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1 (800) 261 0360

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Waldheim, Sk

Woman in front of suburban winter home, extension cord in foreground.

Block Heaters & You


As winter settles in, it brings along additional tasks and chores, especially when it comes to your vehicle. 

Scraping ice off windows, clearing snow, and installing winter tires to name a few. There is also one electrical connection called a block heater that Canadians use quite a lot during the winter months. The somewhat tucked-away little device used to warm your engine in the bitter cold can also be the cause of vehicle, garage, and house fires.

We don’t give it much thought – plug in the car at night so it’s ready to go in the morning. Makes sense. But how old is that extension cord? How long should the block heater be plugged in? Is the heater cord pinched anywhere? These are all questions that, depending on the answer, can lead to a vehicle fire.

The Extension Cord

  • The extension cord is a large culprit when it comes to vehicle fires caused by block heaters and many other instances of fires around the home.
  • Check your extension cord to make sure there is no damage to the cord. Also, make sure the cord being used is designed for block heater usage.
  • Check to make sure the cord is not pinched, tangled, or knotted, and is securely plugged into the wall outlet.
  • Replace the extension cord every few years to ensure it is not in a deteriorated state

In a Garage

  • If your car is in a garage that is either heated or attached to the home, it is recommended you do not plug in a block heater. There should be enough ambient warmth and protection from the wind to make plugging in the vehicle unnecessary.
  • Vehicle fires, when the vehicle is in a garage, can quickly spread to attached structures or adjacent property.

The Block Heater

  • If it is visible, check for evidence of corrosion around the plug and the electrical connection. Also, check to ensure the cable connected to the block heater is securely plugged in and not only partially plugged.
    • If you can’t see the heater, it may be a good idea to have a mechanic visually inspect it every so often.
    • On occasion, people drive away with the cord still attached (who hasn’t, right?) This can stretch the block heater cord and damage the heating element causing electrical shorts. You may want to have a mechanic inspect or replace your block heater.
  • Follow the cord from the heating unit to the plug-in end. Check anywhere the cable may be pinched. A typical area for block heater cords to pinch and cause electrical shorts is between the frame and the hood of the vehicle.
  • You only need to plug in the heater for 4 hours. Additional time spent plugged in will not be a benefit to your vehicle. It wastes money and elevates the chances for issues to occur. Purchase an outdoor timer so your block heater is only running when it needs to be.
Based in Waldheim Saskatchewan, we have provided insurance products for the past 125 years throughout the province of Saskatchewan in over 100 independently owned brokerages.