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Thread: Engine Oil Dipstick Heaters: Any Experience in Shortwings?

  1. #1
    Glen Geller's Avatar
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    Default Engine Oil Dipstick Heaters: Any Experience in Shortwings?

    Hi Gang,
    It's been unseasonably cold here in the Pacific Northwest, and here at Hangar Bravo Three we have taken to throwing sleeping bags over the cowls and placing 100W lightbulbs below the engines. This helps cold weather starting, at least psycologically!
    Does anyone here have actual experience with using electric dipstick heaters in our planes?
    AC Spruce sells the Stay-Warm Engine Saver (110VAC, 90W) for $36.50, http://www.aircraftspruce.com/catalo...s/staywarm.php
    Sporty's gets 39.95 for the same gadget, http://www.sportys.com/Pilotshop/product/17359

    I did a little googling and found several other vendors of what APPEARS to be the exact same item, marketed for cars, trucks and tractors, as Kat's 90W Dipstick Heater, however the reviews are not very encouraging:
    http://www.amazon.com/Kats-15200-Dip...ews/B000BO74DG

    So, have any of you folks used these or have accurate info about them (not the hearsay please: "It burnted up all the earl in mah tractor and now the cow gives sour milk!")

    Another great idea I have seen is taking a metal ~20 gallon garbage can, short enough to fit under the engine compartment, cutt a bunch of 2" diameter holes around the base, and put an oil-filled electric radiator in the can, under the engine. Set the temp to appropriate level (by experimentation) and throw that sleeping bag over it. Cold room air will draw in thru the holes at the base and rise up into the engine compartment warming everything.
    The problem is in our hangar with three PA22s, we have very crappy electrical power, and the several dehumidifier heaters in the airplane cabins, office lights and radiator heater, beer fridge and computer (yeah, it's a fun clubhouse!) have us near our limit. Three additional 700W radiators for the planes would pop the breaker for sure.

    Thanks,
    GG in chilly Oregon

  2. #2
    pa20's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Oil Dipstick Heaters: Any Experience in Shortwings?

    Glen,
    Can't comment on the performance of units you spoke of. Just wanted to add a comment on the use of preheaters.
    Some years ago, I did a 4 year sentence in Toledo, OH while my bride attended Med School. My hangar mate had a Glassair II with an O-320. He was concerned about the fact that he flew it very little during the winter months, and was worried about condensation inside the engine. So, he purchases and installs an engine heater and leaves it on through the winter. Spring finally arrives, and so he started flying a few times a week. At the first oil change, a major amount of undesirable stuff was found in the filter, and the subsequent oil analysis was dire.
    The engine heater had kept the engine nice and warm, which resulted in all the moisture condensing out of the air and rusting the steel engine parts! So, the idea is good to pre-heat, but it not beneficial to keep the engine lukewarm on a continuous basis.
    I am sure that I am not telling you anything that you did not know. It was just an opportunity for me to put the word out to others.
    Last edited by pa20; 01-24-2013 at 04:04 PM.
    Mark Ohlau
    PA-20 N7744K Proud Member - 2014 Donation Paid

  3. #3

    Default Re: Engine Oil Dipstick Heaters: Any Experience in Shortwings?

    Glen Am lucky to live about 2 miles from the airport. Have an enclosed, tight hanger. I watch weather forecast and if I wanted to fly tomorrow, would run over to airport and set oil dipstick heater and a radiator type oil heater placed under the cowling vent to come on on a preset timer about 3:00AM. 9:00AM go fly. A temp gun has showed, wings 30 degrees , cylinder heads and block, 70 degrees, oil temp at 60 degrees before engine start up. Last Ohio Piper meeting, IAs were cautioning about the same situation Mark described about full time heat and condensation build up in engine. I only heat, before flying. I also do a low amp charge on the battery during the nite time warm up. Have had 2 days of temps in the teens, maybe fly this weekend, temps to be in the 40's

    Bob Ohio

  4. #4

    Default Re: Engine Oil Dipstick Heaters: Any Experience in Shortwings?

    I love to hate pre-heating, one more obstacle to flying, I can't give you any info on the dipstick heaters, but I regulary use a red dragon heater to preheat, and I also use a Coleman camping catalytic heater( stuck in the cowl), slow but works. I also have Tanis pads oil heaters on my oil sump, but do not use them often as I have no electricty at my tie down( they do work well when I am able to hook them up), I try to heat the engine compartment with the cowl cover on right before I go, and I try to keep my winter time flying long enough to get the oil temps up and burn out any moisture, short trips are not good for the engine in the cold temps, I will fly down to about 0 or so, and I just loose interest at that point, the airplane is actually not too cold, but if you are doing touch and go's and pull the power out the heat definnitly goes with it. Anyways the Red Dragons are a little expensive but can be found online used.

  5. #5
    gliderman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Oil Dipstick Heaters: Any Experience in Shortwings?

