By on April 2, 2014
YouTube Preview Image

Joel writes:

My family is a Volvo family. Volvos are from Sweden and they take winter very seriously. There are a number of ‘winter’ climate options that were, at least at one time, available on Volvo’s cars. For instance:

  • Parking Heater
    Sometimes known as a ‘Fuel Driven Heater’ or after one of the popular brands Webasto, Espar, Eberspacher.
    This is essentially a tiny gasoline or diesel (from the car’s fuel tank) furnace, mounted under the hood, that is plumbed into the car’s cooling system and hooked up to the climate controls. You start the heater remotely, and it heats the coolant and pumps it through the system, heating the engine and supplying heat to the cabin heat exchanger. Some can even use the car’s climate systems to turn on the blower fan and fully heat the cabin.
  • Pause Heater
    Sometimes known as a ‘Residual Heater’ or “Rest Heater’ on BMWs. This is an electric coolant pump, plumbed in with the cabin heat exchanger. When you turn the car off there is a lot of heat stored in the coolant, but only a tiny amount of it is left in the cabin heat exchanger. You press the ‘Rest’ button and the electric pump moves the coolant around so you can run the cabin heater for about 10 minutes after the engine is turned off.
  • Electric Cabin Heater
    This is an electric space heater that you place inside the cabin. Of course it’s got over-temp and tip-over systems so it won’t catch anything on fire.

Are any of these options available on ANY car sold in North America now?

Sajeev answers:

Questions like these remind me why I am so fond of the comments from the Best and Brightest in this series.  Because my knowledge of this topic is weaker than most, and PR folks aren’t lining up fancy new press cars in my driveway. But I got a plan, son. I got me some Google and we got the Best and Brightest, baby!

So anyway:

  1. Parking Heater: Well, Volvo’s still got it! But it’s a dealer installed accessory, if that matters.
  2. Webasto still makes one, fitting many a VAG product in Europe. I’d be shocked if manufacturers in North America follow suit, even if the concept’s proven itself in American RVs and 18-wheelers. No matter, Webasto’s own video implies it’s somewhat universal: YouTube Preview Image
  3. Pause Heater:  The BMW Rest system is/was a neat hallmark of the brand, but there’s conflicting info on the ‘net about whether it still exists in this age of i-Drive, start-stop equipped BMWs.  Perhaps a trip to your local dealership to question the i-Drive skills of a sales expert is in order!
  4. Electric Cabin Heater:  These are standard fare in every Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, as they have no internal combustion to feed you hot air!  Cuz hot air is the job of their greenwashing-marketing departments! I kid, I kid!
  5. Even the darling of the Hybrid world, the Toyota Prius has an electric heater. It’s entirely possible that super-uber luxury cars use this electric helper and a conventional heater core from the cooling system.  But, but, BUT…many cars sport seat heaters, steering wheel heaters and (drum roll please) the new S-class has armrest heaters!

Considering the electrical load of trying to heat an entire cabin, don’t be surprised if heating your ass, your back, your hands and your elbows does the same thing but far more efficiently.  Get into those warm items and soon enough the conventional heater will have your back. And everything else. Literally.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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22 Comments on “Piston Slap: Fear No Polar Vortex!...”


  • avatar
    jmo

    I had a 300 as a rental and it had heated and cooled seats and a heated steering wheel. When it was cold and you hit the remote start, it would turn on the seat and wheel heater automatically. It was soooo nice.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Positive Temperature Coefficient electric heaters are common factory installed options in the HVAC boxes of many diesel vehicles sold in North America, especially in the Northern US and Canada. As anyone who’s driven a diesel without one for any amount of time in a brutal winter can attest, diesel engines barely make any heat at idle and low engine speeds. Those without the auxiliary heaters often freeze their arses off unless they have a high idle setting or get the vehicle moving down the road. Grille covers are a common to help with this issue as well.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Some old Cadillacs had electric heat, and I believe Ford offers at least a partial electric heater in some pickups…

  • avatar
    slance66

    My 2007 BMW 3 series has the “Rest” heater. Used it a few days ago in fact. Very clever idea and well implemented.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      I remember my 2006 E90 having that feature. I guess it may have been decontented in the newer model.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The e9x cars had rest heat until the mid-cycle refresh in 09-10. Then that button became the ALL button which syncs the control of the passenger and driver temps together. Supposedly in response to complaints by Americans about having to set the temp twice. However, it is only a software setting, you can change it back to rest heat by changing the coding in the car with a laptop, cable and the appropriate software. I have done so in mine. No idea about whether this is possible in an F3x car.

        V6 Saab 9-5s had this feature as well.

        I had an MB with the gas heater – that is the best thing ever!

    • 0 avatar
      mypoint02

      ’07 E60 has it. I use it all the time. I know the ’09 E92 does as well. Looks like it may have been removed on the F30. Bummer.

