With nitro season quickly approaching, many racers have several months of freezing their rear ends off still to endure. And once it warms up, you’ll need to break-in an engine or two. You have a choice: coddle your nitro engine and pre-heat its internal parts before starting, or cold crank it, start it and rev it to the moon while it’s still frozen. Don’t be that guy. Nitro engine head heaters, essentially tiny versions of F1 tire warmers, came onto the scene several years ago, and they’ve changed the way people start and break-in their engines.  Easier starts, improved longevity and less on-track warmup time are all benefits to preheating, and unlike that 20,000-watt paint stripper heat gun you think works “just fine,” a purpose built head heater like ProTek’s Blue Flame heats only the engine without incinerating its air filter or melting the radio box into a pile of bubbling plastic that looks like it had just participated in the climactic scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Sorry bout’cha face.

The Details
The Blue Flame (#PTK-4050) operates on DC-power, meaning it requires a 12-volt gel cell or power supply, or a 3S LiPo battery for use.  DC power makes it portable, a convenience when preheating an engine at a race.  I tested the heater at the track, and in my workshop, to measure the element’s heating capabilities on an ambient temperature engine. The Blue Flame’s circuitry includes a 10-minute push button timer, a temperature sensor to control heat output, and Deans plugs already installed, so I fired it up (pun intended) with a EcoPower 4100mah 3S 11.1v LiPo pack and put it to task.


The Blue Flame is easy to use, so long as you have a fully charged 3S LiPo or 12-volt power supply. At room temperature, the Blue Flame heated a Lutz Worlds Edition Alpha .21 from an ambient temp of 74F all the way to a toasty 163F in a single 10-minute cycle, with the case at over 140F.  At the track, where ambient temps at night can drop into the high 40s this time of year, the Blue Flame required two 10-minute cycles to get our test engine up to 160F–its first 10-min cycle heated the engine to 110F, with the second cycle reaching 160F+ as expected.  The Blue Flame’s voltage protection circuitry will kick in “between 9-10 volts,” according to ProTek’s literature, and our testing thus far has resulted in as many as 10-cycles per charge on the 4100mAh LiPo.  AMain also confirms that you can plug the heater directly into a 12-v power supply using the included alligator clip extension for charge-free endless cycles of use.  Bonus!

After heating from room temp (75F) for one 10-min cycle, the engine reached 162F.

As functional as the Blue Flame is on the go, I’m not a fan of the 10-minute cycle time since cold weather often requires multiple heating cycles.  A constant-on feature would be my preference, especially when breaking-in an engine.  The low voltage protection is an excellent feature, however, to protect your LiPo packs from low-voltage over discharge during use.  Once the 3S LiPo reaches 9-10volts (according to the manual), the protection circuitry turns off the heater and ceases to pull power from the battery.  Although my initial testing resulted in only a handful of heating cycles per LiPo charge, after the LiPo was broken in and cycled several times, the 4100mah EcoPower 3S provided up to 10 heating cycles per charge — more than enough for a day of racing, even with multiple heating cycles per qualifier.


The Blue Flame serves its purpose perfectly when used to pre-heat an engine in the staging area at a big race.  Breaking-in engines is another story; for me, I like to keep the engine at a constant temp during its first few tanks, so an AC-powered heater would be my preference for that job. Ultimately, the Blue Flame’s value comes down to your expectations and needs. Racers who want to pre-heat their engine in pit lane before a race will love the Blue Flame’s portable DC-power configuration, while racers who break in multiple engines per year or who live in extremely cold climates may find that an AC-powered unit may serve them best.

Strictly as an in-the-staging-area head heater, the Blue Flame provides valuable portability without the need for a 300ft AC extension cord.  Some racers even run this heater off of their LiPo starter box, but given the heating element’s power draw, I would use caution and opt for a separate 3S battery.  If forced to choose, starting the car is, in my opinion, more important than heating the engine.  While the Blue Flame does its job and does it well, for me, I’d prefer a constant-on heating power for those long engine break-in sessions, and the ability to plug directly into an AC power outlet…but I still plan to use the Blue Flame while in the staging area in cold weather for the 10-minutes prior to firing up before my upcoming race. A racing buddy of mine did exactly that last night at our local track, where temps dipped into the low 40’s, and it heated his freshy Samurai engine every time. For its plug and play portability, the Blue Flame offers a competitive value so long as you’re familiar with its limitations.