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I lived in North Dakota for 6 years and had a block heater installed on the two cars I had when I lived there. It is a pretty simple install that can really help on those cold days. You basically install the heater into a freeze plug on your block and run the cord to the front of the car. Plug the cord into a standard electrical socket and it gently keeps the coolant and the block warm. You can leave it plugged in for days at a time with no ill effects.

I have no measurable data to say how effective they are, but I know that they did make starting the cars easier and more so, they warmed up a bit quicker. If you are in a really cold area, then you might want to contemplate a battery blanket. It is a mat that wraps around your battery and helps keep that warm as well. I never had one because my engine bay was too cramped, but buddies with pickup trucks swore by them.

Another trick we used was a small ceramic heater that plugs into your cig lighter. Aim it at the windshield and it will defrost it in a hurry and warm the car up while the engine is warming up. Make sure the engine is running when you use it though, cause it will drain your battery.

Hope this helps.
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