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    check out frostheater.com
    also as danio pointed out much of this is found on diesel cars sold in the us and canada

    personally i think this is much ado about nothing. if i could get heated front and back seats AND the option of cloth seats (yes folks those two are not mutually exclusive) i could stay quite warm through out our northern minnesota winter. well the cabin heater for a diesel would help until i get up to operating temp on my way.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Get a plug in hybrid. You can set a time and temperature, and the car will have the cabin up to temperature when you get in.

    Plus, your starting worries are over. Nothing like a multikilowatt high voltage battery and a 100 plus horsepower traction motor to get the car started in the morning.

  • avatar
    jimbobjoe

    My 2002 Saab 9-5 (V-6) had the Residual Heater. I loved it, it worked quite well for about 20-30 minutes and then the engine had to be started because the heat was all gone. Apparently the V-6 had an electronically driven second coolant pump, which is what allowed for the Residual Heater.

    I wonder when BMW first installed the Pause/Residual Heaters. I hate for BMW to get credit for something that really should go to Saab. :)

    When I did research on Parking Heaters, and why they are unusual in the US, I came across some posts which said that Parking Heaters were quite common during the time of the VW Bug/Van but the designs of that time had safety issues which turned Americans off of the product.

    However they are easier to find in Canada.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      My ’98 BMW 540 had the residual heater. E38s had them too, though I’m not sure if it was available at the start of production. So at least since ’97, and possibly ’95 for BMW. A quick search didn’t uncover any references to REST on earlier models, but I didn’t look very hard.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Parking heater…these were called gas heaters and were seen in convertibles in Rochester, NY, in the 1960s.
    These allowed top down driving even with temps in the 40sF. Of course they sucked down gasoline, but it was about $.25 a gallon then. In the winter, my Dad always put a piece of cardboard behind the grill in front of the radiator to speed warm up of the engine and cabin. Without it, nighttime drives on the NY State Thruway at 60 mph would leave those in the back seat with teeth chattering even with heater set on max. Ahhhhh. Memories like these are why I moved to Los Angeles 40 years ago. Here one can leave his car in the sun and warm it like a lizard warms its belly.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      I remember gasoline heaters on my 1937 Buick Special 2-door sedan. Heated that cavernous interior quickly. No temperature setting, though. You controlled temperature by reaching under the dash and turning it on and off. It’s on the passenger side, by the way.

      And you thought texting while driving could be distracting?

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        The control was on the passenger side because the driver’s wife was expected to be the one who was too hot or too cold. Men driving alone were expected to tough it out.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    A parking/pause heater makes sense when it’s freezing outside and you’re waiting for someone. I did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation and get around 4L per hour, which works out to around a gallon an hour. It’s very wasteful considering this car gets a real world 10L/100km on the highway. A high basal metabolism is good for people, bad for cars.

  • avatar
    redliner

    Jaguars throughout the 2000s had the “rest heat” function.

    Also, I believe most (all?) VW TDI models sold in North America have an electric heater that supplements the heat produced by the engine. It is a 1000 watt heater, and cars so equipped have a special alternator to handle the increased electrical load.

    Many hybrid cars also have “hybrid heat” system that allows them to use heat from the engine and/or from an electric resistance heater or a heat pump.

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    My ML320 has a auxiliary coolant pump which circulates water from the block via the heater core, same thing I suppose. Keeps the car warm with the engine off.

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    Oh you youngsters, my grandfather (and I am a grandfather) stuck with DeSot0 because of the gasoline heater in the car which gave instant heat at any outside temp. My Jag Stype will keep the heat/cool on after shutdown as long as door is closed.

  • avatar
    Power6

    The aux heater is a very european thing. I don’t really consider this winter survival equip, you could simply start the car to heat up. I enjoyed the winter equip in the old Quattro Audis, heated (velour) seats, heated door locks (when such a thing mattered!) heated windshield/headlight washer nozzles and the typical heated mirrors. Also loved the constant-on rear defogger switch to run all this heated stuff, great in a storm. Having the rear defrost turn off every 15 is annoying.

    My WRX had the heated wiper pad which is useful, if you need to drive in a real storm keeping the wiper blades warm is great. I could set the rear defog to be constant-on through the nav screen in that car as well.

    My old Lexus has the “winter/summer position” wiper linkage you can snap up and down, seems to be a unique thing to Lexus.

  • avatar
    Mieden

    I know for a fact Mercedes made “REST” available in 1989 with the R129 SL and everything after. BMW had a similar system available on early E32/34 cars through the “timer” function of their “On-board Computer” system, but it was much less efficient and they removed the function from those cars during their mid-cycle update.

  • avatar
    Toshi

    Electric resistive heaters are old hat. What’s hot are the heat pumps found on the Tesla Model S, the 2013+ Nissan LEAF SV and SL, and the Toyota Prius PHEV prototype (but sadly not the production model).

    Being able to move 3-4x as much heat from ambient air outside into the interior as is put into the system is so much better than the 1.0 coefficient of performance of resistive heaters, by definition.


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