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tristessa Sat Jul 21, 2018 11:09 pm

They're clones of the diesel Eberspacher Airtronic. I've got a similar one that I've been bench-running in the garage for a few weeks, and I've been reading up before and after pulling the trigger. $199 shipped to my door, and mine has an alloy housing instead of partially/completely plastic.

Assuming you get a unit that wasn't damaged in shipping -- be sure to check that the fan isn't rubbing on the housing anywhere, they get pushed back sometimes -- the two most common problems people have had with these heaters are premature glow plug failure and the combustion chamber sooting up when run on low for long periods with diesel as the fuel. Most of the other "problems" I see people reporting are operator error issues such as not priming the fuel supply before first pushing the ON button or not having a fully charged battery. Complaints about the "noisy" fuel pump and "noisy" fan also come up, but the Airtronic isn't exactly silent either. :roll:

The Airtronic D2 glow plug is a direct replacement (remember, this is a clone!), so get the genuine Eberspacher glow plug and either change it now or carry it -- and the tool to change it -- with you to install in the field when the original Chinese glow plug fails. When, not if. The fuel dosing pump looks the same so the Airtronic unit is probably also a good replacement, but I haven't heard of many people having problems with the pumps failing.

The ones on the lower end of the price range generally don't come with a muffler. They're a bit loud with just a straight exhaust pipe (think jet engine), but the Eberspacher muffler I had kicking around fit perfectly and quiets the roar very well. I've heard the Chinese mufflers aren't always welded completely at the seam so the Eberspacher unit might be worth picking up anyway.

People have found that using kerosene (aka #1 diesel) instead of diesel (#2) minimizes if not eliminates the combustion chamber sooting issue. Others have stuck to running diesel (#2) and just giving it a good 4-5 minute blast on high before shutting it down. Running kerosene is specifically recommended by Eberspacher to decoke the combustion chamber in the Airtronic. If you're putting one of these in a gas-powered vehicle you'll be adding a small fuel tank anyway so it's no big deal to fill it with kerosene instead of diesel. Less smelly than diesel, too.

There are a variety of controllers being shipped, from a basic rotary knob on up to a spiffy LCD screen with little animations for the fan and the ability to pair to a key fob remote. Mine came with the same controller as in the linked ebay listing but printed in Chinese. I've upgraded to the LCD version partially to get the key fob remote ability -- being able to preheat the Bus while I'm in the house would be nifty -- and partially because my wife would flip if she had to deal with a control panel written in Chinese. Haven't figured out if it can be switched from C to F but it's no big deal.


Fit & finish of the components isn't as nice as an Eberspacher, Webasto or Planar heaters. Installation and user manuals are essentially nonexistent. They're a bit pickier about combustion air intake and exhaust tube lengths. But if you can deal with the shortcomings and accept the little quirks you can save a LOT of money -- $200-300 vs $1300+ for the Airtronic when you're comparing 5KW units. Would I rather have an Eberspacher or Webasto? Sure. But I'm not rich, I work for a living, and for as infrequently as we'll be using the heater, we can't justify the extra expense. The money saved goes into our "Four Month European Road Trip" fund, so in the end the Germans will be getting my money anyway. And so will the Dutch, the Danes, the Swedes, the Finns... :lol:

shadetreetim Wed Sep 12, 2018 3:58 pm

I'm on the Facebook Chinese Heater Group as I keep looking at buying one of these. From what I've read, the 5kw units coke up worse because they almost always are ran on low in a vehicle as small as a Vanagon. The 2kw ran at hotter temps don't coke up as often. That's good to hear about the kerosene. If I put this in my van I'd just run a small tank with either diesel or kerosene.

The biggest challenge I've found is weeding through the multiple postings hoping to find a good heater. The FB Group recently posted this eBay ad as a decent heater. I'm tempted to buy one and give it a try. Living in SoCal it's hard to justify buying a high priced heater for the occasional camping in the snow.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/3000W-12V-LCD-Monitor-Air...2531216868

Tobias Duncan Fri Nov 16, 2018 10:22 am

tristessa wrote: They're clones of the diesel Eberspacher Airtronic. I've got a similar one that I've been bench-running in the garage for a few weeks, and I've been reading up before and after pulling the trigger. $199 shipped to my door, and mine has an alloy housing instead of partially/completely plastic.

