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E-Series Vans Technical discussion of topics related to vans powered by any of the Navistar engines. This covers a broad number of years, but there isn't enough demand to split it any further.

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Old 11-25-2008, 06:36 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Plugging in your Diesel - Scary?

... Temps are just starting to drop low enough in Wisconsin where diesels are starting a little hard. Normally it's a no brainer... winter is here, plug in your van! But recently Ive seen a lot of pictures of guys trucks/vans that have been toasted because something started a fire when they had it plugged in overnight.

What causes this? Should I be nervous to plug in my van? The plug doesn't appear to be factory, and must have been put on by the previous owner, should I get this checked out before I start using it?

Thanks!

-Very Concerned
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Old 11-25-2008, 07:14 PM   #2 (permalink)
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First make sure the BH red power plug is in the BH, then do a continuity test with a meter on the main plug wires at the grill. If there is no continuity check the wires for breaks just behind the 120V plug. Pull on the wires and you can see the break as the shielding gets smaller, cut off the end. If the 2 power wires now have continuity through the BH just replace the 3 prong plug.
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Old 11-27-2008, 03:43 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I'll second that. Usually what happens if it is the heater wire, it has a break in the wire that 'arcs'. This arcing burns through... worse case senario, smokes and may catch fire.... and who knows about anything else near by that is flammable (ie oil on the wire or diesel or a mouse nest, etc, etc).

I know this by first hand experience. Friend's truck had a plug that worked, then didn't. Ended up being the OEM plug right at the connector. Second experience was a block heater cord on one of my semi trucks. Plugged it in and heard this gawd awful crackling sound and then a burning smell- but the breaker in the main box didn't trip. Any how, it was the plug right where it made a 90 degree bend into the heater it self. Burned right through the insulation..... I would have imagined it could have started it on fire....

I suppose a way to prevent this stuff is yearly checks on the power cord. Make sure it's not frayed or as stated, actually is in once peice inside. A cord is cheap.... a new diesel truck/van/car usually is not. Plus, if you use a timer, you can cut down the time it's actually on..... usually 4 hours is more then enough to get a diesel warm enough to start- well, depending on your block heater wattage.
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Last edited by Kaliburz; 11-27-2008 at 03:45 AM.
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Old 11-27-2008, 08:38 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Replacing the entire cord is faster than fixing it. A whole heater assembly is about $70, and it's probably not a bad idea to add that to the list of things to do when it's time for new coolant and/or hoses.

Block Heater
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Old 11-27-2008, 11:00 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I'm going to buy a new heater assembly and do a coolant flush at the same time... for obvious reasons.

Thanks for the info everyone, and thank you for the link XRACER.
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Old 11-28-2008, 02:21 AM   #6 (permalink)
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If it's just the plug end, usually it's easier to put a new plug on. I've seen where they run the cord and some look like a complete nightmare....
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1990 E-350 Club Wagon, 7.3L IDI, E4OD, 3.54LS x2
1994 Chevy C2500 6.5L TD, 3.42
1983 F-150 2x4, 4.9L, C-6 w/GV-OD, 3.55 Farm pickup
1981 C-8000, 3208 CAT, RT-6510, Rockwell SSHD Tandems (Swap)
1981 VW Rabbit Pickup 1.6L diesel (project)
1978 VW Rabbit 1.5L diesel (project)
1977 K100C, NTC-350, RT-1110, Tandem
1977 Transtar II, NTC-290, RT-9509 Single
1977 Transtar II, Formula 290, RT0-9513, Tandem (project)
1974 C-750, 391CID, Clark 5 speed, Eaton 2 speed
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Old 11-28-2008, 08:03 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I always plug my block heater into a GFCI. They trip out at 5mA differential for your line versus neutral. You can buy external ones if your receptacle isn't wired that way at the breaker or the outlet itself.
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Old 12-07-2008, 09:54 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Try Jegs for cords and Block heaters..... sometimes better pricing.
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Old 12-07-2008, 11:11 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I bought a new block heater on ebay and had it installed (i didn't have much free time this past week). I have been plugging it in a night (it's been getting down to 0* and below)... and it's seems to help, but how warm is it supposed keep the engine? Is it supposed to be enough to register on the temp gauge or is it just enough to keep it slightly warm?
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Old 12-08-2008, 01:41 AM   #10 (permalink)
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How many watts is your heater? Is it the freeze plug type or a canister?

Back in Oct when the temps were in the mid 30's here, my glow plugs quit. Plugging in the van for just 2-3 hours wasn't enough to get it engine hot enough to start. If I left it for 5-6 hours or all night, I was able to fire it up w/ some cranking- about 15 seconds or so.

I don't know if that helps at all. To my knowledge, my block heater is OEM stock location. Oh, this is a 7.3L IDI.
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1999 E-350 Cub Wagon, 7.3L Power Stroke, E4OD, 3.55
1990 E-350 Club Wagon, 7.3L IDI, E4OD, 3.54LS x2
1994 Chevy C2500 6.5L TD, 3.42
1983 F-150 2x4, 4.9L, C-6 w/GV-OD, 3.55 Farm pickup
1981 C-8000, 3208 CAT, RT-6510, Rockwell SSHD Tandems (Swap)
1981 VW Rabbit Pickup 1.6L diesel (project)
1978 VW Rabbit 1.5L diesel (project)
1977 K100C, NTC-350, RT-1110, Tandem
1977 Transtar II, NTC-290, RT-9509 Single
1977 Transtar II, Formula 290, RT0-9513, Tandem (project)
1974 C-750, 391CID, Clark 5 speed, Eaton 2 speed
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Old 12-09-2008, 12:40 PM   #11 (permalink)
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heater to small?

This is the heater I bought. It is a 1000watt.


Should I have bought a bigger one?
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