How to Warm Engine Without Block Heater?

Starting problems are almost inevitable during winter, especially with older cars, and that’s why they come fitted with block heaters to help keep the engine warm. While modern vehicles would start without the aid of a block heater, having it helps reduce strains on your battery, letting your battery expel less juice during start-ups.

Whether you drive a newer vehicle that does not come fitted with it or an older one experiencing block heater failure, you can still keep your engine warm. In this article, I will walk you through how to warm engine without block heater, preventing delays and keeping you on the go. But first, let’s see how a block heater works.

how to warm engine without block heater

How do block heaters work?

Typically, a block heater is a heating device placed on an engine block immersed into your car’s plumbing system used to circulate coolant throughout the engine. Block heaters help keep the vehicle warm, allowing you to start your car with ease. When plugged in, the heating device continually warms the coolant, allowing warm fluid to flow properly throughout the engine.

The fluid, in turn, heats up the engine block and other fluids and components inside. Leaving your block heater plugged in overnight ensures the fluid stays warm instead of allowing it to get cold and warming it up again. That way, the car is ready to pick up quickly when you need to drive.

But what happens if you don’t use an engine block heater? You will likely have starting problems during the winter since the fluid may have frozen up and unable to circulate properly. However, if you don’t have one, you don’t need to panic; a block heater isn’t the only way to keep your engine warm. So, what can you use instead of a block heater?

How to Warm Engine Without Block Heater?

How to warm engine without block heater

There are many block heater alternatives you can use to keep your car warm. While some are aftermarket products, others involve doing a few things or using things you have in your home or garage. Here is how to warm a car without a block heater.

Warm up your car

One of the fastest ways to warm up your car without a block heater is to start your vehicle remotely. All you need to do is start the car and let it idle for long; this gives it enough time to warm up and get the fluid flowing properly before hitting the road.

The downside, however, is that while your engine will do just fine, your cabin will still be a bit cold. This option, however, may not come handy if the car doesn’t have any power. So, you may need to look at other alternatives.

Use an electric engine blanket

Another way you can warm your engine without block heaters in winter is the use of engine blankets sold in auto parts stores. To use, open the car’s hood and place the blanket over the engine compartment. Close the hood and plug it to a power outlet.

In about 3-4 hours, your engine or oil should be warm enough for you to start your car. If, however,  you’re in haste, this may not be a suitable option for you.

Using blow dryer

Another block heater alternative

that comes handy is a hair dryer, you will likely find them in most homes. Plug in the hair dryer and place it under the car. Cover the front part of your car with a carpet to keep in the warm air. You should be able to start your car in about 20 minutes, even with a half dead-battery.

This is not only one of the fastest ways to warm your car, but it also comes handy if you’re looking for how to warm up your engine without starting the car. This method is also very useful if you can’t access auto shops at the moment to get those aftermarket heating devices.

A drop light

Another very effective option is a drop light. Get a trouble light holder (bulb holder) and attach an incandescent bulb to it. A 60-150 watt bulb is enough to do the job. Place the drop light on the intake manifold or under the engine and leave overnight. Alternatively, put it on top of the engine and close the hood.

This not only helps warm your engine for easy star-up even in the coldest of temperatures, but it also prevents your oil or diesel from thickening up. Fortunately, this works well for any vehicle. So, if you’re wondering how to warm engine without heater block in Chevy, Toyota, or any car, this is a good option.

Magnetic heater

A magnetic heater is another way of keeping your engine warm in winter. Get one of these magnets with a heater and place it on the engine block. In a few hours, your vehicle should be warm enough to allow you to start the car.

You can also leave it there, especially if you hardly drive during the extremely cold conditions. It will ensure the fluid does not freeze and keep the fluid flowing. It’s important you place this on the engine block to warm up the cylinders, as putting it in the oil pan might cook the oil.

Dipstick engine heater

Using a dipstick heater is another great way to warm your car without block heaters. This you can get from any auto parts shop. To use, remove the conventional dipstick and replace it with a heated dipstick plugged into a power outlet.

