice secondary benefit.

    • I looked into those, the kind that screw into a freeze plug. The main problem I read about was that on my particular model accessing the freeze plug to install the heater was a major pain in the butt. Because they don’t circulate, they don’t build up as much heat energy, either, so people often leave them on over night. A 1kw heater circulating through the entire block for an hour will only cost a dime to fifteen cents depending on electricity cost at the time. Having the windows partially defrosted would be a nice bonus.

      • Fortunately mine happened to set up enough convection that it warmed everything, as I say, including the cabin heater core, which in turn convectionally heated the windshield to some extent, through the defrost vents.

        The one you’re installing should do everything that one did and with probably more power. It’ll make life much easer in winter.

        I installed mine with the engine removed, as it was part of an engine replacement project. Even then it was super hard to get the original plug out– It needed a cheater bar of several feet in length. Totally different engine though— that was a 1965 190 Dc model. Old school.

  3. I have them on 2 TDI Beetles here in northern WI
    They work great! Instant heat!
    Can be a bugger to install as there is not much
    Space where they sit but once you get them in works great
    Don’t forget to zip tie the wiring in place as it runs close to the cooling fan
    Good luck!
    Mark

    • Ah, good to know. I did a quick “heating time” test this morning (22 degrees out there) to give me a comparison. When I get it installed and run another test I’ll post the data and graphs, see what sort of improvement I see.

  4. got one installed in a Jetta Wagon. Nice thing to have. However my experience tells me it needs at least 2 hours before driving to make it warm asap. But even an hour is more than enough to have the engine warm by the time I’m tackling the steep hill.

    If you go for an install I’ve paid for about 1 hour 10 minutes of time. Check with your local VW ship, how much in $ that would be.

  5. Sounds a lot better than what the old time Alaska bush pilots used to do, which was cover the engine with a tarp and put a kerosene firepot under it. Yes, they did light up the entire airplane sometimes.

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