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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I currently have a garage, but likely will be moving and won’t have a garage. I know block heaters aren’t common in the US, but I’ve heard at least in milder temps people who install them get warm air immediately on startup. I’ve wanted to install one on my vehicles primarily for this reason. I’m not a fan of long amounts of idling to warm up, both for extra wear running the engine when it’s cold and for wasted gas. My preference is to start and drive easily to warm the engine up quicker.

However, for safety reasons, when you have heavy frost or ice, sometimes you need to warm up the engine before driving to either clear the ice, or even if the frost can be scraped off, you need warm air before you can drive or your breath will freeze on the inside of the windshield, so you still need to warm it up at least a little before driving.

In the interest of reducing idle time, and increasing comfort at the same time, in considering adding a block heater. Anyone who has one, can you confirm if you actually get warm air immediately or at least in greatly reduce idle time when starting the van at temps of say 10 °F?

Would also be nice to have on the few days per winter I normally have to drive when it’s -°F for easier starts with less wear. Typically at least one week a year around here I’ll be starting to leave to work at temps of 0°F or below. Usually I cringe every time listening to the engine struggling to start and imagining all the extra wear happening to the engine. The coldest I’ve ever seen around here was -29 °F one night, that was a record cold. Normally the coldest single night is around -14 °F.

And yes, I know, nothing like the cold Canadians have. :) But block heaters are standard fair around there. Here, I’ve only ever seen them on diesels.

Any thoughts/suggestions or comments welcome. Or feel free to tell me I’m silly. But given it appears the heater is about $50 and install on the 2GR-FE is straightforward and doesn’t require draining the coolant at all, seems like a block heater is worth a try to quicker heat in winter, especially on cold days or when we get a quarter inch of ice buildup from freezing rain.
 

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I have the Temro cartridge heater on my 2011, and it has very little effect if only plugged in for a few hours. I think it's 400W, which is pretty small compared to the coolant heater in my Jetta which will give you warm air immediately after an hour or two.

Maybe if you left it on for many more hours it would have some effect, but if the van is sitting outside in the wind you will also start losing heat.

For parking outside, there is no substitute for a 1000W or 1500W coolant circulation heater.
 

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I've had a block heater on only one vehicle - a 1979 Mercedes 240 Diesel that I drove through the 1980's. It made it easier to start the engine but didn't provide anything close to instant cabin heat. A block heater doesn't circulate water through the heater core but only does what its name says - heats the engine block. Still, the block heater probably provided interior heat slightly quicker than without it. I plugged that block heater in whenever I could. I found electrical outlets in parking garages and lots, the exteriors of hotels and businesses. I carried a 100 ft. extension cord to use with it. No one ever unplugged it during 10 winters while I was stealing electricity.

I actually thought about buying a Toyota brand block heater when I bought my 2014 Sienna but that was about the time that Toyota Canada recalled their block heaters and even uninstalled them without warning owners when their vehicles were in for routine service. That sure pissed off owners. They were apparently thought to be too dangerous to leave in place.

I assume that you know that your Sienna has an electric windshield wiper deicer on the inside of the bottom of the windshield that turns on when back window defroster is turned on. It's a wonderful feature.

It's unfortunate that the 2014 LE didn't get seat heaters - only the XLE and Limited did. The seat heaters in my 2014 Limited made it survivable until the interior warmed up. Even on the lowest setting, I could tolerate the seat heater for barely two minutes. My wife apparently doesn't have nerve endings in her ass since she often had her seat heater on the highest setting during long winter road trips. You could have seat heaters installed in your Sienna but it would likely cost hundreds. There are inexpensive plug-in seat heater cushions/pads on Amazon that might make cold weather more tolerable.

I hate winter! Hate it! Hate it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks. The other thought I once had was a 1500 W space heater in the cabin, near the front blowing mostly on the windshield. Figured with an externally mounted power connection a timer could kick this on at the appropriate point before leaving to heat the cabin and melt ice off windows. But it also is not the safest idea around.
 

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It's a bit wild west but done properly it doesn't sound that bad. Make sure you have a lot of air circulation.