The goal is to keep the oil warm instead of letting it cold and then warming it up again. This not only keeps the oil warm but the engine to a certain extent. However, while this will work well, it is flawed. This device can cook your oil, turning it dark like tar.

Hot coal

Looking for how to heat up a frozen engine without a block heater? Try using coal. Pour some charcoal into a hibachi (a round metal fire bowl) and keep it burning. Any deep metal pan can also suffice. When the coal is hot enough, place it under the oil pan.

It should get your engine warm enough to start your car. This is especially useful when your engine refuses to start, and you don’t have access to a dipstick heater and other heating devices. This is also a suitable option if you want to warm your engine without starting the car.

Space heater

You probably should consider a space heater if you’re looking for how to warm engine without block heater in winter. You should be able to get one in an auto parts store. All you need to do is place the space heater by the engine block. At 40-50°F, your engine should warm up in about 5 minutes, while at a much lower temperature, this should take about 10 minutes.

But it shouldn’t exceed 15 minutes to warm up your engine. However, the scenario above is for diesel tractors with very exposed engine blocks. If you drive a car with an engine block  that is not too exposed, your engine should take longer to warm up.

Tiger torch (or similar options)

An even safer option is the use of a tiger torch. Place a heating duct under your engine. Light up the torch and place part of it unto the pipe. This will help draw and send hot air into the engine compartment without the danger of a fire. This not only helps prevent fire outbreaks, but it’s also a suitable option if you don’t have access to electricity.

Heated garage

A heated garage is another very effective way to warm your engine. Parking your car inside a heated garage keeps your engine warm always, allowing an easy start-up. This is especially useful if you regularly drive in the cold months.

Safety precautions when warming your car without a block heater.

To ensure you don’t cause harm while trying to warm your engine, it’s important you observe these safety precautions so you don’t harm yourself or your vehicle.

Make it obvious

When attaching heating devices to your car that are plugged into a power outlet, make it so obvious that someone would know something is there. This ensures they don’t drive the car with it still attached.

Proper placement is important

To avoid danger and waste, ensure you put these options in the right spot. For example, a magnet heater should be placed on the engine block and not on an oil pan. Putting on the oil pan will cook the oil.

Extreme care is a must when using open flames

Be extremely careful when using open flames (like hot coal) to avoid a fire outbreak. If you must use such, use it under extremely cold conditions and ensure your car has enough ground clearance. Using such methods on small cars with low ground clearance, rubber bumper, and lower engine splash could be a disastrous move.

Don’t push too hard

When remotely starting your car to warm up, don’t fire the engine until its temperature is close to the middle nominal temperature on the gauge. Doing this not only strains the battery but might reduce its life span.

How to prevent starting problems in winter

To avoid starting problems during the cold months, you should do the following

Install an engine warmer

One major thing that causes starting problems in winter is a thick oil and a cold engine. So, it’s important you install an engine warmer to keep the engine warm and fluid flowing properly. This not only keeps your car warm, allowing easy start-ups, but it also helps prevent morning rush.

Even if you drive a modern car that does not need a block heater or any of these heating devices, still have one installed. This removes strain from your battery, letting it output less juice during start-ups, invariably prolonging the life of your battery.

Use synthetic oil

Most times, the engine won’t start because the fluid is not flowing well due to frozen fluid. Because this is common with thicker oil, there is a need for a very thin oil. Synthetic oil is thin, so it will flow faster and take longer time to thicken. You can otherwise use a winter-recommended oil for your car.

Check batteries

Starting issues during winter are usually rampant with aged, half-dead, or bad batteries. So ensure your battery is in good shape and, if possible, get a new battery before the cold months.

Park in a garage or any enclosed space

Leaving your car in the garage helps protect your car from the outside cold. This not only allows the engine to retain its heat but it also ensures quicker start-ups in the morning.

Final words

This article has suggested how to warm engine without block heater, using other block heater alternatives. This entails idling your car for long and using heating devices like a heated dipstick, space heater and other available options.

Whether you have an older car with defective block heaters or you have a newer model that does not come fitted with a block heater, these alternatives are open for you to explore. However, be very careful, especially when using those options with open flames; you want to heat and not burn your car.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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