Piston Slap: A Frozen Expedition South of the Yukon's Tundra?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap a frozen expedition south of the yukons tundra

Frozen in KC writes:

Long-time reader, first-time questioner with a 2005 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer 4×4 question: My local Ford dealer says there is no block heater available to install on my Expedition. As you may know, it has been extremely cold in the midwest lately and my Ford is in the driveway. I have an outlet nearby and would love to be able to start up an already-warmed engine in these bitter cold mornings, not just for my comfort, but for the longevity of the engine. I’m pretty handy, but not an advanced mechanic.

Can the Best-And-Brightest possibly be of assistance? Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Just because a dealership can’t install an OEM part doesn’t mean the aftermarket can’t hook you up. With something like this part.

So you can indeed install a universal engine block heater on a 4×4 Expedition, but is it worth the trouble? Maybe not. Run synthetic oil to ensure the best engine protection below freezing. Maybe put a remote start for your convenience. And since it’s an Eddie Bauer, heated seats might be in play too. Those three items are more than adequate for most KC winters.

I mean, this Expedition doesn’t Traverse the frozen Tundra of the Yukon Territory. (childish giggling)

I can understand the luxury vs. necessity of having an engine block heater, so the question remains: it is worth it to you?

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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4 of 57 comments
  • Fordson Fordson on Apr 08, 2014

    People are missing the point of the block heater. I have one in my 2003 SVT Focus - it was part of the cold weather package, along with heated seats and mirrors. The heater is the freeze plug type. It draws 80 watts (oooh - expensive to run!). You do put it on a timer; for best results, give it 3 hours before you leave in the morning. It will heat the coolant to 130 degrees - after it's been on for 3 hours, you don't want to put your hand on the cam cover. Doesn't heat the oil? It sure as hell does heat the oil, somewhat, and that helps. Yes, as one commenter pointed out, it will give you a good start toward defrosting your windshield before you even start the car. It also heats up the transaxle fluid somewhat, and since the battery is mounted next to the block and head, and over top of the transaxle, it heats that up, too, which helps it perform and lengthens its life. At any temp over 10 degrees F, the temperature gauge comes off the peg as soon as you turn the ignition on, and at that temp it takes just over 4 minutes of normal driving from engine start to full operating temperature. Within 30 seconds after start, the HVAC fan is blowing 70-degree air into the cabin, and when it's 10 degrees out, that feels pretty damn good. If none of that sounds attractive to you, then don't get a block heater - just use synthetic oil and call it good - I'll keep my block heater, thank you. Also, the statement in the post itself that having one installed (not much $$, but more labor) is too much trouble that can be avoided by just getting remote start (more expensive parts, less labor) is a joke - it's going to cost you the same, duh.

    • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Apr 10, 2014

      Block heaters on cars are typically in the 400 to 500 watt range. I've never heard of any lower than that. I like to use a block heater as often as possible if it's below freezing. The engine seems happier, and the car provides interior heat much more quickly. It's far easier to install a block heater than a remote starter. It's just not as easy to find someone who's willing to butcher everything around it while hacking it in for minimum wage the way you can with remote starters.

  • Happycamper Happycamper on Apr 09, 2014

    Someone I know just torched his Explorer and melted the siding on his house by using the block heater. Fortunately, the vehicle was outside and not in the garage.

    • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Apr 10, 2014

      How does that happen? What's flammable inside the coolant passages of an engine?

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