Ready for Take-Off! Unplugging things first…

by Ben N on October 18, 2012

One of my favorite pastimes is wandering through “The Man Aisle” at the thrift store. Never know what you’ll find there. Case in point – a Pitot Tube Protector. I didn’t even know what you call this thing until I stumbled on one new it its original packaging.

A while back, I bought a video camera bag. That particular manufacturer includes a key ring with every bag, which is a red ribbon that says “REMOVE BEFORE FILMING”. I knew it had to be some sort of inside joke, but had no idea what it meant. Doing some web searches, I found photos from the Space Shuttle, that had some similar red tags stating “REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT”. So, the keychain must have been a NASA reference? Still seems a bit odd to me.

But when I found this same tag at the thrift store, it made perfect sense for me – this time as a reminder to unplug the block heater on the Hymotion Prius!

The weather recently turned cold, and it’s time to start using a block heater on a regular basis for both creature comfort AND fuel economy. The only problem is that it’s pretty easy to forget to UNPLUG the block heater before driving off. Not only is it embarassing, the power cord and electric outlet don’t like it either.

My buddy, Tim, helped me install the block heater recently when it was up in the air getting an oil change (sythetic of course!) It’s easy to install a block-heater on a Gen. 2 Prius, but it helps to have long-skinny arms and a good sense of touch! (And a buddy who has done it before!)

So, really the only down-side of a block heater is UNPLUGGING it before taking off. Tim and I ran the power cable to come out near the driver’s corner of the windshield. Not only is it easier to see there, but you don’t have to bend over to plug and unplug the heater. Even then, it’s still easy to forget about.

So, when I saw “REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT”, I knew the perfect use for it – as a reminder to unplug the block heater!

On the packaging, it said “Pitot Tube Protector”. I had no idea what one of those was, but a quick web search revealed that a pitot tube is a device used for measuring airspeed. On a small airplane, you would use this to protect the pitot, keeping out bugs, the weather, and other things you wouldn’t want it there, but you have to remember to remove it before take-off.

With an awl and a zip-tie, I permanently added the Pitot Tube Protector to the business end of my favorite 12-ga extension cord.

Now, all I have to do is “REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT”!

How about you? Any cold-weather car tips? When do you start using your block-heater? How do you remember to unplug yours?

Stay warm.


PS: It’s easy to remember to unplug the charging cord from the Prius. The Hymotion system is tied into the stock Prius software in such a way that you CAN’T turn the car on while the charging circuit is plugged in. If you get in the car and it won’t start, chances are you left it plugged in!

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Block-Heater Unplug reminder - Fuel Economy, Hypermiling, EcoModding News and Forum -
October 18, 2012 at 8:17 pm

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jen Niemi October 18, 2012 at 9:47 pm

But all the fun is gone. The bending over, forgetting, and the corroded plug from the road salt. My first car had a block heated and a 8 track player.

2 Ben N October 18, 2012 at 9:49 pm

It’s a 2004 Prius. It actually is old enough that it DOES have a cassette player! (Not an 8-track though!)

3 Chris Saenz October 18, 2012 at 10:07 pm

So, the Hymotion and the heater plug in separately but at the same time? Could you parallel wire them so Hymotion remembers the disconnect for both applications? But then the heater timer would have to be inside the car….

4 Ben N October 19, 2012 at 9:31 am

Yep, you are thinking about it the right way. The Hymotion charger is 1000 watts and the block heater is 400, so it’s easy enough to put both on a 15 amp circuit. A friend (who has a Enginer Prius) and I have talked about the right way to semi-automate the charger and block heater together to just one plug. It would take some wiring internal to the car, the timer would have to be in the car (and have a battery back-up) and there’s a few other issues. For now, it’s easier just to use two cords.

Some versions of the Solectria Force (Factory-built Geo Metro E.V.) had a cabin pre-heat feature that essentially ran electric heat from wall power. It used more or less a modified programmable household thermostat. Many of those run on a simple AA battery. Perhaps something similar would work for the long term “get them both on one plug” project.

5 Ben N October 19, 2012 at 10:06 am

As a follow-up….
When we got the Prius, it already had the following modifications:
1) Hymotion plug-in battery system
2) Heated driver’s seat
3) Tinted windows (front are dark, back are very dark)
4) Different springs, which help with the additional weight of the Hymotion system.

The seller also included a ScanGuage, which I would have went and bought otherwise.

The car did NOT have a block-heater, grill-block, EV switch, or other more advanced modifications. The four mods I listed actually all do help with fuel economy – even tinted windows – they keep the car cooler in the summer, so you can run the A/C less.

I’ll still be slowly adding a few more modifications to the car in the future as time/cost/knowledge/ & skill allow.

6 DWolvin October 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Hey Ben,
You are half right about the origin of ‘Remove before flight’, it’s hung on anything that needs to be pulled off before startup on most aircraft also (and even racing stuff these days). because it’s from avation, it alway gives a little attitude to anything. 😉

Reallly cool blog, thanks for the ideas (love the power wheels)!

7 BenN October 24, 2012 at 7:26 pm

It’s weird that I came to the “Remove Before Flight” in such a weird way – video case to NASA to Thrift Store.

That Pitot Tube cover was manufactured about two miles from my house! I have a second one in original packaging.

It certainly does add attitude, and it really does make a nice visual reminder. If it’s good enough for the Space Shuttle, it’s good enough for me!

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