Otherwise, you really can't beat a coolant heater. See if you can package one behind the right headlight. Temro makes them under the Zerostart label; that's what I have in my Jetta.
 

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Thanks. The other thought I once had was a 1500 W space heater in the cabin, near the front blowing mostly on the windshield. Figured with an externally mounted power connection a timer could kick this on at the appropriate point before leaving to heat the cabin and melt ice off windows. But it also is not the safest idea around.
I really did laugh out loud when I read that. You might as well not mess around with a space heater and go straight to using a charcoal grill or a wood burning fire pit to warm your interior. ;)

Sorry ... I couldn't resist.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
So I looked briefly at Temro, and it turns out they sell a 900 W, 120 V cabin heater under the ZeroStart brand. This is literally just a specialized space heater with a safety thermostat and a second thermal fuse, for heating your car's interior and melting ice and snow. 😂 https://www.amazon.com/Zerostart-2600900-Interior-Electric-Portable/dp/B000NM73ZA

For some reason they say that circulation coolant heaters don't work on 1995 and newer cars. Unclear why.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·

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I had a coolant heater in one of my F-150's. Freakin awesome. Put one in my 05 Tundra, fried it in one day. So no, they dont work. I dont exactly get it but because new Toyota's cant circulate coolant when the vehicle isnt running? I just know I fried the heater.
A block heater will absolutely warm up your vehicle faster, but how much how fast I cant say. I'm actually thinking of getting one just because I literally have a 4 minute drive to work. It never gets close to getting up to full temp during winter time and I too dont want to just fire it up and let it idle in the driveway for 10 minutes every morning.
I did have the block heater on my 12 Tundra, it does work. I just had it on a timer and turned it on for about 2 hours each morning. I dont think much point using it any longer than that, it wont get any warmer.
And there's actually more of you Americans living further north than us Canucks do so you can keep your cold. LOL.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I had a coolant heater in one of my F-150's. Freakin awesome. Put one in my 05 Tundra, fried it in one day. So no, they dont work. I dont exactly get it but because new Toyota's cant circulate coolant when the vehicle isnt running? I just know I fried the heater.
How did you install it?

I found a 2GR-FE cooling diagram over on toyota-club.net. The thermostat is on the inlet to the engine returning from the radiator. Which is maybe why they say it won't work, since the thermostat here would block any heated coolant in the radiator from circulating into the engine?

I think it should be possible to add a pumped coolant heater, but you'd have to think about it a bit. Looking at the below diagram, it looks like if you separated the rubber hose at the air bleeder (3), added a tee with a check valve on the line feeding into the tee, and put the output of the coolant heater feeding into this tee that would force the hot coolant into the thermostat housing behind the thermostat, pushing it through the water pump and into the engine block. Then add another tee at the hose leading down to the transmission oil cooler, and add the heater pump return line here. But that may require a solenoid valve to keep coolant from short-circuiting through the heater once the engine is started.

Or maybe I'm making that more complicated. If you had the heater inline with the bypass line, the two lines running right to left on the top, one of which flows past the bleeder valve (3), with a check valve in the other line, that would circulate coolant through the engine block with no issues I think. Since there are two bypass lines, you'd need a check valve in the other line. The heater will probably let coolant flow through it freely if it's not being powered. So that should work great to heat the entire engine up. Unfortunately both of those lines (except the short rubber hose by the bleeder valve) are metal lines, so it's not just cutting and putting in some barb fittings on rubber hoses, but becomes a very involved project.
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A block heater will absolutely warm up your vehicle faster, but how much how fast I cant say. I'm actually thinking of getting one just because I literally have a 4 minute drive to work. It never gets close to getting up to full temp during winter time and I too dont want to just fire it up and let it idle in the driveway for 10 minutes every morning.
I did have the block heater on my 12 Tundra, it does work. I just had it on a timer and turned it on for about 2 hours each morning. I dont think much point using it any longer than that, it wont get any warmer.
Well, it's easy to test after the fact. On two similar nights (same temp/wind), use an OBD scanner to check coolant temp in the morning after starting car. On the 2nd night, use the block heater and check coolant temp in the morning after starting car. Track both initial temp and how fast it heats up after starting on the same drive.

