Thirty Below Zero Conquered

Grand Forks, N.D.
November 10, 1953

It’s 30 below zero, and your car starts. Why? Because you plugged it in. But it wasn’t always that way—not before Andrew Freeman of Grand Forks invented the Electric Internal Combustion Engine Head Bolt Heater.

Freeman, who was born in Upham in 1909, wondered as a youngster how people started their cars during a cold North Dakota winter. His father, like many North Dakotans, had a stove in the garage which warmed his car on frigid mornings. The Freeman’s Upham mail carrier drained the oil out of his car each cold evening, kept it warm in the house overnight, and put it back in the car the next morning. His car started on the coldest of mornings. Some folks shoveled coals from the furnace and dumped them under their vehicles to warm the engines. Some poured hot water over the intake manifold. Starting a car in icy weather was difficult and at times very dangerous.

In 1932 Freeman graduated from the University of North Dakota with a degree in electrical engineering. He went on to manage the Minnkota Power Cooperative in Grand Forks and his name has become synonymous with rural electric power. But he never forgot the winter problem of starting a car.

In 1940 Freeman decided to take this problem head on. He devised a headbolt heater with some junk pile copper tubing and the heating element from an old iron. He installed the contraption on his difficult-to-start Ford V-8 engine. “I tried it out on the car one morning when it was 29 below. I made a number of trips out there to check it,” he told a reporter. “At a quarter to eight, I stepped on the starter, and it started right out.” He soon was making similar devices for his friends.

With Freeman’s inventive device, heat goes to the water jacket of the engine, then rapidly warms the film of oil between cylinder heads and pistons. In 1946 Freeman received a patent for his headbolt heater, and today his Five Star Manufacturing Company is turning out 240,000 units a year for distribution in 28 states. Andrew Freeman has made North Dakota winters much more tolerable.

By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton


Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

Grade Level

3-6, 8

Subject Matter

Social Studies

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change