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Old 01-30-2013, 02:08 AM   #1
Old Henry
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Default How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Headed out for another winter trip to Bryce Canyon on Valentine's Day and don't want a repeat of the problem I had on the 7 road trip starting in the morning with thick oil. Not going to change the oil for one more cold start so want to heat the oil overnight instead. I'm familiar with dipstick heaters, magnetic oil pan heaters, and the coolant heaters. I like the idea of the dipstick heater as it seems the easiest to install and remove, and cheapest. They're 90 watts. Has anyone used one in really cold (single digit F) temperatures and had it work OK?
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Old 01-30-2013, 02:14 AM   #2
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Haven't had the priviledge, but as I've been told, the electric dipstick heaters used in conjuction with a horse blanket will do for ya.
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Old 01-30-2013, 04:34 AM   #3
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

FWIW, found this at http://www.twoguysgarage.com:

"The easiest and cheapest to install is probably the Dipstick Heater. You basically pull out your dipstick and put the dipstick heater in the tube. The dipstick heater will heat the oil and the air in the oil pan. Also dipstick heaters were outlawed in Canada due to engine fires. But they are still sold in USA. Dipstick heaters are usually 20 inches to 24 inches long and before you drive the car you have to pull the heater out and replace the dipstick. Most dipstick heaters are to long and will hit the crank if the engine is running. Also dipstick heaters can not be use in plastic oil tubes. Plugs into a 110 volt outlet.

Another easy one to install is the Magnetic Heater these heaters have a magnet on the bottom and you crawl under your car and stick it to your oil pan. Some of the newer cars this will not work because the oil pan has design patterns or made of aluminium. Plugs into a 110 volt outlet.

Then next easiest and pretty cheap to buy, would be the Lower Radiator Hose Heater. Basically you drain the radiator and cut a section of the lower radiator hose out and install the heater. The trick to getting one of these to work is, because heat rises you want the heater vertical with the water pump. You want the heat to go up into the engine and not to the radiator, so having it mounted just beneath and going into the water pump is best. These are good heaters if install correctly and they will heat the same areas as a Frost Plug Heater would. Some people are afraid that the engine thermostat will close if they use one of these heaters. Well actually thermostats are closed until it reaches a certain engine running temperature then it opens. Most lower radiator hose heaters have a thermostat. And if the water does actually get hot enough, the engine thermostat will open and let some water out into the radiator. But this is rare. And usually lower hose heaters won't get hot enough for that to even happen. Plugs into a 110 volt outlet.

External Tank Engine Heater little more expensive but well worth the money. Basically one hose connects to a frost plug and another hose connects to a heater hose to the heater core. These heaters are nice. They heat the engine and keep the heater core warm. They also keep the water circulating. And harder to install because you need to get to a engine frost plug. But if you can install one of these do it. These are probably one of the best heaters. Because the engine is warm for starting and you have some instant heat out of the heater core, which will probably be warm enough to defrost your window. Plugs into a 110 volt outlet.

Frost Plug Heater is cheap to buy, but hard to install. These are your typical heater that comes as a option on cars you buy from the dealership. Frost plug heaters are effective and keeps the water in the engine warm which the heat soothes down through the metal to the oil. These are tougher to install because you need to find a frost plug on the engine block to install it. (Having it in the center of the engine is best) Sometimes if you install a frost plug heater it will leak. And then you need either a new frost plug heater gasket or frost plug heater and replace it until you find a setup that doesn't leak anti-freeze. But once your past that they are very good heaters. These heat the engine similar to the Lower Radiator Hose Heater. Also if you install a frost plug heater you will need to drain the radiator. Plugs into a 110 volt outlet."

Growing up in MN, we used the tank type heater, but many folks would just put a drop light under the pan and a blanket over the engine at night.

Hope this helps.
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Old 01-30-2013, 05:47 AM   #4
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

I would not use a dipstick heater. They work, but sometimes they will start a fire. My father lost his tractor using one. Marv
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:55 AM   #5
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

My uncle used a dipstick heater on his '48 back in the '60's and it always started.
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Old 01-30-2013, 09:33 AM   #6
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

I lived in Ft. Collins CO. years ago and the winters were Brrrrr. I've used Lower Radiator Hose Heater with good success ..... That's my vote ........My dad used electrical blanket...
Didn't go over good with my Mom .
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Old 01-30-2013, 10:08 AM   #7
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Good luck putting a lower rad hose heater on a flathead! Not much room in the lower hoses for that. Maybe they make one small enough, but it sounds like it would be a pain. And I don't recall seeing many freeze plugs on a 59AB.
Does anyone make a "Headbolt heater" for flatheads anymore? I can post a pic later, but you remove one of your cyl head bolts and install the heater bolt.
The cheapest/safest way to heat your oil is with a heat pad. A little silicone will hold it to a clean pan bottom. I've never seen one of those catch fire, although if you don't route the wires properly, they can get abraided and short out.
We have to use a Battery pad, Block heater, oil pan heater and trans pan heater up here just to go to work every day. Even with all that, your vehicle will hardly move when it gets past 40 below. You sit in the drivers seat about three inches higher than normal, because the seat foam doesn't compress, and your tires have a flat spot as well, until the rubber warms up.
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Old 01-30-2013, 10:16 AM   #8
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Why not put in a real head bolt heater. Replaces the one head bolt on each side and keeps the water nice and warm. Work great.
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Old 01-30-2013, 10:17 AM   #9
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Update, there's a Freeman/Kats headbolt heater on epay right now. But I still wonder if anyone makes them new.
I've found many flatheads up here that have had those installed.
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Old 01-30-2013, 11:56 AM   #10
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

