This article is to review something that’s commonly known as a ‘cheap Chinese’ diesel heater.

But here’s a fun fact:

The people that call them this are usually people that have one. And love it.

I bought one like this here on eBay

Jayco Swan Diesel Heater Installation - Step By Step

I’ll give you its pros and cons.

And, in this diesel heater review I’ll also answer some frequently asked questions like:

Are they hard to install?

How much diesel do they use?

How loud are they?

And:

Are they safe?

Let’s get started:

My review: Here’s my thoughts and opinions on eBay diesel heaters

At first I was sceptical about buying one of these.

But, there were a few things that reassured me:

  1. The amount of positive comments on all the Facebook caravanning groups
  2. With only 2 moving parts (fuel pump & fan) there’s not much to go wrong
  3. YouTube’s diesel heater expert (John McK 47) recommends them

They’re a simple design that hasn’t changed in about 80 years. With only 2 moving parts there’s not much that can go wrong… so if you buy a German version it’ll cost you around 10x more to do exactly the same thing.

So after some research I ended up choosing a 5KW diesel heater over a 2KW

(more on that later)

Then, after reading A LOT of reviews I ended up buying this from eBay:

Our 5KW Diesel Heater from eBay for Our Jayco Swan Camper Trailer

99% positive feedback… and it arrived in a few days because they’re in Sydney

But one of the main reasons for my choice…

What’s included with eBay diesel heaters:

I was happy with what came with it. This is what was included with my diesel heater:

eBay Diesel Heater Inclusions - Air Filter, Muffler, Fuel Tank Standpipe

[highlighted with the red circles are some things that don’t come as standard]

These are what sold me on this particular eBay seller… the inclusion of:

  1. Exhaust muffler. Good to keep it quiet
  2. Air intake filter. Stops the engine getting filled with dust and bugs
  3. Fuel standpipe. Stops leaks (and dirty diesel getting into the fuel lines)

I did buy a few extra things for installation:

  1. A rubber stopper to act as an extra spacer to keep it even quieter
  2. A downpipe pop to neaten up the hole in the floor

Bunnings Downpipe Pop

It would be good if the kits came with these in the first place…

…but $9 later at Bunnings, I was good to go for the install

Is it hard to install a 12V diesel heater in a caravan?

No… but the instructions are notoriously bad (or sometimes non-existent). Once you’ve got your head around it, installation is pretty straight forward and only takes a couple of hours.

Anyway:

I took plenty of photos and made notes as I went, so if you end up getting a diesel heater…

Bookmark this articleJayco Swan Diesel Heater Installation [Step-By-Step With Pictures]

(I wrote that before this diesel heater review… it’s the article I wish I had when I installed mine)

Running My eBay Diesel Heater: First Impressions

Within 2 minutes of starting our diesel heater (with its remote control) I knew this thing was worth it.

These things work well.

It was VERY warm.

Within about 5 minutes, the caravan was at a comfortable temperature.

I’m actually looking forward to laying in bed on a cold morning, reaching over and grabbing the remote control, and preheating our van before we get up.

How loud are these diesel heaters?

If installed correctly, when you first start up a diesel heater they run fast and are about as loud as an air-conditioner

(it’s like a loud whooshing noise)

Then, after running a few minutes they slow down to their set speed:

All you can hear is a gentle whooshing noise.

Outside, it’s still about as loud as an air-con, but you can hear a ticking noise from the fuel pump

Diesel Heater Fuel Pump Mounted With Rubber Stopper to Stop Ticking

[you don’t hear this ticking from inside if the fuel pump is mounted correctly]

VERDICT: Won’t wake the kids OR upset the grumpy campers in the Silverline next to us.

Do diesel heaters use much 12V power?

They’re power hungry at start-up (5-7 Ah).

But, that’s only for a few minutes while the glow plug is running and the fan’s running high.

Then, when they’re self combusting it’s only the power to the fan and fuel pump (about 0.7 – 0.9 Ah).

VERDICT: Perfect for free camping with our single 105 Ah battery.

How much fuel do these diesel heaters use?

These diesel heaters are pretty efficient and don’t use much fuel.

Like most, ours can be set to run 2 ways:

  1. Thermostat controlled, or
  2. Manual controlled (fuel dose frequency)

Diesel Heater Digital Thermostat Controller in Jayco Swan Camper Trailer

If it’s thermostat controlled, fuel use will depend on how cold it is outside, and what temperature it’s set to.

But in general, after the initial heating we need to run it on Low

(otherwise it gets too hot inside!)

On Low, they use 115 ml of diesel per hour.

Diesel Heater Fuel Tank Mounted in Boot of Jayco Swan Camper Trailer

[That’s 60-80 hours run time on this one tank of fuel]

VERDICT: These diesel heaters are cheap to run… about 1 L of diesel for 8 hours of heating.

How hot do the actual diesel heater units get?

After running our diesel heater on high for 10 minutes the casing was 51 degrees, and the base plate was 47 degrees

How hot does the case of a diesel heater get

(that’s my hand comfortably resting on it)

VERDICT: They’re not going to burn the place down, and there should be no problems mounting them near a battery.

Are the cheap Chinese diesel heaters safe?

Yes. Diesel heaters work by blowing the heat off the outside of a fully contained motor.

Also, they’re very efficient and achieve almost complete combustion

[even when you hold a carbon monoxide detector at the exhaust these things don’t set off an alarm]

So, I’m just as worried about our fridge or cooktop having a gas leak.

Either way, for peace of mind we have one of these Carbon Monoxide detectors by Quell:

Best Carbon Monoxide Detector for Diesel Heater in Caravan

They’re about $45 here from eBay, or just pop down to Bunnings and get one (more like $60 there though)

5KW diesel heaters compared with 2KW diesel heaters

There’s 2 schools of thought here:

  1. Buy the smaller one 2KW and work it harder so that it doesn’t get a build-up of carbon, OR
  2. Buy the larger 5KW one and don’t work it as hard so there’ll be less wear and tear on the fan and fuel pump (and just run it on high every now and again to burn away the carbon)

The guru of diesel heaters on YouTube (John McK) recommends the latter option…

…and since we’re in a Jayco Swan with a load of canvas, I figured it’s better to err on the side of warmer

We went with a 5KW (and are happy with our choice)

If you’re in a small fully enclosed van with no canvas then a 2KW diesel heater may be a good option

(this is one of the few I could find on eBay that has the muffler, air filter, and standpipe)

Ebay diesel heater price: Bargain

I got mine here on eBay

When I got it, it was about $220 (including delivery)

Because we’re in the middle of winter and they’re in high demand they’re slightly worth more…

…but if you plan on doing any free camping they’re definitely worth it!

Cheap to run. Pretty quiet. Don’t use much battery. Super warm.

Conclusion: Very Happy With our diesel heater

Overall, I’m really impressed with my eBay diesel heater. It’s helped me cheaply heat our Jayco Swan when we don’t have 240V.

I highly recommend an eBay diesel heater especially if you’re planning on doing any free camping or using unpowered sites.

Click here if you would like to buy one.

Well, thanks for reading this eBay diesel heater review. I hope it answered any questions you may have but if you do have any questions please leave a comment below

eBay Diesel Heater

9.6

Value for money

10.0/10

Ease of installation

9.0/10

Noise

9.0/10

Warmth

10.0/10

Running costs

10.0/10

Pros

  • Cheap to buy
  • Easy to install
  • Warm!
  • Uses hardly any diesel
  • Can run on 12V (free camping)

Cons

  • Instructions are terrible
  • Should come standard with a way to stop the ticking (need to buy a stopper from Bunnings)