Can A Block Heater Charge The Battery?

does a block heater charge the battery

The block heater does not charge the battery. However, the block heater can protect the battery, allowing you to start your vehicle in the short run and extending the battery’s life in the long run.

Some people expect the block heater to affect the battery’s work or vice versa, but as the guide below will soon show, that is not the case.

Understanding Block Heater Functionality

People assume batteries and block heaters are connected because they don’t know how heaters work.

The Primary Purpose Of A Block Heater In Preheating The Engine

Block heaters protect the engine from freezing conditions. This matters because oil lubricates the engine’s moving parts. Without it, the friction will expose the engine to accelerated wear and tear, doing irreversible damage.

According to Wattco, oil can freeze at -20 degrees F. But frozen oil is not your immediate concern. Engine oil is thicker in cold conditions. The lower the temperatures get, the more viscous the oil becomes. Viscous oil cannot lubricate the engine.

You can prevent this outcome by using synthetic oil that offers superior resistance to low temperatures. But block heaters are just as effective.

How Block Heaters Work And Their Impact On The Engine’s Temperature?

Block heaters have numerous benefits. Environmentalists often cite the role they play in reducing emissions. This study from Peter Ahlvik, Anders Laveskog, and Lennart Erlandsson in the Journal of Fuels and Lubricants proved as much in 1997.

The report found that block heaters reduced emissions (CO and HC) by 80 percent at low ambient temperatures. The problem is the idling drivers do while waiting for the engine to warm. According to Development Asia, the average 2.5L gasoline engine will consume 646 liters of fuel by idling for sixty minutes daily. This happened in Kazakhstan during a winter season that latest 200 days.

If the environment doesn’t matter to you, a vehicle’s fuel consumption becomes less efficient on cold days. A block heater prevents this outcome. This study from E.H. Wiens (Department of Engineering, University of Saskatchewan) investigated the matter and found that coolant temperatures in a six-cylinder engine underwent an 80 percent increase within the first two hours because of a block heater.

Coolant temperatures rose to 45 degrees F or 112 degrees F depending on whether one used a 400W or 1000W heater.

Relationship Between Block Heaters And Batteries

Block heaters and batteries have a mild connection to one another. However, some laypeople exaggerate that connection.

The Connection Between Block Heaters And The Vehicle’s Battery

You won’t find a direct connection between the two. Some people blame block heaters for draining their batteries. However, the battery doesn’t run the heater. It can’t. From what this Regional Tech Forum has seen, block heaters use 0.5 – 1.5kW.

They draw this power continuously. A block heater would flatten the battery within one or two hours. You typically plug the block heater into a wall outlet.

How Block Heaters Indirectly Affect The Battery’s Performance?

  • Batteries hate low temperatures. Cold weather makes the electrolyte mixture viscous, disrupting the chemical reaction that typically occurs in the battery.
  • According to Midtronics, the battery’s electrolyte freezes at -40 F. You will see bulging and cracking at this point.
  • The battery loses 20 percent of its capacity at 32 degrees and 50 percent at -22 degrees. The battery’s power output will fall.
  • The car will refuse to start.

This is why block heaters are so important. They prevent the above outcomes by keeping the battery warm on a cold day or thawing the item when it freezes. First, this allows the car to start. Secondly, the battery will remain operational throughout the winter season.

For that reason, mechanics encourage laypeople to use their block heaters before temperatures fall below -15 C. Even though the oil can still circulate at those temperatures, the battery may suffer because of the cold conditions.

Battery Maintenance And Block Heater Usage

There’s a reason why experienced drivers take their cars to a repair shop for maintenance before winter starts. They know that a block heater has its limits. Your battery won’t survive the coldest months of the year unless it’s in tip-top shape.

The Importance of Maintaining A Healthy Battery For Optimal Vehicle Performance

Cold weather can strain the battery. But a healthy battery won’t succumb to the stress. Keep an eye out for the following:

  • Find loose connections and fix them. Sometimes, this means replacing damaged or worn-out wiring.
  • If you notice signs of oxidation on the terminals, clean them with baking soda and warm water.
  • Tighten loose terminals with a wrench.
  • Start the car and observe the lights. Make sure the dashboard lights illuminate brightly. Dim lights point to a weak or defective battery.
  • Do the same thing for the headlights. Make sure they illuminate brightly.
  • If the lights won’t illuminate, and the vehicle struggles to start when you turn the key, perform a load test.