I've used a dip stick heater - the secret is to put it in after the oil is still hot - also that it goes all the way down to the bottom of the oil pan. I also put a shop light next to the battery, and a blanket over the engine. Just my 2 cents!
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Old 01-30-2013, 12:08 PM   #11
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Wouldn't it be easier to change the oil?

Put a fresh 12V battery and a pair of jump leads in the trunk just in case.

Risking a fire sounds like a bad idea to me.

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Old 01-30-2013, 12:10 PM   #12
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Looks like the dipstick oil heaters are a little risky if Canada has banned them for car fires. Didn't seem very efficient either since most of the heating element is in the dipstick tube that is not in the engine. I also wonder how much heat they can put out on only 90 watts.

When we bought the car in 1959 the engine had a headbolt heater on each side. I used them on a winter trip three years ago. They kept the engine and coolant nice and warm but did virtually nothing for the oil down in the pan which is my main concern. (They fell apart when my engine was rebuilt and we didn't get others to put back in.)

This is what is looking more like the best thing to me.



It's a magnetic heater that attaches temporarily to the bottom of the oil pan. It uses 300 watts to put out 300-400 degree heat. That would certainly thin down my S.A.E. 40 oil and may even warm the whole engine up as the heat rises. It even has a handle on it to conveniently place it and remove it. It's on the shelf at O'Reilly's. Think I'll get one.
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Old 01-30-2013, 12:13 PM   #13
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Best answer is to just change the oil.
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Old 01-30-2013, 12:28 PM   #14
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

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Best answer is to just change the oil.
If the car was not kept in an insulated garage where it is rarely ever started below 60 I would definitely do that very thing. But I really like to see the higher oil pressures I get with the S.A.E. 40 oil so that's why I keep it in the engine even in the winter. Thanks for the suggestion though.
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Old 01-30-2013, 01:01 PM   #15
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Have a good trip and I will be looking forward to your trip report.
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:30 PM   #16
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

http://www.northerntool.com/shop/too...9137_200339137
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:48 PM   #17
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

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Have a good trip and I will be looking forward to your trip report.
We're going to Bryce Canyon National Park, elevation 7,664 feet, where it was 1 this morning at 5:00 A.M.

I'm also considering a battery heater and, of course, I'll have the battery on a charger all night.

This is the Kat's one that the battery sits on. Less visible but harder to install:


Or the ZeroStart one. Easier for temporary use:

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Old 01-31-2013, 12:04 AM   #18
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

I think you might be over thinking things a bit?
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Old 01-31-2013, 01:02 AM   #19
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I think you might be over thinking things a bit?
You might be right but I'd rather over think it this time rather than totally under think it like I did on my 7 Road Trip and end up spending half an hour getting the car going in the morning.

I'm testing the magnetic oil pan heater tonight. I've put it on the oil pan and will leave the car out in the driveway to see if that is enough to start it without any help to the battery. Unfortunately, our temperature is only supposed to get down to 26 tonight so it won't be a real authentic test for near 0 temperatures I may have on the real trip but will give me some idea where I'm at in my preparations for the "polar express" run to Bryce Canyon.
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Old 01-31-2013, 12:43 PM   #20
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

What do you have for a heater to keep you warm and to keep the frost off the windshield?
When I was a senior at Penn State I had a 47 4dr that I drove 60 miles one way 3 days a week. On the real cold days the windshield would frost up to where I would have to stop and scrape it every few miles.
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Old 01-31-2013, 01:32 PM   #21
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What do you have for a heater to keep you warm and to keep the frost off the windshield?
When I was a senior at Penn State I had a 47 4dr that I drove 60 miles one way 3 days a week. On the real cold days the windshield would frost up to where I would have to stop and scrape it every few miles.
I have the Ford fresh air heater that takes air from in front of the radiator, brings it through a duct under the hood and through a fan that blows it through the firewall into the heater coil and onto the feet, or, if the defroster knob is pulled, onto the windshield. It works much better then the little recirculating box that Ford also made and put in most cars before mine because the fresh air keeps all of the windows clear of fog. It is also a very powerful heater that heats the whole car very well. Here are some photos:



Where the air goes in above the radiator:



Where it goes into the fan. The cable shown controls a damper in the duct to control the air volume in addition to the two speeds of the fan.



The housing for the heater coil on the firewall under the dash.



Showing the floor vents that can be closed off by the defroster damper to divert the air up to the windshield.



