Chinese diesel heater diagram with red circle showing common fail point: hose clamp

Chinese Diesel Heaters for Van Life: Happy Day Review

Key takeaways

Chinese diesel heaters are popular for good reason: they promise the same functionality as more expensive heaters for less money.

But with reports of poor reliability and virtually nonexistent customer service, it’s hard to know if buying a Chinese diesel heater is worth it.

Turns out, the answer is probably yes.

Stick figures ponder the difference between 4 identical looking Chinese diesel heatersAlthough Chinese diesel heaters are cheaply made, they may offer what everyone wants: an inexpensive heating solutions thats far cheaper than a Webasto or Espar diesel heater.

In this article, we recommend (what we believe) to be the safest Chinese diesel heater brand to bet on and discuss how you can improve the reliability of any Chinese diesel heater.

Why Choose a Chinese Diesel Heater for Van Life or Overlanding?

The main reason why you’d choose a Chinese diesel heater over a regular diesel heater (like the Webasto & Espar) is that they work exactly the same but cost less. Why spend $1,200 when you could spend $150 and get the same result?

Do They Really Work the Same?

At nearly 1/5 the price, you’d expect some compromise in terms of heating capacity, but because all diesel heaters work the same (by generating heat from burning diesel fuel) there’s no difference in the BTU output between any diesel heater so long as the fuel consumption rate is the same 1. Where Chinese diesel heaters do differ is in the quality of the components used (more on that later).

Which Van Chinese Diesel Heater is Best?

It’s a little irresponsible to claim one Chinese Diesel heater is superior to another because they are all probably manufactured in the same facility (HappyBuy, SuperFasterRacing, Tseipoaoi, Silvel, etc.). Even if that’s not true, you can tell from tear-down videos that the components used are basically identical.

Reviewers become biased for one brand because of a single positive or negative experience, when if you stepped back you’d see that the actual average quality of each heater is basically the same save for inconsistent manufacturing and random bad luck.

Extremely detailed diagram showcasing how the manufacturing of Chinese diesel heaters for the vanlife and overlanding market works

There is however one big reason why you might choose one Chinese diesel heater brand over another.

Custom service.

When purchasing a product that might have issues, the last thing you want is a company with poor customer service. No Chinese diesel heater brand is winning awards here but Vevor does seem to be better than others.

Best Chinese Diesel Heater Option: Vevor (HappyBuy)

Two stick figures look at a Chinese diesel heater while one proclaims, "no I think this one is the best!"

The Vevor 5kw & 8kw diesel heaters on Amazon (also sold as HappyBuy) feature a very similar design to most other Chinese diesel heaters, but Vevor is an actual brand.

Vevor has a legitimate website, hundreds of positive reviews on Amazon, and shows a willingness to replace or refund customers (based on their refund policy and Amazon reviews).

When looking at their actual products, the Vevor 5KW & 8KW feature the same components and functionality as you’d expect from any good van diesel heater, a heating unit, appropriate hoses for exhausting fumes and allowing air flow, and a somewhat decent looking controller for regulating the temperature.

Model Vevor 2KW Vevor 5KW Vevor 8KW
Max Heat Output 9,604 BTUs 16,464 BTUs 22,981 BTUs
Fuel Consumption 0.1-0.28 (L/H) 0.18-0.48 (L/H) 0.18-0.67 (L/H)
Rated Voltage 12V 12V 12V
Package Contents 1 x Heater