Assuming you get a unit that wasn't damaged in shipping -- be sure to check that the fan isn't rubbing on the housing anywhere, they get pushed back sometimes -- the two most common problems people have had with these heaters are premature glow plug failure and the combustion chamber sooting up when run on low for long periods with diesel as the fuel. Most of the other "problems" I see people reporting are operator error issues such as not priming the fuel supply before first pushing the ON button or not having a fully charged battery. Complaints about the "noisy" fuel pump and "noisy" fan also come up, but the Airtronic isn't exactly silent either. :roll:

The Airtronic D2 glow plug is a direct replacement (remember, this is a clone!), so get the genuine Eberspacher glow plug and either change it now or carry it -- and the tool to change it -- with you to install in the field when the original Chinese glow plug fails. When, not if. The fuel dosing pump looks the same so the Airtronic unit is probably also a good replacement, but I haven't heard of many people having problems with the pumps failing.

The ones on the lower end of the price range generally don't come with a muffler. They're a bit loud with just a straight exhaust pipe (think jet engine), but the Eberspacher muffler I had kicking around fit perfectly and quiets the roar very well. I've heard the Chinese mufflers aren't always welded completely at the seam so the Eberspacher unit might be worth picking up anyway.

People have found that using kerosene (aka #1 diesel) instead of diesel (#2) minimizes if not eliminates the combustion chamber sooting issue. Others have stuck to running diesel (#2) and just giving it a good 4-5 minute blast on high before shutting it down. Running kerosene is specifically recommended by Eberspacher to decoke the combustion chamber in the Airtronic. If you're putting one of these in a gas-powered vehicle you'll be adding a small fuel tank anyway so it's no big deal to fill it with kerosene instead of diesel. Less smelly than diesel, too.

There are a variety of controllers being shipped, from a basic rotary knob on up to a spiffy LCD screen with little animations for the fan and the ability to pair to a key fob remote. Mine came with the same controller as in the linked ebay listing but printed in Chinese. I've upgraded to the LCD version partially to get the key fob remote ability -- being able to preheat the Bus while I'm in the house would be nifty -- and partially because my wife would flip if she had to deal with a control panel written in Chinese. Haven't figured out if it can be switched from C to F but it's no big deal.


Fit & finish of the components isn't as nice as an Eberspacher, Webasto or Planar heaters. Installation and user manuals are essentially nonexistent. They're a bit pickier about combustion air intake and exhaust tube lengths. But if you can deal with the shortcomings and accept the little quirks you can save a LOT of money -- $200-300 vs $1300+ for the Airtronic when you're comparing 5KW units. Would I rather have an Eberspacher or Webasto? Sure. But I'm not rich, I work for a living, and for as infrequently as we'll be using the heater, we can't justify the extra expense. The money saved goes into our "Four Month European Road Trip" fund, so in the end the Germans will be getting my money anyway. And so will the Dutch, the Danes, the Swedes, the Finns... :lol:




Any chance for an update?
Are you still testing this unit?

tristessa Fri Nov 16, 2018 12:23 pm

Installed in the Bus a week or so after the post, currently using a 3L metal fuel tank for a generator because I haven't yet figured out if/where I can fit the 10L plastic one that was supplied. Used it several times while camping over the last few months and it's mostly worked just fine. The original glow plug failed last week which was not unexpected, after installing the new plug it works fine. I run it on full-blast for 10-15 minutes before going to sleep and 10-15 minutes after waking (before getting up) to get it warm, rather than running on lower settings to maintain temperature. We'll see how well that use scenario pans out for me over the winter, particularly on the planned trip to Buses By The Bridge in January.

LCD controller is too damn bright at night but not bright enough during the day. I could change an SMD resistor in the controller to adjust brightness but then it would either be even brighter at night or even dimmer during the day. Looking into a hinged cover or miniature blackout curtain to hang in front of it, but haven't looked too hard yet because it still isn't permanently mounted -- it sorta hangs out on top of the closet cabinet next to the bed. No way to swtich the controller to F from C but that doesn't bother me -- USA should join the rest of the civilized world and use metric anyway.

Other than that I've had no issues and have no real complaints. I ordered a remote but could never get it to pair with my controller, so if you want that functionality be sure to order a heater that comes with it, or order a controller+remote package separately. Make sure you have an aux battery to power it from, because they do pull some serious power for the glow plug at startup.

As always with these sorts of things, Your Mileage May Vary, and What Works For Me May Not Work For You.

I've got half a mind to order another one strictly for a garage heater...