The under dash controls:

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Old 02-01-2013, 01:11 PM   #22
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Old Henry, thanks for taking the time to post pictures of the fresh air heater. I never new there was such an animal. What year was it offered as an accessory to replace the box heater?
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Old 02-02-2013, 12:57 AM   #23
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Mine is a late 1947 (after August) Super Deluxe Fordor. I had a '46 that had the box heater in it. So, sometime between the two.
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Old 02-04-2013, 11:59 AM   #24
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Just a little update on the cold start attempts for anyone who cares.
Last night the low was predicted to be 17, the exact same average low on Valentine's day at Bryce Canyon and the exact temperature I couldn't start the engine in Milford a month ago, so I decided to give my magnetic oil pan heater a try. Left Old Henry out in the driveway all night with the 200 watt heater on the oil pan. This morning it was exactly 17 outside. Reached under to make sure the heater had worked and the heater was warm but the oil pan wasn't very warm. Anyway, tried starting the car and it wouldn't even turn over. I'd intentionally not charged the battery all night just to see if the heater by itself would do the trick. It didn't really make any difference so I then charged the battery at 15 amps for an hour and tried it again. It turned over very slowly but would not start. Fortunately my driveway slopes toward the street that then slopes downhill so when my battery won't start the car I just coast backward down the driveway and out into the street and up as far as it will coast backward then forward down the street to start. Even then the engine was so hard to turn over that it almost stopped the car on the hill in 2nd gear and it took several hundred feet before the engine started and then it ran really rough until warmed up. So, I went straight to Jiffy Lube and had them drain the S.A.E. 40 oil out and put 10W-30 in. Tonight, if it's cold enough, I'll leave the car out and try starting it in the morning with nothing but the thinner oil to make a difference. If that doesn't work, I'll charge the battery for an hour to see if that works. If not, I'm getting the larger 300 watt engine heater today that I will then put on for an hour it to see if that gets it started.

Something's got to work to get this thing started at 17. I'll find out what it is before Valentine's Day.
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Old 02-04-2013, 01:38 PM   #25
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Henry, do you think your battery is ok?

This heater is running off mains electric, isn't it, not the battery?? (Just a sanity check).

You will stand a much better chance with the thinner oil, but if the battery/starter/cables aren't up to snuff you might be still be struggling.

This place you are going, is it on a hill??

I'd be tempted to have a fully charged 12V battery and a pair of jumper cables in the trunk as cheap insurance.

Here's another idea - why not take the battery off overnight, keep it warm in the room and have it fully charged for the morning. Then fit it and start it up.

When everything is marginal, making just a slight difference can be what it takes to get a success rather than a failure.

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Old 02-04-2013, 09:28 PM   #26
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Ford said 10W for temperatures from +32F to -10F, and you really need the fattest battery with the highest cold cranking amps, but a Ford in good tune should start well down to at least -10F without a block heater. I grew up in Alberta and my Fords were far from new. ..B.
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Old 02-05-2013, 12:33 AM   #27
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

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Henry, do you think your battery is ok?
I'm not sure. There are some clues that it may not be. I thought about that today. It's only 2-3 years old but could be worn out. When I charged it this morning with a charger that reported the volts and %age charge it started at 6.1 volts and 60% but never got above 86% - never got to 100%. But the volts were still over 6 so I'm not sure what to think. So, if the thinner oil doesn't do the trick in the morning I'll put a charger on the battery to top it off and try again. If that doesn't work I'll put the 300 watt heater on for an hour and try it again. If that doesn't work I'll probably focus on the battery some more - maybe warm it up and see if that makes a difference - never have had any problem with it starting in the insulated garage above 50.
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Old 02-05-2013, 01:25 AM   #28
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When everything is marginal, making just a slight difference can be what it takes to get a success rather than a failure.

Mart.
Right you are. That's why I only change one variable at a time to see if it solves the problem. Then I will know exactly what caused the problem and maybe how to prevent it again. Having a problem solved by changing more than one variable prevents one from knowing what the problem was and how to prevent it again in the future. Simple diagnostic rule - only change one thing at a time and see what difference it makes before changing another.
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Old 02-05-2013, 10:03 AM   #29
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Default Re: How good are dipstick oil heaters?

Well, it was 22 out this morning. Not quite the 12 that was predicted.
Pulled out the choke, gave the gas pedal a few pumps, pushed the starter button and voila! Old Henry jumped to life! No block heater, no battery heater, no battery boost, just like in the garage at 60! The thinner oil seemed to have done the trick. Looks like I can take back the $45.00 block heater and we're good to go!

When all else fails, read the instructions (in the operators manual that says S.A.E. 10 below 32 F) and, above all else, remember to K.I.S.S.*

*Keep It Simple Stupid
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Old 02-05-2013, 10:09 AM   #30
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I'd be tempted to have a fully charged 12V battery and a pair of jumper cables in the trunk as cheap insurance.
Mart.
I'll probably do that too. Can't hoit. Might even keep that battery in our room to keep it warm to really be sure.
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