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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Seems like we revisit this situation every winter. I have a diesel truck with a block heater cable. At work, I have no options for plugging in the block heater and if the temps get below around 35, the glowplugs just aren't enough to start the truck. I ran my batteries down a couple of times last winter trying to start the truck, so I've replaced those batteries this year. So far, it hasn't been cold enough to find out whether it was a battery problem or a glowplug problem.

At home, the block heater is always plugged in, but if I forget, it takes about 45 minutes after plug in for the truck to start.

Now my question. If I were to buy a solar battery maintainer panel, could I run an extension cord from my block heater cable into the cab to an inverter and run the block heater off of my trucks two starting batteries. Does anyone know how much amperage/voltage a block heater uses? Is this doable? If this won't work, what will? given the fact that I can't plug in the electric cable at work and the highs next week will be low 30s or less.
 

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the heater is around 500 to 600 watts (i think, in a ford). it would take about $4000 and about 200 square feet of panels to run the heater....how about cranking and running the engine about every four hours for a half hour.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'd do that if I could. Unfortunately, when I park my vehicle at work, I take one of theirs and am away for the day. Would a fully charged auxilliary battery hooked up to my truck's block heater for the necessary 45 minutes work?
 

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Back in 80s sometime, remember JCWhitney sold a propane powered engine block heater, no electric needed. Where you would find one today is beyond me.

I lived off grid in 80s in upper Michigan, so payed attention to such things especially since I at one point had a car that simply was cold blooded. By time I saw the propane block heater, I had moved on to a car that if you took battery in at night, then it would start in the morning, no heater needed.
 

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I'd do that if I could. Unfortunately, when I park my vehicle at work, I take one of theirs and am away for the day. Would a fully charged auxilliary battery hooked up to my truck's block heater for the necessary 45 minutes work?
No, the batteries wouldn't last but a couple of weeks if they have enough power to run the heater then heat the glow plugs and then start the truck. Just too much drain to batteries that are not designed to deep cycle.

I see 2 options.

1. Add a second set of deep batteries wired with an isolator like they do for motorhomes. These would be to run the blockheater only. They would charge when driving the truck and/or when you are home. The little battery maintainers don't even come close to providing enough power.

2. Use a fuel additive and possibly thinner oil. It hit about 20 below here last night and we had no problem starting the trucks. Look into additives that will make it easier to start the truck. A little thinner oil will allow the engine to trun over easier.
 

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you know, the block heater is a friction/resistance device. why couldn't it be run off of dc power instead of ac? the losses of an inverter would not be there. but it would take about 8 batteries to get the dc power up to the power of a 120v rms ac power source.
 

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Check those glow plugs. Make sure ALL of them are good. Even 1 bad glow plug will cause slow starting.
 

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Adron beat me to it . . . . .spend you first money on replacing the glow plugs.

Is your alternator working properly to top off the bats when your running . . ?

Adding a bit of c-tain boster during cold weather--or anytime--would be a good thing.
 

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Do you have the 97 F350 Diesel? Does it have the powerstroke engine? If so, the glowplug relay is problematic. I almost started my 95 F250 this morning (-5degF) with bad batteries and no block heater. Just about kicked off, but then the batteries died. Grrr.... I believe I started below 0degF last year without the heater as well.

When I can't get it started, I end up rapping the relay (in the center of the engine under the cover) and it starts working again. I'll have to get a new one some day...

As for block heaters, take a look at:
http://www.enviroharvest.ca/block_heater.htm
Propane powered, has timers, safeties built in. Looks like a decent device, but don't know how much it costs.

I need one of these on my backhoe.

Michael

Edit: $275 from ebay Not the same one, no timer, but should work fairly quickly, since its 10,000btu.

Or an espar unit. Probably more expensive, but can have a 7 day timer, diesel powered...
 

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that type of propane heater can not take hardly any wind with out blowing out I have one on one tractor, and I need to build a wind shield around it,

I would think the diesel units would be better as you all ready have diesel on the truck, if you want a non electric unit,

on mine I put a quick connect on the LP hose so I can disconnect the tank off the heater,

that LP heater works great in the shop but out side it not very good in my situation with the wind,

Another option I have read about,

is to put some type of quick connects on your pickup heater hose, and one on the tractor or engine you want to start, and you drive your gas truck up to it and plug in the heater hose, (like on a hydraulic hose) and let the coolant circulation for a few Min's and then start the diesel truck or tractor,

to answer your original question you would need a lot of solar panels to make that work a battery maintainer is very low amps and at 12 volts you would need nearly 10 times the amps in solar as the heater takes, because by the time you invert and transformer the 12 volts to 120 volts, you will need the amps to transformer as well, to get there, the inverter would need nearly 50 amps of power at 12 volts to make 500 watts at 120 volts,
 

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Yet another option... get a cheap generator, and chain it to the bed of the truck. I would probably get a larger/second/pan heater to quickly put more heat into the engine. With a pan heater the oil will get warm as well.

If you get a battery charger as well (or a generator with 12v out) you don't have to worry about running the batteries down.

Michael
 

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Doesn't seem right that 30F is a starting problem. I have 3 diesel pickups, tractors, backhoes, etc. and don't even worry about plugging them in til it gets to 0F.
 

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My truck starts at -20 no problems. Use a bit of Power Service each tank. Winter grade fuel could be an issue if you were having problems at colder temps. Hundreds of diesels start each day in Anchorage @ 10-28 degrees.

Get the truck fixed instead of looking at a work around.
 

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I'll go along with the advice that the truck should get fixed. If you don't you are also going to wear out your starter, batteries, and alternator much faster.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
It is the 97 F350 Powerstroke. When I first bought the truck 4 years ago, I had to have the glowplug controller replaced and installed new batteries then. I recently replaced both of the batteries. So far, I've been able to get the truck started. It takes over 5 minutes of cycling the glow plugs, waiting 30-45 seconds after the light goes off, cycling and waiting a few more times before it finally starts. I don't keep cranking on it, just keep letting the glowplugs do their thing, but it just takes more time than I think it should. Lowest it's been in the evenings now is about 26. SHOULD it take this long? I need to deal with this before the daytime highs are down to the teens and single digits.
 

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Somebody familiar with Ford can give you specifics but that is a country mile from being right.

My Dodge will hit the glow plugs for a maximum of 30 seconds (down to about 0F) and fire right up. The GMC with the Duramax: glow plugs cycle about 5 seconds and off she goes. The Dodge needs a block heater below 0F and the Duramax is good without a block heater down to about -15F.
 

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Even tho the glo plug "indicator light" in your dash is working---that does not mean that all 8 of the glow plugs are working.
From your description of "cycling" . . .I'll bet ya a buck you've got 5 or 6 plugs not working . . . and in all that "cycling" your just getting a couple cylinders warm enough to fire..............which is then finally enough to get the engine going..........ya still with me...?
 

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Can you purcahse a seperate intake air heating grid somewhere?
 

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I found them on ebay for 12.99 each. Fix the engine right. Do not go doing any presidential solutioning to it.
I am guessing this truck is pretty high miles. ANother reason for the hard starting issues.
 
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