Wintery mornings usually mean plugging in the car while waiting for the coffee to finish. 

Plugging the block heater in is no strange thing in Saskatchewan, but it can be unclear as to when and how long a vehicle needs to be plugged in. 

Clearing up any confusion on the matter is Brian Westerhaug, a red seal journeyman automotive service technician at Akhlut Automotive in Swift Current.

"Most newer vehicles nowadays have a 'Thermostatic Plug' on them, which will not allow the block heater to kick in until near -15 C degrees," revealed Westerhaug. "Around -10 C and below is when you are supposed to start to plug in your vehicle a minimum of four hours before you're ready to leave, just to give enough time to warm up."

Sensors in modern engines read the temperature and adjust fuel inputs accordingly. The issue is, they can't account for extended cold periods, where the continued use of increased fuel on start-up can damage the vehicle. 

By heating up the engine beforehand by plugging it in, you allow motors to turn over using less fuel. Not only does this save wear and tear on the block and pistons, but it also saves that extra bit of fuel that would have been used to fire everything up.

"Diesel engines are usually the same thing," added Westerhaug. "Plug them in during anything below -10 C." 

Older vehicles from the '90s and '80s should not be plugged in for any more than four hours. The older style of heaters the majority of those vehicles came equipped with can burn out cylinders, leading to expensive damages. 

"Nowadays they are set where they're supposed to be in a better position," said Westerhaug. "Plugging it in all night does not hurt the vehicle anymore."

Another great way to protect an engine from the cold is to use a 'Winter Front', a small cover used on the front of a vehicle. This allows the engine to retain more heat and operate a little easier.