1 x Oil Pump

1 x 10L Fuel Tank

1 x LCD Switch

1 x Silencer

1 x Oil Filter

1 x Air Filter

1 x Air Inlet Pipe

1 x Air Outlet Pipe

1 x Exhaust Pipe

1 x Tubing

1 x Mounting Plate

1 x Vent 

1 x Oil Pump Clip

1 x Wiring Harness

1 x Installation Kit

1 x English Instruction

1 x Heater

1 x LCD Switch

1 x Remote Control

1 x 10L Fuel Tank

1 x Silencer

1 x Oil Extractor

1 x Wiring Harness

1 x Inlet Air Pipe

1 x Outlet Air Pipe

1 x Exhaust Pipe

1 x Oil Filter

1 x Air Filter

1 x Oil Pump

1 x Tubing

1 x Three-way Piece

1 x Mounting plate

1 x Oil Pump Clip

1 x Installing Kit

1 x English Instruction

1 x Heater

1 x Knob Switch

1 x 10L Fuel Tank

1 x Silencer

1 x Wiring Bundle

1 x Inlet Air Pipe

4 x Outlet Air Pipes

1 x Exhaust Pipe

1 x Oil Filter

1 x Air Filter

1 x Oil Pump

1 x Tubing

1 x Mounting plate

1 x Oil Pump Clip

1 x Installing Kit

How to Make Your Chinese Diesel Heater More Reliable

Just like Webasto and Espar heaters, Chinese diesel heaters are made up of the same components: blower motors, glow plugs, controllers, mufflers, fuel lines, etc. When you consider each part individually, you can isolate the parts that are most likely to fail.

The following list covers the 8 most common to fail diesel heater components. Replacing these parts preemptively can get you years of reliable use from your Chinese heater and still cost you nearly $1,000 less overall than the more expensive options.

1. Glow Plug

Chinese diesel heater diagram with red circle showing common fail point: glow plug

What is a Glow Plug?

A glow plug is a heating device used in diesel combustion to help ignite fuel. Diesel fuel needs to be vaporized and heated to high temperatures before it can combust, and that’s where the glow plug comes in. Glow plugs are typically made of a high-resistance material that heats up when electricity passes through it. When the glow plug is activated, it heats up the air in the combustion chamber, which in turn heats up the diesel fuel, making it ignite.

Why do Glow Plugs Fail?

The most common reason glow plugs stop working is due to wear and tear. Glow plugs are continually exposed to high temperatures. If your glow plug is cheaply made, it’s lifespan will be short. If your glow plug stops working, it won’t heat up properly and your heater won’t work.. Other factors that can cause your glow plug to fail include carbon buildup, faulty electrical connections, or a malfunctioning control module.

Link to replacement glow plug ($18.99 at time of publishing)

2. Fuel Pump

Chinese diesel heater diagram with red circle showing common fail point: fuel pump

What is a Fuel Pump?

A fuel pump is a mechanical device that pumps fuel from your vehicles fuel tank (or the small auxiliary tank included with the heater) to the combustion chamber. The fuel pump creates pressure that forces the diesel fuel through the fuel lines and into the heater’s combustion chamber, where it is mixed with air and ignited by the glow plug.

Why do Fuel Pumps Fail?

The most common reason fuel pumps stop working is due to a lack of maintenance or wear and tear. Over time, the fuel pump’s components can become worn, which can cause them to fail. Other factors that can cause your fuel pump to stop working include clogs in the fuel lines or a faulty fuel filter or potentially electrical connection issues. One of the most common complaints with cheaper fuel pumps is noise. By replacing your fuel pump with a nicer, quieter fuel pump, you’ll get a longer life-span and less noise during use.

Link to replacement fuel pump ($28.99 at time of publishing)

3. Controller

Chinese diesel heater diagram with red circle showing common fail point: controller/thermostat

What is a Controller?

The controller is an electronic device that monitors the various functions of the diesel heater. It regulates the temperature, monitors the fuel and air flow, and ensures that the heater operates safely and efficiently.

Why do Controllers Fail?

The most common reasons why controllers fail is due to electronic malfunctions or software issues. Controllers can become damaged due to a power surge or other electrical issues, or from exposure to moisture or excessive heat.

Link to replacement controller ($23.89 at time of publishing)

4. Blower Motor Fan Bearings

Chinese diesel heater diagram with red circle showing common fail point: blower motor bearings

What are Blower Motor Fan Bearings?

Blower motor fan bearings are mechanical components that support the blower motor fan shaft and allow it to rotate smoothly. The blower motor fan is responsible for blowing air across the heating element or heat exchanger, which in turn heats up the air and distributes it throughout your vehicle.

Why do Blower Motor Fan Bearings Fail?

The most common reason blower motor fan bearings stop working is due to wear and tear. Over time, the bearings become worn or damaged, which can cause the fan to wobble or produce annoying noises.

