Diesel Heater Install

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Travis77

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After installing several of these Chinese Diesel Heaters for friends living in vans, I cobbled together one from parts and decided to install it in my 2005 Dodge Ram 2500. On average, these heaters last someone (living in a van) about one winter, and then it's best to replace them for the next season. In my opinion, at $180, they are essentially disposable. The biggest problem is diesel growing algae when left in a clear, exterior-mounted tank all summer, and the fan bearings only seem to last 1 - 2 years.

Overall, I am pretty impressed with them for the price. I believe my cobbled-together one from used parts will last significantly longer with just a little bit of maintenance (and changing the diesel in the tank before the next winter use).

Mostly out of laziness, I decided not to build a bracket for it under the cab or truck. Instead, I installed it under the rear passenger seat.

On a side note, there is a significant amount of wasted space under the rear seat hidden by the molded carpet. If I had known earlier, I would have cut it out and kept a small toolbox in that space.

The installation was very straightforward. The worst part (mentally) is cutting the ~3-1/2" hole through the floor under the seat. It is a very tight space for the heater. I cut three holes in total: one through the floor for the exhaust, intake air, fuel line, and then two smaller holes in the sheet metal support for the seat, for venting the air in and out of the heater itself.

I installed one of the small plastic tanks provided with the heater in the bed, just ahead of the wheel well. I made a simple bracket from 2" flat bar to secure it using small self tapping tech screws. Using genuine 3/16ths fuel line instead of the hard plastic line included in the kits, I positioned the pump and a proper inline filter in the corner of the forward bed bulkhead. I cut and spliced two wires for the pump, running them through the same hole under the heater and utilizing an existing hole in the bed for both the fuel line and wires for the fuel pump. This decision was made to install the tank on the driver's side for easier filling.

Upon later reading installation instructions on various forums, I discovered two significant mistakes. First, I mounted the pump almost 6 feet away from the heater. Second, I mounted the pump pointing downward. Surprisingly, it still works fine, but it's worth noting for anyone else installing one of these heaters. From what I now understand, it's advisable to mount the pump as close to the diesel heater as possible and have the output pointing upwards at a 45-degree angle.

For priming the pump, I've found it helpful to fill the diesel tank, then disconnect the fuel line from the intake to the pump. Waiting for gravity to push out all the air from the fuel filter, I then reconnect it. Next, I recommend researching the controller for the diesel heater—whether it's a 3-button or 5-button model—or something else and figuring out how to enter priming mode. This mode runs the pump only, avoiding the lengthy startup and shutdown procedures after the diesel heater fails to start. Once you've entered priming mode, disconnect the fuel line from the heater, start priming the pump, wait for diesel to flow, reconnect, and let the diesel heater start normally. If you are as impatient as I am, unplugging the diesel heater between priming and startup will speed up getting it out of the priming menu. I still struggle to navigate the different options of the controller.

*Make sure never to disconnect power after the heater has warmed up; I've managed to completely melt a heater in this manner, not allowing the controller to run just the fan to cool things down. The heat soak just melted all the rubber/plastic gaskets on the heater.

The weather's better now, and I've only used it a couple of times. It's handy to turn on with the remote, warming up the cab in minutes. I left it on overnight to test, and it kept a steady 15 degrees without any issues. Starting the truck in the morning the battery drain seems minimal for just overnight use.

My 3-button controller has two modes: Constant power, where you set the pump frequency, and Thermostat mode. In the latter, it brings the cab to temperature and then sets the heater down to its minimum setting without shutting off. Not a problem for me, but it might be different in a better-insulated space.

I hope this helps someone looking to do the same!
 

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BossHogg

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The biggest problem is diesel growing algae

My 3-button controller has two modes: Constant power, where you set the pump frequency, and Thermostat mode. In the latter, it brings the cab to temperature and then sets the heater down to its minimum setting without shutting off. Not a problem for me, but it might be different in a better-insulated space.
Microbes can only set up shop in diesel fuel that has water. You can use Mr. Funnel to separate the diesel fuel from other unwanted products in your fuel.

Can you provide the name and model of the controller you are using? I need to get a backup controller and I'm having a hard time trying to identify controllers that have an internal thermostat for heater control. I have equipped my wife's greenhouse with diesel heaters and they work great but I would like to have backup parts on hand just in case.
 
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chri5k

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Is this an engine heater or interior heater?
 

4xdad

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My little diesel heater keeps us warm as toast inside my camper
 

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Travis77

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Boss Hogg,
The water would explain it, the supplied fuel cap for the little plastic tank has a vent incorporated into it.. I seem to recall the vent falling out after a couple
months of use, so the little hole in the cap would have been funnelling rain/snow right into tank.

The controller apparently has to match the printed circuit board inside, I gather there are some different protocols used and they are not all compatible. I’ve had luck simply by matching the plugs, I personally have only seen two styles, a larger style with the pins on a triangle layout, and then a much smaller circular plug.
The controller I used had three buttons on the bottom and a small circular plug. Holding the left and centre buttons toggle between the constant power setting and the thermostat setting.
I’ve included three pictures showing the plug, and the two modes.
 

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Travis77

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Chri5k,
This is just the simplest version, it only heats the air in the cab, not the coolant lines. I do have a used audi diesel coolant heater I was considering installing for the engine, but honestly I’ve never had any problems starting the truck, even in the coldest weather. I know it would be better to preheat the engine.. ideally I think the best solution would be to install a coolant heater and then have the HVAC turn on the defrost when it gets up to temperature.
 

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BossHogg

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The controller apparently has to match the printed circuit board inside, I gather there are some different protocols used and they are not all compatible. I’ve had luck simply by matching the plugs, I personally have only seen two styles, a larger style with the pins on a triangle layout, and then a much smaller circular plug.
The controller I used had three buttons on the bottom and a small circular plug. Holding the left and centre buttons toggle between the constant power setting and the thermostat setting.
I’ve included three pictures showing the plug, and the two modes.
Thank you for the pictures.

Trying to find a diesel heater controller that offers thermostat control is almost impossible albeit there are several of them available. The problem is how they advertise the controller, most indicate they have a thermostat but what they really mean is they can display the ambient temperature.

There is a serial protocol between the heater and the controller and someone "down under" cracked it but decided to monopolize on it by creating a thermostat controller and selling it for $200 US dollars, more than the cost of a complete system.

The one I have now came with a thermostat controller but I can't recall where I bought it. I will have to do some more digging around in my paperwork.
 

4xdad

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Just out of curiosity where do you live that you need a diesel heater to keep your truck warm.
 

4xdad

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I use my diesel heater to heat the camper. I have never had to crank it up to keep warm the lowest setting is good. My camper is not insulated yet but it does a good job of heating it up.
 
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Travis77

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4xdad,
I’m in Ontario Canada, I honestly don’t need one at all, but had so many spares from helping out “van lifers” I thought it might be nice the few cold days a year, just to turn it on an hour before I start clearing snow off the truck in the morning. Since I’ve installed it I’ve burnt 4 Litres of diesel…
Hopefully next season we get a real winter again, this is now the second year I haven’t even started a snowmobile :(

The more interesting part of this post is honestly how much extra room there is under the back seats if you trim out the carpet, I haven’t noticed any increase in road noise. I’ve never really used that storage space before as it was so small, will likely trim out the other side and start using the other side for ratchet straps and tools.
 

4xdad

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I figured you are Canadian too lol. We haven’t had much of a winter yet either. I was sceptical about them but they work great
 
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