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Auto/Truck/Other Transportation If you use it to get from here to there, this is the place to talk about it and how to fix it.

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Old 12-28-2014, 04:08 AM
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Default Portable block heater power

I'm trying an experiment with a portable blok heater for my 1999 7.3L Ford Diesel.

In our part of Texas, now that Global warming has settled in, we're having more and more deays below freezing. After 12+ hours parked in the cold, my faithful truck doesn't like to fire up when I go off duty. Above 40 degrees and it will fire every time. Above 32 degrees usually requires 2 or 3 attempts. If the temps are in the 20s, good luck. If the temps are below 20 this truck won't start without a block heater.

At home, plugging in is no problem. Out in the middle of a parking lot, there's no power to be found. To solve the problem, I picked up a 1500W inverter, a deep cycle battery and a cheap wall socket timer.

My battery is rated at 195 RC which is pretty beefy. I believe this rating means that it can sustain a 25 amp load for 195 minutes. My block heater draws about 850w which I roughly translate to 8.5 amps in order to accomodte inverter inefficiency.

The idea is for the timer to start the block heater about 2 hours before my end of shift so that the block can be warm enough for starting by the time I'm off duty.

If the concept works, I'll be adding a battery isolator circuit and fix up the battery as permnant fixture to the truck. Stay tuned.
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Old 12-28-2014, 05:14 AM
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I think you'll just end up with a dead battery.

It takes a LOT of power to produce heat, and your "195" rating is measured at 80 degrees, so it will be much less in cold weather:

Quote:
Reserve Capacity (RC) is a very important rating. This is the number of minutes a fully charged battery at 80 F will discharge 25 amps until the battery drops below 10.5 volts.
http://www.batterystuff.com/kb/artic...ry-basics.html

I think you'd be better off to add an extra battery to the circuit so you can be sure to spin the engine fast enough

Last edited by Bearfootfarm; 12-28-2014 at 05:23 AM.
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Old 12-28-2014, 11:22 AM
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If your calculations are correct I don't see why that wouldn't work as long as you setup the battery as isolated like you said (won't draw from the truck battery but will charge when the truck is running).

But I would first look at why your truck won't start - sounds like your glow plugs aren't working or your started/battery isn't up to snuff enough to spin the engine fast enough. I've had diesels all my life and they would start quite easily down to 0F - sometimes would take a couple glow plug cycles below that. Same with my diesel tractor - started last year at -20F without any type of accessory heater.
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Old 12-28-2014, 06:51 PM
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Tim Horton Male Tim Horton is offline
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Interesting thought......

I did a reasonably extensive Google search for an old product that may not be available anymore... That is an add on tank heater powered with propane... Kind of like a mini on demand water heater for a car motor block.... No electrical power required...

A bit of info to go along with Coaltrains example with his JD compact tractor... My JD compact tractor is considerably older than his (1987 w/960 or so hrs) Without using the electric block heater, at about -10*, it may take 4 or so pre heater cycles and starting trys to get going...

Looking forward to your results....

Good luck
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Old 12-28-2014, 08:56 PM
Lurch Male Lurch is offline
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Our fleet of buses have a diesel fired on board heater that heats the coolant. It is completely programable for when you want it to come on (usually an hour or two before you need it). Needless to say, they don't need block heaters. Webasto is one of the companies that make them.
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Old 12-29-2014, 12:07 AM
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Default Update #1

Well, I've discovered some valuable information:

1: The RC rating, according to the "Battery Stuff" link posted by Bearfoot Farm: "Reserve Capacity (RC) is a very important rating. This is the number of minutes a fully charged battery at 80 F will discharge 25 amps until the battery drops below 10.5 volts."

My particular inverter is designed to be kind to the battery and will shut down once the battery voltage drops below 11v. What that means, in my test, is that it won't run the 800w heater for more than about 45 minutes - probably even less when it's cold enough to need it.

In other words -- I have successfully proven that one big battery will not be enough.

2. Coaltrain pointed out something that caused my palm to smack my forehead: Most of my cold weather diesel experience involved ether to kick start the engines. My truck is the first one I've had that forbids that practice. I haven't needed cold weather starts all that often. As a result - I just assumed that, being a diesel, it was going to be cantankerous to crank. That was further confirmed by how happy the truck is to crank after a cozy night with the block heater.

Soooooo. . . . I checked the glow plug relay and sure enough, it's useless. I've only had the truck for 16 years and I have no idea how long the relay has been bad. I can't remember a time when it was easy to start in cold weather so I just figured that's normal.

Based upon the voltage drop I get across the new relay, I figure at least some of the glow plugs are working - maybe all. But even if only one or two are working that's more than have been working for a very long time.

It may be a while before I get to do a "below freezing" test but in the mean time, I'm not going to experiment any more with the battery rig since it would require multiple batteries in order to maintain adequate voltage.

Thanks, Coaltrain and Bearfoot Farm for some very valuable information. You saved me a bunch of high dollar grief -- that alone is enough for pay for my forum membership!
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Old 12-29-2014, 12:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randallhilton View Post
2. Coaltrain pointed out something that caused my palm to smack my forehead: Most of my cold weather diesel experience involved ether to kick start the engines. My truck is the first one I've had that forbids that practice. I haven't needed cold weather starts all that often. As a result - I just assumed that, being a diesel, it was going to be cantankerous to crank. That was further confirmed by how happy the truck is to crank after a cozy night with the block heater.

Soooooo. . . . I checked the glow plug relay and sure enough, it's useless. I've only had the truck for 16 years and I have no idea how long the relay has been bad. I can't remember a time when it was easy to start in cold weather so I just figured that's normal.

Based upon the voltage drop I get across the new relay, I figure at least some of the glow plugs are working - maybe all. But even if only one or two are working that's more than have been working for a very long time.

It may be a while before I get to do a "below freezing" test but in the mean time, I'm not going to experiment any more with the battery rig since it would require multiple batteries in order to maintain adequate voltage.

Thanks, Coaltrain and Bearfoot Farm for some very valuable information. You saved me a bunch of high dollar grief -- that alone is enough for pay for my forum membership!
Wow - glad it was easy to find! Living up north with diesels this kind of thing is kind of common - I learned to check those relays and glow plugs first thing.

One thing that was nice with my wife's 1999 VW TDI Beeltle Bug - it threw a check engine light and was just starting kind of rough. Put the code reader on it and not only did it tell me that it had a glow plug not working - even told me which one! That was an easy fix - that time.......
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Old 12-30-2014, 12:35 PM
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I have owned six different diesels in the last 10 years, I have tried many different things, to heat them up in the winter time so they will fire. Often out where there is no grid.

What you need is a generator, mount it on your front bumper, use it to run the water circulator heater.

Also you need a large blanket or heavy tarp. To cover the front of the truck to keep the wind out & the heat in. A sharp wind will keep a motor cold.
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Old 12-31-2014, 11:32 PM
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Default Update 2

As luck would have it , we hit the sub freezing temps today so I could see how well the new relay performs. As y'all expected, it cranked right up. DUH! Over a decade of hard starting in cold weather has come to an end. Oh Well.

In the mean time, I'm still going to carry around the big truck battery just in case.
For my next trick, I'm going to see if a half hour of block heat is enough to make a difference.

I sincerely appreciate y'alls experience. Once again, my entire forum subcription price has paid off big time!
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Old 01-01-2015, 11:18 AM
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Thanks for updating with your real test.

It doesn't hurt to plug it in when you can - makes it easier on everything - and sure sounds better on a cold start!
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