Portable Car Heater Solutions – What to Do When Your Car Heater is Not Working

If you found this article, that probably means you’re in search of a portable car heater for your vehicle. Which probably means your car heater isn’t working. (I know, I’m awfully smart, aren’t I?!)

I got excited about showing others some of the portable car heater solutions that are out there after owning an ancient Hyundai that was leaking so much antifreeze that the mechanic just bypassed the heater core. For one whole winter I had a car that was basically not drivable during the winter weather. If I’d known then that there were inexpensive portable car heater solutions out there, I would have been able to keep my part-time job teaching adult literacy. But as it was, I gave up the low-paying job that I loved because I just didn’t have the money right then to get the heater repaired.

So, given my history, you can probably imagine how I felt as I strolled through the forums the other day to see what advice is being offered to the poor Joe (or Josephine) who calls for help when a portable car heater solution is needed fast.

Typical forum post: “Car heater not working. Can anyone help, PLEASE? (And don’t tell me to get the heater core fixed. I got an estimate, and I just don’t have the $500 the mechanic will charge me.)”

Typical forum response: “You really just need to get the heater core fixed, buddy. If your job is so important to you, then just shell out that $500 and take care of the problem.”


I’m sorry, but this kind of response is just totally NOT helpful. If that poor soul had the money, then that is exactly what he or she would do. And guess what, smarty-pants? They already told you they DON’T HAVE IT. So how’s about snapping out of your perfect little world and answering the question?

Having experienced the same problem myself (and having now researched the various solutions), here is how I would answer it.

Car heater not working? So sorry to hear it–let’s get you fixed up quickly. Here’s a 3-prong solution for you.

A. Emergency solution to get you (shivering and with teeth chattering) to work: Get a plug-in cigarette lighter portable car heater for $13. The ride will still be miserable (sorry, Sweetheart)–but your windows will be defrosted and you won’t get into an accident or pulled over by a police officer. So the glass is really half-full, right?

B. Take care of the kids. Get a 3-way adapter (assuming you’ve got two little cuties to transport in the back seat). In one of the sockets goes your $13 portable car heater. In the other two sockets go your heated car seat covers, for $17 apiece. Total purchase? Under $50! (I highly recommend Amazon Prime, by the way. You’ll get free shipping and second-day delivery with every purchase.) Note: It’s mighty important to get the kind of adapter that shows you some indication of how your battery charge is doing. You don’t want to find that your plug-ins have totally drained your battery! It’s also a good idea to remove the adapter from the socket each time you get out of the car–just to make sure that the juice isn’t flowing out in a slow drain when the car is just sitting in your driveway.

C. If you plan to replace the car soon (or get that heater fixed), then don’t invest any more than that in devices for the car itself. Consider (if you have a garage) saving for an infrared electric garage heater for under $200. Even when you do replace or fix the vehicle, you will appreciate that little comfort. It’ll get you more heat and spread it around better. You can also use it to heat a patio or deck if you choose. It’s a marvelous device–and portable so long as you don’t get a wall-mounted model. So no, you do NOT have to spend that $500 to get the car’s heater fixed. At least, not this moment.

You may end up needing to do that by the time your next vehicle inspection date rolls around. But don’t go running up your credit card bill–try to save up and take care of that repair when you’ve got the money.