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I just bought my first house. It doesn't have a garage, only a driveway. I live in Canada.

My cars are a 2014 sedan and a 2015 suv. I use them everyday.

Do I NEED a block heater for January-February?

  • Depends on which part of Canada you are talking about? Vancouver; no. Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal; no, but use Synthetic oil in winter. But if you live way up north where it is really cold (below -30 Celsius), then yeah you need a block heater. – rana Oct 29 '15 at 14:13
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It depends on the how cold it gets where you live in Canada, but usually it would be a sane idea to have one. I lived in the north-west corner of Montana growing up. It would normally reach below freezing, but above 0°F (-17°C) most of the winter nights. Only when the forecast was to be below this would we "plug our cars in" for the night.

As long as your anti-freeze is in good shape, your vehicle can handle being this cold without issue. 50% antifreeze (mixed with 50% distilled water) is good down to about -34°F (-37°C), while 70% antifreeze (mixed with 30% distilled water) is good down to about -82°F (-63°C) (NOTE: These numbers do depend on what type of antifreeze is being used ... these are basic numbers for the "green stuff".)

If using this amount of antifreeze, the real issue is not whether your block will crack due to hydraulic expansion, but rather that your engine oil will not flow very fast, so you have oil starvation on key components of your engine. This will cause large amounts of wear until the oil starts to flow properly. Using a block heater in these situations is imperative so that the oil will flow properly from startup.

  • So your answer is, "Yes, but only to help oil flow on startup" ? – JPhi1618 Oct 29 '15 at 12:52
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    Using synthetic oil in winter is huge advantage for cold starts. At least for me this is where synthetic oil really made a noticeable difference. – rana Oct 29 '15 at 14:15
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    @JPhi1618 - I think my answer would be, "Yes, but not for the reason you'd think." – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Oct 29 '15 at 16:52
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I also live in Canada, southwestern part. I would suggest simply paying attention to the weather / forecast. If it is going to be below -10C, be prepared to plug in. Vehicles will probably start down to the -20C's, but cold starts are damaging. Probably need to watch the weather more than January and February depending where you live.

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    In the USA I've seen -15 F temps on several occasions. While the car has always started it's pretty shaky. If I had a block heater I'd definitely use it when below 0 F. – Brian Knoblauch Oct 21 at 12:38

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