Tobias Duncan Fri Nov 16, 2018 12:25 pm

Just found a youtube video where an engineer takes one of these units apart and gives it the AvE treatment.
Very informative.




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5IKRB_NbGg

tristessa Fri Nov 16, 2018 1:09 pm

Saw that last week. I was sort of hoping to see bigclive or AvE take one apart for maximum mayhem but we'll take what we can get. =D

Zeitgeist 13 Fri Nov 16, 2018 1:44 pm

I wish I could afford to send one to AvE*. I'm strongly considering one for our EV.


*Fun fact: There's a store in Squamish BC called Empire of Dirt. I was chuckling the whole time I was walking around in there.

Buggeee Sat Nov 17, 2018 5:46 am

So I gather that the deisel ones can be run on kerosene. Can the deisel ones be run on regular gasoline?

Edit: Thats probably a dumb question but a search on Ebay produces a bunch of ads for these saying "gasoline deisel" or "deisel gasoline". Probably a language thing.

So here is a better question. What is a good mounting location for the plastic fuel tank so the inside of the camper does not smell of raw fuel? Vanagon hack anyone?

Tobias Duncan Sat Nov 17, 2018 6:59 am

Buggeee wrote: So I gather that the deisel ones can be run on kerosene. Can the deisel ones be run on regular gasoline?

Edit: Thats probably a dumb question but a search on Ebay produces a bunch of ads for these saying "gasoline deisel" or "deisel gasoline". Probably a language thing.

So here is a better question. What is a good mounting location for the plastic fuel tank so the inside of the camper does not smell of raw fuel? Vanagon hack anyone?

This one says you need to choose the color gasoline

https://www.amazon.com/2kw-Diesel-Gasoline-Parking...V&th=1

Gruppe B Sat Nov 17, 2018 7:19 am

Buggeee wrote: So I gather that the deisel ones can be run on kerosene. Can the deisel ones be run on regular gasoline?

Edit: Thats probably a dumb question but a search on Ebay produces a bunch of ads for these saying "gasoline deisel" or "deisel gasoline". Probably a language thing.

So here is a better question. What is a good mounting location for the plastic fuel tank so the inside of the camper does not smell of raw fuel? Vanagon hack anyone?


3 Gallon under floor diesel tank for my Espar D2.

Same clearance as the gastank but located in the middle of the floor under the sliding door. No offroad issues but I do have an 85 Westy which is pretty lifted stock.


Gruppe B Sat Nov 17, 2018 7:29 am

These Chinese units are a false economy. You have next to zero parts support, lower quality and potential high risk (are you really going to chance sleeping wioth the thing on??).

Espar D2 are industry standard and installed in countless tractor trailers around the world. The units have dianostic troubleshooting and use very little electricity and fuel.

Full kits are on Ebay all the time for reasonable cost ($700 shipped)
https://m.ebay.com/itm/Eberspacher-Espar-Airtronic...nav=SEARCH

Quality costs money. If you are putting your life in the hands of a heater, it better be german made :D

Gnarlodious Sat Nov 17, 2018 8:04 am

Tobias Duncan wrote: This one says you need to choose the color gasoline

Hmmm I wonder what color gasoline is?

Tobias, you live in Taos, elevation 9,000ft. Have you found a model that runs well in thin air?

Tobias Duncan Sat Nov 17, 2018 8:19 am

I had a mr buddy heater about ten years ago that really struggled up here.
I just got a new one to take to mexico this winter and it does not seem to have any trouble. Same exact model.
I usually only use them to warm up after a long swimming session or on a really nasty day.
Really looking forward to a more permanent solution with a thermostat so I watch all heater threads pretty closely.
I would rather go gasoline than propane or diesel, but have never heard of one actually being installed.

tristessa Sat Nov 17, 2018 9:38 am

General consensus seems to be that there really aren't any gasoline versions of these heaters-- they're all diesel, but some sellers will say anything to make the sale.

I'm happy to share what I know and what my experiences have been. I don't think this thread is the place for a Chinese v. Espar v. Webasto v. Planar v. Propex v. whatever debate. Look at the video above if you want to see how these are designed & built, make your own decision. That said, the overall design isn't substantially different from the Espar Airtronics I've been inside of. These heaters ave been around for a number of years, they're clearly not made "for export only", and China is perfectly capable of making quality when the spec isn't "as cheap as you can build it" .. I'm looking at you, EMPI.