I plugged in my OBD scanner this morning, coolant temp was initially about 40 °F (got to about 22 °F tonight, and my van was in an unheated garage). It was relatively quick on initial heating. My HVAC is set to AUTO so unless I press the windshield defroster, they keep the fans off until the coolant is warmed up a bit. I noticed that the fans started kicking in around 130 °F, and sped up around 140 °F, and I think they may have sped up a bit more later. What I also noticed, and expected, was as soon as the fans kicked in to blow heat into the cabin, the coolant temp rate of rise drastically slowed down.

On previous cars with manual controls, I noticed the coolant taking longer to heat up if I called for heat immediately, so I would usually avoid calling for heat, or only run fans on low (usually in defrost) until the coolant temp warmed up, to get the engine temp to operating temps quicker.

Ultimately, on my 18 minute commute, on 25-45 MPH roads, the coolant temp was only 172 °F, or 6 °F short of the thermostat temperature, when I pulled into work. This starting at 40 °F. So it didn't (quite) reach operating temp even after 18 minutes, and winter isn't even here yet...

I'll post a graph of the coolant temp vs engine RPM/load/speed later.

I guess since the block heater is dead easy to install, that's step 1 on this process before considering a complicated pump coolant heater setup, even if such a setup would be amazing for being able to have the engine at operating temp when you start it, for greatly reduce wear, less water in oil buildup, super easy starts, and instant cabin heat.

P.S. I'll search later (gotta get back to work) but does anyone know how to program transmission temp into an OBD scanner? I have Torque Pro so I can set custom PIDs, but transmission temp doesn't show up by default, though I know the van is monitoring it.
 

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See the hose running from the oil cooler 9 to the manifold 7? That's where my Jetta heater is installed. Looking at that diagram, it would work on the Sienna as well. Warm coolant would rise to the manifold, flow through the top tubes and past the pump, and then return through the block and back to the cooler. Would probably work in the other hose, also. You want to tap into the hose with the best vertical rise.

There are TONS of pics of this install method on many different TDI motors on tdiclub.com. Use 'frostheater' in your search, as that is the name the TDI package is sold under.

As for the note about '95 motors, what can I say. It's wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Graph of my coolant warm-up on my commute. You can see the temp rises pretty quickly as the AUTO HVAC setting keeps the fans off until the coolant reaches ~130 °F. At that point, coolant temp rise temporarily flattens out as the cabin heat starts siphoning heat off the coolant. Doesn't help I'm slowing down to a stop here either, as you can see when I start speeding back up from a stop the coolant starts climbing again with the extra load of the engine.

I also noted the cabin fans started increasing further at about 140 °F or thereabouts. The extra cabin fan speed (and associated heat draw), combined with driving at a throttle position of essentially idle, lead to a slight decrease in coolant temp and a flattening out, until I accelerate from a stop again. Not sure if the end of the graph was flat as I reached the normal coolant temp for cold ambient, or because I just didn't have enough heat load. Normally I wouldn't have sat idling, but I was experimenting with turning the heat on and off. Didn't see a huge difference, but by this point the cabin was mostly warm, so heat load on the cabin heat would be less, and there's certainly a lag in response of the temp too.

I do usually cool and heat the back of the van, as that just makes it more comfortable in general, but on a slow speed, low load commute in cold temps, may be worth it to only run front heat and leave the back heat off to help the coolant warm up faster.


See the hose running from the oil cooler 9 to the manifold 7? That's where my Jetta heater is installed. Looking at that diagram, it would work on the Sienna as well. Warm coolant would rise to the manifold, flow through the top tubes and past the pump, and then return through the block and back to the cooler. Would probably work in the other hose, also. You want to tap into the hose with the best vertical rise.

There are TONS of pics of this install method on many different TDI motors on tdiclub.com. Use 'frostheater' in your search, as that is the name the TDI package is sold under.

As for the note about '95 motors, what can I say. It's wrong.
I'm confused how the manifold at the top works, and how such a setup would work without "short circuiting" at the manifold. I'll give the tdiclub site a go before I ask more questions though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I don't know how the Sienna manifold works either, but based on the flow arrows in the diagram the concept seems plausible. I can take pic of my Jetta setup if it helps.
If you'd like that would be cool. I'll browse more on the FrostHeater later. I do see how it ties into the oil cooler lines though, though I haven't yet looked up coolant flow diagrams of the TDI engine on the Jetta.