You test a battery to determine two factors. First, you want to know that a battery can start the car. Secondly, you must ensure a battery can output enough power to support the vehicle’s electrical load.

Don’t drive your car in the winter if you don’t trust the battery. What if the car stalls before you can reach your destination? What if it strands you on an isolated road? You risk freezing to death. Besides keeping emergency kits (that include shovels, flashlights, and warm clothing) on hand, you should invest in a battery tender to maintain the battery’s charge.

How Block Heaters Indirectly Contribute To Battery Maintenance?

Run the block heater for two to four hours before using the car. This will warm the engine and its components, allowing you to drive the vehicle immediately without idling it. And if the battery freezes during the night, the block heater will thaw it.

You can’t harm the vehicle by maintaining its connection to the heater all night. This seems wasteful, but it can protect the engine and battery from low ambient temperatures if you leave the car outside.

Naturally, you’re better off parking the vehicle in a garage. What if you don’t have heating mechanisms in the garage? It doesn’t matter. The garage can still prevent the battery from freezing.

Block Heaters And Cold Weather Starting

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you tried to start a car in cold weather without using a block heater? Are the consequences as dire as people say?

How Block Heaters Facilitate Easier Engine Starting In Cold Weather?

When you start the car, oil circulates through the engine block. This keeps the moving parts lubricated. But that cannot happen when temperatures drop because the oil becomes too thick to flow.

Without the oil, the engine’s moving parts succumb to friction, leading to wear and tear. Modern vehicles with synthetic oil and strong batteries can start in cold weather. But their older counters (and diesel engines) are not as lucky.

Some won’t start at all. Others will start, but their engines will sustain irreversible damage over time. A block heater warms the coolant and the oil, allowing the engine to start easily even when temperatures dip below -15 C.

How A Warm Engine Improves The Starting Process, Which Indirectly Impacts The Battery?

A block heater warms the engine. Because the battery is within the engine’s vicinity, you may inadvertently warm it. But this doesn’t guarantee that a car in a region with low ambient temperatures will start.

If you have jumper cables, jumpstart the battery. If the block heater cannot thaw the battery, remove it and use a blow dryer to warm the component. Keep in mind that some batteries cannot be fixed. Replacing them is the only option.

Battery Charging VS Block Heater Usage

People rarely confuse battery chargers and block heaters because they perform different functions. However, some drivers don’t know which item to use during winter.

Differentiating Between Block Heaters And Battery Chargers In Terms Of Their Primary Functions.

Block heaters and battery chargers are not the same. Battery chargers are aptly named. They charge the battery. The block heater, on the other hand, keeps the engine and its related components warm.

In the winter, you need a trickle charger because it maintains the battery’s charge without overcharging the component. Don’t choose between the two. Use both the block heater and the trickle charger to reduce the impact of low ambient temperatures on the engine and battery.

The Distinction Between Charging A Battery And Using A Block Heater

You use the block heater by plugging a power cord into the car’s socket beneath the grill. On the other hand, you connect the charger directly to the battery. Some people take the battery out before charging it.

Either way, these two devices are not connected. They can’t interfere with one another’s work. You can actually do without the heater if you have a modern gasoline vehicle with synthetic oil and high-quality fuel.

But the charger is vital because you may deplete the battery by running the car’s electronics while the engine is off. If you can only choose one, the battery charger is more important. An engine with cold oil and coolant can still start. A car with a bad battery cannot start.

Block Heater Usage And Battery Lifespan

Everyone expects the heater to benefit the engine, but what will it do for the battery in cold weather?

The Potential Impact Of Block Heater Usage of A Vehicle’s Battery

According to Forbes, a battery has a 3-year lifespan. But you can lower the lifespan by exposing the battery to strenuous factors such as corrosion, surges, and heavy loads. Cold weather counts as a strenuous factor because it disrupts the internal chemical process, reducing the battery’s capacity and ability to hold a charge.

A block heater can repel those side effects by keeping the battery warm during the winter. You can also deploy a battery blanket.

Common Misconceptions About Block Heater Usage And Battery Longevity

  • The battery doesn’t run the block heater. You use a wall socket to meet the component’s electrical demands.
  • The block heater will not drain the battery. The block heater is not connected to the battery. If your battery keeps going flat, something else has gone wrong.
  • The block heater cannot charge the battery. The two components are not connected.

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