Brutally cold winter weather temperatures wreak havoc on your vehicle’s engine as much as it does on you. Sure, you can use the heat from the engine to keep it warm enough while drive, but there is no heat during start-up.
You can use a good engine block heater to bridge the gap, but is it worth the price?
Generally, a professional engine block heater installation costs around $200 for parts and labor. The heaters cost around $100 on their own though, which means you can save half the cost if you can do the installation yourself. Either way, the installation should take about an hour to complete.
While it would save you money, you must know what you are doing before you install the block heater yourself. By reading further, you will learn how to do it properly.
That way you will know if you could do it or if a professional installation would be the best in your situation.
- How Much Does It Cost to Install an Engine Block Heater?
- Factors That Can Affect Your Engine Block Heater Final Cost
- Installing an Engine Block Heater as a DIY Project
- How to Install an Engine Block Heater
- Using Your Vehicle’s Engine Block Heater Port
- Related Guides
How Much Does It Cost to Install an Engine Block Heater?
For those living in cold climates, an engine block heater can mean the difference between a car that starts and one that does not. These heaters use electricity to warm up the engine and oil, as well as the coolant in some models.
Some common benefits from using an engine block heater include:
- Improves fuel performance by as much as 10 percent
- Reduces emissions by allowing the engine to work at normal operating temperatures
- The easier cold ending starts
- Protects the engine through better oil flow
- Faster engine warmups
- Quicker use of the cabin heater
A block heater is simple enough that most people can install one without issue. You just need the parts and the right tools, but block heater prices vary based on the type and style of your engine.
While these prices will vary between manufacturers, there are some common price points. For instance:
- 50-watt, small engine models start around $40
- 1000-watt midrange models start around $70
- Super High Performance, 1500-watt models start around $120
Fortunately, all block heaters will work with every type of vehicle on the road with the only limitation being the required power output.
Therefore, you can buy the cheapest heater out there and expect it to work with your vehicle. However, most people will want a professional installation that can cost between $100 and $200 but includes parts and labor.
Regardless of the situation, it should take anywhere between two and eight hours to completely install an engine block heater. Though, your actual installation time will depend on if you must remove the oil or not before the installation.
Factors That Can Affect Your Engine Block Heater Final Cost
A lot goes into the installation cost for an engine block heater. While all block heaters provide the same function, each one is different, and these differences can show up in the price.
The key differences are the type of block heater and the shop performing the installation.
Type of the Block Heater
Engine block heaters are not one-size-fits-all solutions. The heaters must match the size and dimensions of the various engine blocks found in cars and trucks.
Because of this, block heaters come in a variety of types that range from medium to high performance. However, size, function, and quality of each type only really affect the labor costs you pay for them.
Here are some of the more common block heater types:
- Oil pan heaters
- Bolt-on heaters
- Freeze plug heaters
- In-line coolant heaters
- Cartridge heaters
- Dipstick heaters
- Drain plug heaters
- Engine warming blanket heaters
Engine Block Heater Installer Shop Type
Block heater installation costs are more volatile than simply choosing a professional install or a do-it-yourself (DIY) project. You also have the option to take your car to a dealer, an auto parts supply store, or a local repair shop.
Each service provider has a unique labor rate and suppliers, and these differences make their presence known through the final price.
Taking your car to a dealer would certainly ensure your engine block heater would be compatible with your car’s engine and installed correctly.
Dealerships can offer these services thanks to their highly trained personnel, intimate knowledge of your vehicle’s make and model, and their intensive car repair services. However, you will pay a lot of money for the privilege, and most dealers charge by the hour.
Fortunately, you can save money if you rarely need the services offered by a dealer. Any local auto repair shop can install your block heater just as well but at significantly lower prices.
Some of these small shops will throw in the heater for free. In these cases, you only pay for labor which can start as low as $70.
Freeze Points and Other Miscellaneous Factors
While your choice of the installer and your heater’s type determines the bulk of your installation cost, they are not the only factor at play.
Though most of the other factors simply modify the main two, you must beware of them when taking your car to a shop.
For instance, most engine block heaters work best with freeze ports. Freeze ports are holes underneath the engine that regulated heating and freezing.
They are normally capped with a light material that engine fluids can break during extreme conditions, preventing damage to the rest of the engine.
Engine block heaters can use these ports to cycle heating fluids through the engine, essentially becoming a part of your car’s coolant and heating systems.
These connections work so well, that many block heaters are designed to work through the freeze points, making them a cinch to install. As such, many auto shops offer discounts when they can use them.
However, if your vehicle lacks engine freezer points, the installation can get significantly more complicated, and most shops will tack on the extra work into the cost of labor. In some of these cases, the installation may also require additional components as well.
Installing an Engine Block Heater as a DIY Project
Engine block heaters are simple enough that you could do it as a DIY project. By doing it yourself, you reduce your installation cost down to the parts themselves. You just need the right equipment and know-how, such as:
- Engine block heater
- Jack stands
- Ratchet and socket set
You must install a block heater according to its type and how it will connect to your engine. Most of the time, the heater attaches directly to the engine block while dipped in the coolant.
This type of installation is usually the most efficient configuration, but it can pose a challenge to do properly. As such, most people opt for a professional installation for it.
Magnetic or flexible pad block heaters are attached to the oil pan, making them the easiest type to install. However, you cannot drive your vehicle with them still attached as it could damage the heater and engine.
Sure, you can remove them every time you want to go out, but you might forget that it is there.
How to Install an Engine Block Heater
Therefore, you want an engine block heater that is easy to install but remains permanently attached to your engine. They require more work, but it looks like a factory install.
To that end, we provided the most common block heater installation method below. Please read the manual that comes with your heater so you can adjust the steps accordingly.
- If you have a car, jack up the front end and secure it with jack stands. Truck owners can skip this step.
- Open the hood
- If your vehicle has a freeze plug, remove it. You might have to remove the coolant to do this.
- If your vehicle has a block heater port, find an open port, then follow the note that comes after this list.
- Use the gloves to coat the heating element with thermal grease. Go heavy on the grease as it will make insertion easier while improving the heat transfer.
- Slide the heating element into the block until it clicks and fits tightly
- Connect the wiring to the heating element
- Route the cable away from the engine bay to an easily accessible location of your choice and face the outlet to the outside of the vehicle. It should not touch any hot engine components, such as the exhaust manifold, or anything that moves.
- Secure the cable with zip ties
- Replace the coolant if you removed it earlier
- Place the cap on the cable outlet to protect it from the elements when not in use
The whole procedure will take around a half-hour to an hour to complete.
Once installed, you should plug in the heater about two to three hours before you drive your vehicle. While you could run the heater overnight, that unnecessarily uses a lot of electricity.
Though, you can use an automatic outlet timer to ensure it runs before your morning commute.
Using Your Vehicle’s Engine Block Heater Port
If your vehicle has a built-in block heater port, you want to use it instead of the above procedure.
Car manufacturers use these ports for factory-installed block heaters when selling cars to locations with brutally cold climates. If they are present, they make installing a block heater even easier as most heaters can slide right into them.
Luckily, these ports require a similar installation procedure as above. The main difference is that you must move the coolant hose out of the way or remove it before you can install your heater.
An engine block heater warms up your vehicle’s engine when the temperatures drop below freezing, ensuring the engine always starts. They are also simple to install, making them great DIY projects. However, some heaters require a professional installation and associated costs. Yo