Cleaning the blower motor fan, lubricating the bearings, or replacing the bearings with higher quality bearings will prevent noise and prolong the life of your heater.

Link to replacement blower motor bearings ($6.80 at time of publishing)

5. Fuel Line

Chinese diesel heater diagram with red circle showing common fail point: fuel line

What is a Fuel Line?

Fuel lines simple transports fuel from your tank to the fuel pump and then to the combustion chamber. The fuel line is an important component of the diesel heater, as it ensures that the fuel is delivered to the heater’s engine in a safe and efficient manner.

Why do Fuel Lines Fail?

Most Chinese diesel heater kits come with cheap fuel lines that crack and leak due to exposure to extreme temperatures or the fuel itself. By replacing your fuel lines with higher quality material lines, you won’t have this worry.

Link to replacement fuel lines ($19.58 at time of publishing)

6. Exhaust Hose

Chinese diesel heater diagram with red circle showing common fail point: exhaust hose

What is an Exhaust Hose?

An exhaust hose in a diesel heater is a flexible tube or pipe that is used to vent the exhaust gases produced by the heater’s combustion process to the outside. The exhaust hose is an important component of the diesel heater, as it helps to prevent the buildup of harmful gases inside the space being heated.

Why Do Exhaust Hoses Fail?

Exposure to moisture or extreme temperatures can cause your exhaust hose to deteriorate and release unwanted fumes and noise. By replacing your cheap hoses with higher quality hoses, you will eliminate this issue.

Link to replacement exhaust hose ($23.99 at time of publishing)

7. Hose Clamps

Chinese diesel heater diagram with red circle showing common fail point: hose clamp

What is a Hose Clamp?

Hose clamps are one of the most easiest upgrades to make. Hose clamps simply connect your various lines and hoses together and prevent fuel or fumes from escaping.

Why do Hose Clamps Fail?

The most common reason hose clamps stop working is due to corrosion or wear and tear. Over time, the metal can become corroded, which can cause the hose clamp to weaken and lose its grip. Additionally, exposure to extreme temperatures or chemicals can cause the hose clamp to become brittle or crack, which can also affect its performance.

Other factors that can cause hose clamps to stop working include improper installation, over-tightening or under-tightening, or physical damage. If a hose clamp becomes loose or falls off, it can cause a leak or even a safety hazard.

Link to replacement hose clamps ($19.58 at time of publishing)

8. Muffler

Chinese diesel heater diagram with red circle showing common fail point: muffler

What is a Muffler?

A muffler is a device that is used to reduce the noise produced by the heater’s combustion process. The muffler is typically made of metal and is installed in the exhaust system of the diesel heater.

Why do Mufflers Fail?

The most common reason your muffler would stop working is corrosion or physical damage. Over time, the muffler can become corroded or rusted, which can cause it to develop holes or cracks. Most Chinese diesel heater mufflers are cheap and don’t do a great job of reducing noise so it’s one of the best components to upgrade if you want your heater to stay quite during use.

Link to replacement muffler ($29.50 at time of publishing)

Conclusion: Is Buying a Chinese Diesel Heater for Your Van/Truck Worth it?

In conclusion.. buying a Chinese heater for your van or overlanding vehicle is risky. You can’t spend $142 when other units cost $1,200 and not have more of an expectation of something going wrong. If you don’t like dealing with those types of situations, definitely get a nicer diesel heater.

If you’re on a tight budget and you’re excited about the prospect of saving money, get the Vevor (or another well reviewed Chinese heater) off Amazon but just prepare yourself for the small chance that you’ll get a unit with missing parts, or something that will break within weeks or months.

If you’re willing to take the risk, it will most  likely work out and you’ll have a pretty reliable heater that cost you far less than a Webasto or Espar.

Recommended Chinese Van Diesel Heater: Vevor 2kw, 5kw, or 8kw (check price on Amazon)

Footnotes

  1. Heat output is measured in BTU’s (or British Thermal Units). Diesel fuel outputs 137,381 BTU’s of heat per gallon of fuel.

    Any diesel heater (Chinese or otherwise) will output the same amount of heat so long as the fuel consumption is the same.

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