As promised, here’s the next installment of the eBay diesel heater fitting process, if you haven’t read it already, I suggest you start at part one. Weather and a small DIY accident delayed the job (sliced a finger with the Stanley knife, proceeded to do the ‘man thing’ after the doc patched me up and carry on – of course the cut opened up again. Got told off by the doc, his nurse and the wife for being an idiot but you get used to it…
In reality, taking a little more time to watch all the YouTube videos and read other blogs paid off including how to prime the fuel lines and the startup procedure, but more on that later. As the photos show, the diesel tank is mounted in the front box with a ‘standpipe’ to pick up the fuel. I originally decided to change the location of the filter to make it easier to check, fitting it inside the box up front, but it had to be moved after some problems, read on.
Fitting the pump inside the electrical box was a simple matter and by the sound of it (well the lack of noise) it was well worthwhile putting this inside the sealed box. I had to cut the thin pump power cable at the socket that plugs into the heater and add some extra cable to reach where the unit is installed as it was short by around 1m (it also meant only a small hole was needed in the floor rather that around a 15mm one which would be needed for the plug to the pump connector). Only thin auto electrical cable is needed here (in the shopping list below) as it takes little current. Note that you don’t have to worry about polarity of the wires as it just powers the solenoid inside the pump.
After joining all the fuel lines together, the next stage was to run the power cable to the battery. The supplied wire may have been ok if the heater was installed very close to the battery but my cable length was 5 metres so I used heavier gauge wire to prevent excessive voltage drop. I also fitted a DC cutoff switch in the hatch where the battery and chargers are mounted to prevent the control panel LEDs draining the battery when it isn’t on charge. As many have said it is important to not mount the switch where it could be accidently turned off when the heater is running. The likely result of doing that would be that the control board inside the heater would be destroyed by overheating. These heaters go through a 5-10 minute shutdown cycle to cool everything down prior to powering off. For that reason, it is vital to have a reliable DC supply and a battery in good condition especially on startup and shutdown as it draws between 6-10 amps depending on the heater rating. I found that while the battery voltage read 12.7V at the battery itself when the glow plug was on, it was showing 12V at the controller and that was with the heavier gauge cabling! I’ll list all the upgrades and replacement bits I used at the end of this.
Last job was to reconnect the pump wire to the heater connection plug by soldering the joints, covering with heatshrink then some cable ties to neaten the job. After double checking everything, I fitted the fuse and turned on the cutoff switch – I was a very happy little vegemite when the little LCD control panel turned on.
Now to ‘prime the pump’. As I mentioned, a clever chap in a YT video had used a large plastic syringe to suck the diesel from the line just before the pump. I tried that without success so just sucked the end of the line until I saw fuel heading down the clear tubing and stopped before I got a mouthful of diesel. I knew that the pump would then be well lubricated as soon as the priming process was started – it is important not to run these little pumps too long without diesel in them to avoid damage.
Using the control panel to kick off the priming was simple – just press the Ok and Down arrow buttons together. The display now shows ‘H Of’ now press the up arrow and the display will show ‘H On’ and priming will start. I could only just make out the pump ticking sound from under the van with the door open (the box lid wasn’t fitted yet either) which was encouraging. Checking the filter showed fuel dripping into it from the tank line after a minute or so, it took me three priming cycles before I saw fuel appearing in the clear tubing under the heater. Each cycle lasts around 3-4 minutes – after each one finishes, ‘H on‘ is flashing on the display and the pump stops, so press the down arrow then the up arrow to start another priming cycle. It is a good idea to stop the priming cycle as soon as the fuel appears in the line under the heater to avoid a smoky start up – I had to leave it priming for about a minute as it took me that long to get out from under the van and finish the cycle (press down arrow to do this).
