Review: Diesel Parking Heater

This one is for our buddy, Doug, who recommended I double check our heater as we head farther north. On Memorial Day weekend Miracle and I took the bus to Ohio Wine country on our way to the Finger Lakes in New York. Normally Memorial Day is marked by the higher temperatures as pools reopen and folks grill out. Not this year. No, my friends, this year’s Memorial Day was met with gale force winds and plummeting, soggy temperatures. Frost on the grass and breath in the air sorts of coldness. We decided we needed a heater. 

Of course VW buses came with heater boxes—those useless things that act as a cruel jape in the coldest of temperatures. At the suggestion of several people on Samba, I purchased a cheap Chinese diesel heater. 

For someone like me, the box of heater parts that arrives can be daunting. My advice is to read the instructions for laughs (they are barely intelligible) and consult a good YouTube video. 

The one thing all the YouTubers have that I don’t is space. The VW is tight on space and I had already installed my cabinets and floor. In fact, prior to buying the heater, I believed the bus to be road ready. 

I installed my heater just behind the driver seat in the concave area. For some reason I couldn’t bring myself to cover up the dozen or so cubic inches when I installed the cabinets and now I know why. 

One thing I noticed in watching the YouTube videos is how everyone cut a giant 4 inch hole in the bottom of their vehicle for the intake and exhaust ports. I determined I would drill two holes just big enough for each hose. Then I found out I was a dumbass. The larger hole accommodates the fuel line and the jubilee clips. So, just drill the larger hole. 

I also had a heck of a time with the diesel tank. I barely had enough room to fit it under the sink. The one that came with the heater had the fill cap in the center of the top. I needed a spout that came from the corner. That was another $25 on eBay. 

The heater also says it should be wired directly to the battery; however, I have a pretty sweet set up with a breaker box and a surge protector, so I cut the fused cord and wired it to the breaker. 

Once the full kit was in, I powered it on and it worked like a champ. I mean, this thing will cook you out of the bus on full blast. While we don’t plan to use it often, we will be grateful to have it when we find ourselves shivering at night. 

A couple additional notes:  

  • Make sure you have a working CO2 detector in your van! No excuses. 
  • Test run the system before setting out. Not only will you make sure it works correctly, it will burn off all the crud from the factory. 
  • Watch multiple YouTube videos. Because everyone has different ways of doing things and the tips (like using fishing line to guide the diesel tank tap into place) are great.

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