    A friend of mine who owns an engine shop just showed me a cam from a TSIO-520 which had 300 hours on it in about 8 months. It was corroded beyond belief. the owner as a matter of course plugged in his oil pan heater whenever he wasn't flying. as Mark says not a good thing...

    I lose interest in flying about-20c. the problem around here is that the Dew Point and OAT is often very close to each other. My rule of thumb is the spread must be 4 degrees or higher. Had some carb icing on takeoff roll once and that was enough for me....

    Shane-o

    on a related subject a fellow has found a cell unit that we can text to to turn on the preheaters in the A/C. it sends back a text telling you if the heater( or whatever you hookup to it) is on or off. If anyone is interested I can get together more info and pass it on. it cost about $ 125 plus a sim card from 7-Eleven.
    i also believe that there is a nominal cost for the text as well....

  6. #6
    Glen Geller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Oil Dipstick Heaters: Any Experience in Shortwings?

    Thanks everyone for the informative replies. I will pass them along to the gang at my hangar, they will be very excited about the rusted, ruined engines!
    Do you think the light bulb under the cowl is a bad idea, it really doesn't raise the temp much at all I suppose, tucked back there behind jug #3. Better to get rid of that lightbulb and just do the "day before" preheat, do you agree?
    We all live or work about 10~15 minutes from the hangar so any one of us could go over the day before and install & power up all the dipsticks or whatever we decide to use. Sounds like we will need to create a Pre-Heat work instruction/checklist!

    Visit our Facebook page "Hangar Bravo Three" and see our planes!

    GG
    Last edited by Glen Geller; 01-24-2013 at 08:15 PM.

  7. #7
    Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Oil Dipstick Heaters: Any Experience in Shortwings?

    I have used the light bulb trick the night before and found it to work well. There are also glue on sump heaters which I have found to be very common on the airplanes I work on. I think, like someone post above, it is better to put it on a timer several hours before you are going to fly.

  8. #8

    Join Date
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    Live in Clermont County, Ohio. PA-22 150 based at KHAO
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    Default Re: Engine Oil Dipstick Heaters: Any Experience in Shortwings?

    I dont fly below 40deg F without some sort of preheat. Maybe a little too conservative, but that's my nature.I don't have a dipstick heater, but what I have might interest some. The previous owner installed a sump heater. I had always assumed that the cylinders needed some heat as well. So, I found an unused ceramic "cube" heater that I had laying around. With about $20 worth of aluminum furnace ducting( and some duct insulation for the ducting to go through )
    and a little "backyard" fabrication, I attached it to the output of the little heater, made a "y" and fit the top half of the "y" into the openings of the cowl. Since the heater doesnt put out THAT much, I had to insulate the ducts to keep the charge relatively hot. I had some old foam rubber cowl plugs and cut a hole in them for the aluminum ducting to go through so it would hold it in place and seal it. With an old discarded thermal blanket placed over the top of the cowl, the sump heater on , and ceramic heater on high, I manage to get the cyl head temps about 40-45 degrees F over ambient in about an hour. The whole thing looks a little funky ( no a LOT funky - my friends chuckle whe they see it ) but hey, sporty's wants hundreds of dollars for basically the same thing.
    I know this post is "wordy" , but its early.....and I need more coffee.
    Fwiw Johnnie
    Last edited by bigjohnnie; 01-25-2013 at 02:48 PM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Engine Oil Dipstick Heaters: Any Experience in Shortwings?

    Mark,
    Did your 4 year sentence in Toledo, OH.
    That's funny, I guess I got the Life sentence.
    Dave

  10. #10
    smcnutt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine Oil Dipstick Heaters: Any Experience in Shortwings?

    We installed an EZ Heat sump heater on our plane and pretty happy with it. The biggest nuisance is getting it plugged in long before you want to go flying. We live about 30 min from the hangar so to make a 1 hour round trip just to plug it in is enough to rethink flying. By itself it takes about 3+ hours to pre-heat the engine. To long to sit around and wait for it but too long of a drive to go there and back. We can plug it in the night before but several times we've done that and then something kept us from flying so it warmed but was never started and we don't like doing that for the reasons mentioned above. It would be nice to have the cellphone type remote to turn it on from home but I'm not sure we'd use it enough to justify the cost.

    We also created a forced air heater made out of a $20 heater from walmart with some ducting to direct the air straight up into the cowl opening by the exhaust. Actually saw this idea in the EAA magazine. If we use this and the sump heater we can usually pre-heat in a little over an hour.

    A quick search and I found this website that shows something similar to what we built. Scroll down towards the bottom to Thu Jan 17, 2013. However, we made ours with solid duct work that makes a quick 90 and goes straight up.
    Last edited by smcnutt; 01-25-2013 at 10:03 AM.
    Light travels faster than sound.
    That's why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

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