My first startup seemed fine but it only ran for less than 5 minutes before shutting down with an ’08 err’ code on the display. This code indicates that the fuel supply had been interrupted (the manual said ‘flame out’) and sure enough, checking underneath showed long air bubbles in the line and an empty filter. The cure finally, after trying a few things, was to relocate the filter under the van close to the pump so it is essentially gravity fed, disconnect the fuel line under the heater and reprime until there were none, or very tiny, bubbles moving along the line with every pump pulse. I also replaced one of the stainless steel clips which I suspect was causing a small air leak – I’ll talk about what was replaced and what was retained from the original kit at the end.
The heater then ran up to full speed and temperature so I left it running for 15 minutes until the excess diesel from the priming procedure was burnt off. There was now no smoke visible from the exhaust, the heater body was cool at the air entry end and hot (but not uncomfortably) at the ‘business end’ that goes to the warm air outlets. Very hot air was coming from these and it only took 15 minutes for the van to go from 17 degrees to a toasty 23. I then turned down the desired temperature and once it reached one degree above this, the fan and pump speed slowed right down. Note: to change the display to show the desired temperature rather than the pump speed, press the Set and Up Arrow buttons together.
Once the bedding etc is back on the bed it will be very quiet and the ticking sound is barely audible inside so a big win there. All that remained to do was to tidy up the interior and make up a small cover for the air pipe under the lounge area as we use this space for storage and we don’t want to risk damaging the pipe.
As promised, here’s the list of extras which you may or may not need (Most from Bunnings and eBay except a short length of fuel hose which I bought from a local truck company).
Edit: Forgot to include the downpipe pop in the list, added to the list.
Narva 5m 6mm Twin core pack – $29.19
Narva 10m 3mm Red / Black Twin Core pack – $21.95 (I only used around 1m)
Heatshrink assorted sizes 3.2-6.4mm $8.79
Fielders 100mm Zinc Round Downpipe Pop $6.20
Pack 25 Metal hex drive 16mm metal screws $3.98
Pack 20 10mm plastic cable clips $1.79
15x Conduit fitting metal half saddles (20mm and 32mm sizes) $10.50
Deta 211mm Weatherproof Junction Box $22.50
Sika 300ml Sikasil 670 Fire Silicone Sealant $17.50
1m 4mm internal rubber reinforced fuel line $12 (from trucking company).
Battery Isolator Master Switch Truck Boat Marine Caravan ON/OFF – $19.50 (from eBay).
5l Red plastic fuel can plus a fill of diesel around $20 from memory.
Giving a grand total of about $173.90 plus the heater cost (around $350)
Edit: Add $20 for a Craftright 16 Piece holesaw kit from Bunnings if you don’t have a 100mm holesaw – I didn’t! Note to check what size your warm air tubes are, I used a 76mm saw and the hole was too large, think I used a 62mm or so from memory (54mm was too small).
Various other bits and pieces like wood screws, 1200mm lengths 20×40 timber, No More Nails, piece of fibrocement board etc which I had on hand but you may need if you have some other building work to do.
The heater kit came with 9-12mm stainless clamps for the fuel line and 19-29mm ones for the exhaust and air inlets. I bought new ones to replace them but the 9-12mm ones in the kit were actually higher quality, the new ones couldn’t be tightened sufficiently and the style meant they had a flat spot on one side rather than evenly wrapping around the fuel lines. Interestingly enough this was mentioned in one of the ‘Aussie guru’ YouTube videos. John McK 47 is his YouTube channel name, I suggest spending an hour or two watching his very comprehensive collection of videos!
The heater I bought was this one. 2kW models are dearer than 5kW models but I preferred this one as a couple of relatives had bought this one and the feedback was very positive. (This one has a good, clear english manual too) –
PPAP 12V 2KW Diesel Air Heater Tank Digital Thermostat Silencer T-Piece Remote
The eBay Seller was ‘yipenl3’
While there are cheaper models on eBay – watch out for those that state 2kW-5kW, they are actually the larger 5kW models and may not fit where you want to install. I also have my doubts about the long term reliability of under $200 models.
If you are planning on installing a diesel heater in the near future, all I can say is – if you are a reasonably ‘handy person’, give it a go. Do your own research and familiarise yourself with them by viewing YT videos – there are plenty of great (and not so great) videos out there!