The water manifold is hard to see on the Sienna, but I'll be doing my spark plugs in the next week or two, so it'll be easy to check the coolant manifold(s) at that time.
 

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I have no idea why or how most of these coolant heaters work, I just know I tried a coolant heater on my 05 Tundra years back, it wouldnt work, and I was told they dont work on many post 1995 vehicles. It was mounted on the fire wall and picked up the coolant at the HVAC.
Its been years since my failed attempt but I do remember diesels are totally different and you cant really compare heating on them to gas engine vehicles.
If you get something that actually heats up the coolant and moves it through the vehicle I would think that would be far superior to the lame o block heaters for our vans, I'm just not sure you can get one to work right.
Post back if anyone is successful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Yesterday evening, going from work to my girlfriends's house. This time I was driving faster and the coolant reached a peak temp of ~185 °F, or fully heated. I idled for about a minute to see if idle would drop the temp, then remembered my driver rear tire (nail) needed topping up, so opened the rear hatch and used my 12 V pump with the hatch open. The combo of idling and open hatch kicking heat on high brought the temp back down.


Girlfriend's to work, this morning:


Then this evening, work to a store less than a mile from my place. Coolant was close to, but at operating temp. By the time I left the store 10-15 minutes later, coolant temp had dropped by at least 25 °F, and was back to about where it was here when I got home. I would have graphed that, but adding to this chart was more work than I wanted to do this evening right now. Note this chart now has what I believe is my transmission temp too, which basically more or less follows coolant temp but a bit lower.


Summary is, if I want the engine to reach operating temps on commuting in winter, probably need at least a block heater to give a "boost" to the morning coolant temp, even if that isn't warm enough to give instant heat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
On the above three graphs, I kept the rear heat off till the coolant reached ~170 (never turned on rear heat on last graph). Seemed like it may have helped warm up times a little, but the front fan just ran faster cause the back was colder, so not a drastic improvement.

I have the Temro cartridge heater on my 2011, and it has very little effect if only plugged in for a few hours. I think it's 400W, which is pretty small compared to the coolant heater in my Jetta which will give you warm air immediately after an hour or two.
Did you ever by chance measure coolant temp running the heater vs not running it on identical nights, watch/measure warm up time (even if not warm enough for warm air, a warmer block will decrease warmup times), or try running for more than 2-3 hours?
 

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I've had block heaters on almost every vehicle that I've ever owned, but oddly enough, not my Sienna. I drive it primarily in the summer for long road trips so don't need one.

In none of the other vehicles have I ever had "instant" heat. Instant starting, and quick defrost, but heat in a few short minutes. But it is imperative for easy starting, engine & battery longevity, and saving gas. Especially at -20 and -30, which we get for a few stretches every winter. One thing that I would recommend is either a timer or a smart plug. You can tell Alexa to turn on the heater at 4 AM, which is plenty of time to warm it up, and save some energy.

Incidentally, I use a lower radiator hose heater in my tractor, along with s couple patch type oil pan heaters, without which, I would ever start (summer or winter).
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
One thing that I would recommend is either a timer or a smart plug. You can tell Alexa to turn on the heater at 4 AM, which is plenty of time to warm it up, and save some energy.
Yeah, no matter what type of heater I end up with, I'd put it on a timer to heat a few hours before I leave on my normal work commute, and not just run it all night.

In none of the other vehicles have I ever had "instant" heat. Instant starting, and quick defrost, but heat in a few short minutes.
It looks like the FrostHeater mentioned for the TDI's was made by a guy who bought a TDI and hated how long it took to heat up. After riding in my brother's TDI in the winter, I can see why he wanted that. For that heater (a coolant heater) everyone reports you get instant heat immediately upon starting, even in sub-zero temps. Benefit of having a high powered heater heating the coolant (assuming the coolant is able to circulate through the block, which is the main question if that's possible to set up with the Sienna), not a low power heater heating the block.
 
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