Earlier this week I was checking an AA Performance (Chinese) piston & cylinder set for an air-cooled 2.0L and the piston weights were within 0.2 grams out of the box, better than any German Mahle/Kolbenschmidt P&C set I've ever worked with, and miles better than the Brazilian Cofap I used to build Beetle engines with. Very nicely made.

erste Sat Nov 17, 2018 1:38 pm

Buggeee wrote: What is a good mounting location for the plastic fuel tank so the inside of the camper does not smell of raw fuel? Vanagon hack anyone?


I mounted a generic coolant tank behind the passenger's rear wheel. So far so good, but probably not ideal if you're driving down a lot of gravel roads. I've been meaning to bend up a shield for it.

There's just enough room that I can get a diesel pump nozzle in there to fill it. Otherwise when filling it with kero, I need to use a funnel.

Buggeee Sat Nov 17, 2018 8:57 pm

Great ideas for locating the tanks!

Great link to the gasoline color! (I have found that lots of listings on Amazon have sizes, bulk packs, etc. listed as color choices).

Thank you for the name brand link too! The stingy man spends the most... but I have some Chinese AA pistons in my beetle and, as mentioned by another, they are perfectly balanced. Not skeered of origin necessarily.

This thread is Awesome. Here is my motivation.



Ok what about this then -12v AMPS.

I have read, maybe in Bentley, that the gas heaters that could originally come on Vanagons were only for driving because the amp draw for the blower is so substantial the engine had to be running to provide the electricity.

Does anyone have a ballpark for the amp draw for the blower and fuel pump on one of these modern gas heaters? An amp range would let me do the math in selecting my house batttery, length of off-grid ability, etc. to see if this is the heater for me. :)

Edit: a question / answer in the Amazon linked gas-colored heater suggests 30 watts, which at 12v dc would be 2.5 amps. Is that what you folks are finding in your rigs?

rmcd Sat Nov 17, 2018 9:58 pm

Great info. Thanks for sharing.

Ive heard about a special altitude device that compensates for elevation. I plan to use mine at the mountain.

Anyone know how the device might work for one of the low cost models?
Thanks

Ok. Just found this.

https://faroutride.com/webasto-espar-high-altitudes/

erste Mon Nov 19, 2018 7:41 pm

rmcd wrote:
Anyone know how the device might work for one of the low cost models?
Thanks

Ok. Just found this.

https://faroutride.com/webasto-espar-high-altitudes/

Good question. I'm curious how the espar and china units differ in the electrics / wiring.

On my Espar D2 install I went with the high altitude kit as shown in that link. There is an alternative though, and that's to use the "high altitude fuel pump". This option would almost surely work with the china copy if the HAK doesn't.

I've had some time to watch the china copy tear down video that Tobias posted above and have some observations on it vs. the espar. This is mostly from memory - having taken my heater apart 6+ times to get it working 100%...

- ECU is completely unsealed and the connectors are different. This is by far the biggest difference in quality. The ECU and all of the connectors are weather sealed on the Espar. The top of the Espar ECU is aluminum, not plastic. It doesn't even look like the copy has a lower case-half.
- Magnets on the impeller - haven't seen these on my unit, but may have just missed them.
- Outer Impeller rubbing - this was the biggest issue I had with my used Espar. Since the inner and outer impellers share the same shaft, the rubbing isn't something to ignore. On mine the inner impeller was spaced way back and so it wasn't combusting properly (was spaced at nearly .125 instead of .04 or whatever the spec is). If I were buying the china unit, this is the place I'd pay attention to.
- Inner Impeller material - in the video he mentions it being a high temp plastic. I'm almost positive this is cast piece of metal on the Espar. It's the same color, so it's hard to tell what's going on. The china copy may in fact be metal(?)
- Glow plug - The end is cut straight on the Espar, not domed.
- Combustion Chamber - I'd definitely replace those phillips head screws with torx. There are 4 bolts on the china unit vs. 3 on the espar. The tube on the china unit looks to be longer, but it's hard to tell.

I tend to agree with Gruppe B about aftermarket support, but also, the replacement burn chamber for my D2 was just a bit less than the cost of one of these china units, so it's not hard to justify the cost of the china unit given the apparent (lack of) trade offs.

It looks like some of the parts would be interchangeable with the espar, but without having them side by side that's hard to say for certain.

I'll also say that I don't trust the Espar with my life either and always have a window cracked and the CO monitor on.

