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Old 06-29-2017, 11:09 AM   #1
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Adding (pre)Heat for diesel engines in cold climates

Folks, I bought my Sprinter off the lot and didn't get to go through the options etc the way I might have for a new purchase.

The factory model can have Option H12: "Fuel-Fired Pre-Heater/Booster".

There are a number of threads discussing if this should be in the initial order. I fall in the camp of "yup, I'd have got that" but since I don't have it... this thread is to discuss what my options might be. I'm new to these vans so I'm learning as I go.

I'm interested/worried about being stranded somewhere because the van won't start or run due to cold temps. I will absolutely have a cabin heater for camping comfort regardless.

1) Is it reasonable to have a single heater do double duty and provide both cabin heat as well as pre-heat the engine? Or should I really be thinking of these as distinct issues (have two independent heaters)? Should I be linking these decisions?

2) Is it even possible to retro-fit H12 or equivalent given that the van wasn't ordered that way. I don't know where to start. I think this is a common concept that the the Espar D5 etc is designed for this use case -- its just a matter of buying and installing relatively common components?

3) If the issue is gelling of diesel fuel (rather than just cold running efficient engines) do I need to worry about how the heater itself it fueled? Why don't we hear/see threads about people using propane for their coolant and/or cabin heaters? Again; I'm new to diesel so maybe this is a concern for folks in Alaska but not "temperate" Colorado (where I am)?

Thanks
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Old 06-29-2017, 02:59 PM   #2
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Looks like cold starts aren't a real big problem, but a pre-heater would reduce idle time before driving.

2013 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 First Drive - Truck Trend

A pre-heater won't keep your fuel from gelling. You need the proper blend, which is easy if you buy fuel locally, and carry a bottle of anti-gel when you're traveling.
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Old 06-29-2017, 03:46 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carringb View Post
Looks like cold starts aren't a real big problem, but a pre-heater would reduce idle time before driving.

2013 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 First Drive - Truck Trend
This article is about Alaska temps which hopefully I won't meet. In it they use the aux heater (probably the H12 option) in addition to block heaters or even at one point idling their vans all night(!). Clearly cold starts are an issue in those temps. This affirms for me that at least understanding how to add a heater is a good thread for those of us without.

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Originally Posted by carringb View Post
A pre-heater won't keep your fuel from gelling. You need the proper blend, which is easy if you buy fuel locally, and carry a bottle of anti-gel when you're traveling.
They don't directly discuss this in the article. I hope you're correct that buying proper blends and/or keeping anti-gel with me for cold snaps will be sufficient. My guess is that having something to pump the diesel fuel past a propane heater would be complex so I'm happy to avoid that discussion. The idea of being stranded and not even being able to fire up the inside heater for camping comfort while figuring out what to do sounds like a bad morning.
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Old 07-01-2017, 12:11 PM   #4
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We'll be doing a fuel additive for winter use, mostly as a precautionary thing as I've read a few posts from various locations of Sprinters not starting due to gelled fuel.

As for the H12 option, this would be a substantial amount of work to retrofit. We looked at adding that option to our Cayenne (factory option, just not offered here in the US), and it was a big job.

You could easily add it aftermarket, though. The only issue is that tapping into the coolant lines will void some parts of the warranty. However, you could retrofit the coolant line extension, and then tap into that. The coolant line extension runs a set of supply/return lines to the B-pillar, and they're just connected with rubber hoses, leaving it up to the up fitter to attach a heater or Espar unit. This would give you a legal way of connecting a block heater.

Going this route, you could have something like Rixen's setup for coach heat, and then add a flat plate heater between the D5 glycol loop and the engine coolant line extension. Rig up a small electric pump to the backside of the flat plate heater, and you now have a way to heat the coach, hot water on demand, and heat the block.

We ordered our van with the coolant line extension to allow us to heat the glycol loop with the engine coolant. This way, we get heat to the back of the van without running the D5. We also have the factory block heater option, but we considered skipping it and doing what I listed above. However, the cost of the block heater and convenience of operating it from the driver seat was worth the asking price for that option.

All you'd need to do is find out what parts are involved with that coolant line extension, and order them. I'm guessing it's just the coolant lines themselves, the chassis anchors, and maybe a few small coolant fittings on the engine side.
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Old 07-11-2017, 06:52 PM   #5
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Thanks for the reply winkledpants (we have been in the San Juans and off the internet). It sounds like I shouldn't stress -- just wait till winter and see how the front range and winter park areas treat us.

For future readers or our own notes if starting is a problem in the future there is also this "Espar Installation" thread on sprinter-source:
https://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=6717

It includes "Espars manual on how it is plumbed into Sprinters":
https://sprinter-source.com/forum/at...2&d=1457743375
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Old 07-11-2017, 07:07 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pritikin View Post
Thanks for the reply winkledpants (we have been in the San Juans and off the internet). It sounds like I shouldn't stress -- just wait till winter and see how the front range and winter park areas treat us.

For future readers or our own notes if starting is a problem in the future there is also this "Espar Installation" thread on sprinter-source:
https://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=6717

It includes "Espars manual on how it is plumbed into Sprinters":
https://sprinter-source.com/forum/at...2&d=1457743375
I wouldn't be too worried if front range and WP are your two main destinations. Even then, forecasts are pretty good about low-temps at night, so just steer clear when the temps dive into the -20 range (ambient, not wind chill). We'll be frequenting loveland and WP this year. Pickup our van in Nov. We'll likely see ya up there!
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Old 07-11-2017, 07:59 PM   #7
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One more bit of data: In the winter I move between the SF bay area and Tahoe once a week. (My not so green lifestyle.) The last couple of years (3/4?) we've done this in a diesel BMW.

I was initially pretty worried about having bay area fuel get into a bad state on a cold night up there. And while Tahoe is generally not that cold, we had a couple of -10 mornings and even a small number of -17 nights. The BMW has a heated fuel filter and will pre-glow as needed, but that's it.

I've not experienced a single time it acted funny WRT the fuel being cold and stopped thinking about it at this point.
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Old 10-28-2019, 10:51 AM   #8
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D4 Espar plus 2019 4x4 in Colorado mtns... Mercedes tells me that the j-15 option needed for an Espar negates any ability to have a fuel-fired option as well. It's one or the other. Sounds crazy but they are aware that this is a new change from the 2018 and earlier models that had a standard dongle to attach to the D2 so that you could have both an Espar and a fuel fired option. So it seems like an engine block heaters are only option for 2019s with Espar? Does anyone have any aftermarket solutions? And do I really need fuel gel, if so brand recommendations are welcomed.
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Old 12-25-2019, 10:56 AM   #9
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Some of the folks on the Winnebago Revel Facebook group have been documenting their moving of their diesel fired Espar D5 (Rixens D5 hydronic Comfort Hot system) from under the van to under the hood, in the location where the spare battery would sit. Some have also added a heat exchanger in their vehicle coolant line to be able to heat their hydronic system without running the heater.

I imagine, if you were to add an auxiliary circulation pump to your coolant line you could run a similarly configured Espar to preheat your van's coolant.

I do think you would need a circulation pump to effectively move and heat the engine coolant and I do believe that the H12 Pre-heater/booster option from Mercedes includes such a pump in the option. By adding an underhood Espar and a circulating pump to your coolant system you would be effectively duplicating the H12 option, minus the Mercedes integration that gets you the ability to program a remote start time or operate the system via a remote.
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