Engine heaters are an essential component of every diesel rig in the North – and most gas outfits as well. Oil gets stiffer as the temperature drops, and a cold engine gets harder to crank over. The battery is rapidly losing efficiency at the same time.
Many diesel rigs are outfitted with an ether portal to help them start in cold weather. But ether is explosive, and can damage the engine if not used properly. The engine still requires a battery strong enough to turn it over at sufficient speed – and again, the battery has lost a lot of cranking ability in sub-zero weather. That can require jumper cables to give enough power to turn the motor over.
An engine heater is the solution. I like to plug in my diesel pickup at night when the weather is below zero. That keeps the oil warm, and radiates enough heat to the battery that things spin over quickly in the morning.
I had plugged in both the dump truck and the tractor last week when the weather was cool. The truck started right up, but the tractor required a jump. A quick assessment revealed that the engine heater was not working on the tractor.
The plug had been ripped off the end of the tractor’s engine heater, and I had replaced that already. Now I checked the heater element with an ohmmeter and discovered an open circuit. The next time I was in town I bought a new heater.
I could see the heater easily enough, and it was openly accessible. The loader was right in the way, but I could still reach it – although awkwardly. The real challenge was that antifreeze was circulating through it, and I was too lazy to drain the whole cooling system. So I clamped off the hoses leading to the heater with two pair of ViseGrips and pulled it out, sealing the hoses with pipe plugs.
But true to Murphy’s law, the new heater wouldn’t fit. The design had changed in the 40 years since the tractor was built, and the new heater was too wide to fit in the space between the engine block and the tractor frame.
On the minute possibility, I pulled apart the old heater. Murphy was wrong! The problem was simple! One of the wires leading to the element had burned in two.
I checked the element with an ohmmeter to be sure, and it was intact. The wire had been attached with a copper crimp, and it was easy enough to pry it loose. I stripped back the insulation, re-crimped the wire, and soldered it to be sure. Soon enough I had the heater all back together, and I plugged it in to be sure. Success!
The heater draws 1000 watts, and a load of sediment had insulated the tank from the thermostat, causing the heater to run excessively. Soon enough I had the heater re-installed, and now the tractor will be easy to start next time I need it.