Buggeee Tue Nov 20, 2018 8:53 am

tilstad wrote: Are any of them gasoline Alika?

This one on amazon claims gasoline, as they make you choose between 2 models; diesel or gasoline.

A little more this one, but still far less than a webasto.
https://www.amazon.com/2kw-Diesel-Gasoline-Parking...&psc=1


I think I would like to compare these to a buddy heater and the like. Which are far from safe to begin with.

Tilsad thanks again for the link. I ordered one, selecting the options of 12v and gasoline and its on its way by FedEx from China. Estimated delivery is about a month but the question/answer has a comment by Seller saying about a week. We'll see.

It does not say what kind of controller comes with it (Thermostat? Timer?) It says it does not come with a tank (even though a tank is pictured) but I don't need one because its gasoline so I will tap the fuel line at low pressure between the tank and the van's fuel pump. I spent twenty bucks on a exhaust muffler and intake silencer on E-Bay. All told, its a project coming in under three hundred bucks. I guess I'll see how long the glow plug lasts as stated in earlier posts.

From researching the pictures its a clone of the Webasto Air Top 2000 ST. So I downloaded the literature and installation manual from the Webasto website (as it is in english). The Webasto is available in a gasoline version that seems to be available in England under the word "Petrol" vs. Diesel. Also this clone pops up in E-Bay, for a couple hundred dollars more, as a gasoline heater as well.

I have used Little Buddy, and it is a great work heater when I am out there working on the van in the cold, follows me around like one of my dogs. In an overnight setting, however, the water vapor from combustion in the van coats the inside of the windows with ice. I'm not complaining (it got me a campout!!!). It has a low O2 sensor but I still didn't run it when sleeping as it is ventless.

I also ordered one of these 5k diesel ones for $170 from Ebay with free shipping from a USA location in a week, and it comes complete with everything, 10L fuel tank, silencer, muffler, timed thermostat, etc. I'm going to try running that in my little garage and my little fiberglass camper to see what it does. Here is a link to that one: https://www.ebay.com/itm/de-5KW-12V-Air-diesel-Fue...rk:32:pf:0

There are millions of these diesel ones at this price searching "air diesel heater". Here is one picked at random with a nicer remote control thermostat (but I liked the shape of the other tank better for mounting on my camper). https://www.ebay.com/itm/12V-5KW-Diesel-Air-Heater...rk:24:pf:0

tristessa Tue Nov 20, 2018 11:18 am

My understanding is that the electronics are completely different from the Espar or Webasto. The typical three-pin controller communicates with data packets, including an ID# coded in the packet to tell the heater what kind of controller is present. Ray Jones on the "Chinese Diesel vehicle air heaters" Facebook group has done an impressive job of reverse-engineering the protocol and otherwise hacking the system.

And yes, agreed on the ECU being unsealed. I've attempted to moisture-proof my MoBo with conformal coating (Amazon, Frys, Mouser, DigiKey etc) but they're clearly not designed to be mounted outside. Given that Eber makes an external mount box for the Airtronic, I don't know that their units are meant to be in an exposed location either.

Most parts seem to be available if you look around eBay or Aliexpress, and even Wish.com has glow plugs. The glow plug, ducting, combustion intake exhaust, fuel pump, fuel line and mounting pieces are interchangeable with readily available Airtronic D2 parts, but for some of the specific harder-to-find parts I've dug out some links. I've got no connection to any of the sellers, am not recommending any of them, and not having needed to replace anything but the glow plug I haven't actually ordered any of these parts either.

Motherboard:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/12V-24V-5KW-3KW-LCD-Contr...3420932109

Motherboard + LCD controller:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Car-Heater-Control...07607.html

Wiring harness:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Cavo-Filo-Alimentazione-V...3518536743
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Power-Supply-Cable...17748.html

Combustion fan:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/10cm-Motor-Wind-Wh...57315.html

Fan motor:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/12V-Electric-Motor-For-Eb...2538500509
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Diesel-Gasoline-Fu...00178.html

Complete blower assembly:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Blower-Motor-For-P...27672.html
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Blower-Motor-For-P...49876.html

Combustion burner:
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Air-Diesel-Heater-Burne...3432755980
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Car-Caravan-Boat-5KW-Heat...2490549012

Housing:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Diesel-Parking-Heater-Hou...2649213553

Additionally, manufacturers -- or perhaps "manufacturers", since there seems to be little difference between the heaters -- such as VVKB or Belief should be able to supply any or all of the parts.



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