block heater for cold climates?

My 98 Explorer (V8) was purchased in California, and as such didn't come with a block heater. I'm now living in colder climates and
wondering if I'll need one. Overnight the explorer will be in my garage, but at work it's outside for a full 8 hours I'm pretty sure that I won't need it 95% of the time, but on those days when the temp really drops I don't want to be stuck with a car that won't start.
How is the Explorer on cold starts? I know some vehicles can survive without ever having to be plugged in, probably mostly due to the strength of their battery.
So do I need one? I figure it is going to cost at least $200-300 to get the block heater and have it installed. Or, would my money possibly be better spent on a new battery (I'm still on the original one)
Thanks!
Grant
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Ahhhh, I figure I'm pretty close to an expert on engine heaters. Not knowing what lows you will experience, I'll tell you how it works for me.
There have been too many occasions where it has been hard to find a place to plug in..... at -20F, the things starts up well though it takes an excrutiatingly long time (in my mind) to build oil pressure (using 5W30 dino). As a rule of thumb, I plug in if I expect 0ish to -5ish F as a low..... in my area, this is often considered as warm. The main reason I plug in is to reduce the amount of engine wear associated with cold starts - the cold start being very hard on any motor.
A remote starter with a cold weather valet built in is a good alternative but using them exclusively can be spendy, especially true with todays gasoline prices.
Just to add some perspective... last winter we had a week of -50F .... it was a treat when it warmed up to -30F. This year is a whole new ball game...... It started snowing last Friday and we now have about a foot or so of accumulation.

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Grant wrote:

I remember a few years ago leaving my '94 (V6) parked at the Aurora (Illinois) Airport (ARR) while I was in New York for a week. When I got back, there'd been "some" snow -- the back of the truck was completely clear but the rest of it was in a drift. Seriously, it looked like somebody had just painted the back end of an Explorer onto the side of a snowdrift :-)
You can probably guess where I'm going with this: I opened the rear hatch, climbed over the seats, started her up and backed out. Since the truck had had time to cool to ambient before the snow fell, nothing stuck -- I didn't even need an ice scraper; I just knocked off the big chunks with my arm and drove away. I did pop the hood, though, and found the engine compartment packed solid with snow. It all melted out while I was driving home :-)
As you said, the main thing is having a strong battery.
--
Gordon S. Hlavenka http://www.crashelectronics.com
"If we imagined he could _find_ the car,
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For those of you that live in freezers...
I was always curious about having a block heater. Is it common for public places / workplaces to have a place for you to plug in ?
Seems like it would be awful generous of them to give away "free" power ??
Just curious... Being born and raised in the desert, I haven't seen too many block heaters ( although I bought a diesel Caddy a bunch of years ago that had one...I was wondering what the H3ll the electric cord was hanging behind the grille :) )
Oh, BTW.... it'll be ~68 today..... Think I'll drop the top and cruise :)

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A lot depends on the employer.... fringe benefits for some, I guess. For my case, it is expected that my vehicles will start - I go home for lunch, anyway, so 4 hours isn't such a big deal even on the coldest days.
Average block heater would be 750 - 1000 watts (for most gas applications) and cost concious consumers will spring for a timer to turn on the heater about 3 hours before the usual departure time.Never quite got to the good side of freezing today and now the flurries are starting again 8^p
And your parting shot - OUCH!!!

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On 19 Oct 2004 14:36:37 -0700, canuck snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Grant) wrote:

I live in Minnesota, land of -25 degree winter nights.
No problem.
Ironically, I had a block heater on my '98 when I bought it, but I never used it. The thing starts so well, it just isn't needed!
Even more ironically, while I knew where the plug was (having looked it up soon after buying the car) when I decided I might try out the block heater one cold winter day, I couldn't find that plug!
No idea. . . . !
But, as I said, it should be just fine in cold weather. The only thing you might gain is quicker heat when you leave in the morning. That can be nice!
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