Cold Weather Crutches

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You think it’s hard on you when it’s 10 degrees outside?cold 1

Think about your car.

You may feel cold. Your car is cold. If it’s 10 degrees outside, that’s the temperature of your car. Its engine. The oil in the engine. Everything else, too. Now imagine being subjected to sudden extremes of pressure, friction and rapid heating. Hammered by explosions, bathed in frigid oil. From stationary to more than a thousand up and down cycles every 60 seconds – and that’s just at idle. To even approximate this in human terms, you’d need to do something like jump into Lake Michigan buck naked in January – and breaststroke like Michael Phelps without showing any signs of strain.

I am grateful I’m not a piston… .

And your car will be grateful if you’re kind to it when it’s cold. Gratefulness that will be expressed in longer life – and fewer problems during that life. Here’s what you can do:

* Park inside, if you can –cold 2

My father-in-law has a two car garage… full of  garage sale junk. His cars were parked outside. I finally nagged him into clearing out the junk, so his cars could stay indoors – where it’s 15-20 degrees warmer on a 20 degree day outside by dint of being inside – and enclosed. Subjecting a car to cold start conditions – among the most abusive conditions a car typically experiences – is much less abusive when it’s not quite so cold. The car’s parts will warm up faster, too – which is better for them – and for you (the heater/defroster gets going more quickly). Plus, you won’t have to chisel your way into the car with an ice-pick and scraper.

* Get a block (or radiator) heater if you have to park outsidecold 3

In meat locker areas – the places where it gets really cold (the negative numbers) – the locals know that without a block heater, their car might not turn over tomorrow morning – much less actually start. In extreme cold, battery power may be half what it would be at room temperature – and that cold-gimped battery is trying to turn over a reciprocating assembly that’s bathed in cold-congealed oil. During WWII, the Germans resorted to building fires underneath their tanks to try to keep them start-viable in -30 conditions. The more technologically sophisticated (and safer) approach is to use a block heater – typically, an electrically heated magnetic pad that you slap onto the oil pan – and plug into a standard household outlet. There are variations on the concept – such as a heating element that you insert into the dipstick – or the radiator. But the idea is always the same: Keep the temperature of the engine from descending to absolute zero – well, whatever the outside temperature happens to be.

* Use a battery tender –cold 4

As already mentioned, winter is very hard on car batteries. It takes more juice to start up when it’s really cold – and in really cold weather, the battery has less juice to work with. One easy way to make life easier for your car’s battery – and make your car easier to start – is to maintain the battery’s charge by hooking it up to a tender when the vehicle is not in use. These cost about $30 and work automatically. All you have to do is install the plug-in connecter pigtail (which connects to your battery’s positive and negative terminals) then plug the other end into a wall outlet (or extension cord) when the car’s not in use. The tender will gently recharge the battery, if it’s low – and maintain the charge – so that when you get up tomorrow morning, there’ll be plenty of juice on tap to get you rolling – instead of calling AAA.

* Use the lowest recommended/allowable viscosity (thinner) oil during the winter –cold 5

Many new cars already use very “thin” oil – 0W-20, for instance vs. 10W-30 in years past. This is done for two related reasons: Modern engines are put together with very tight tolerances – and car companies want to extract as much fuel efficiency as they can from their engines. Lighter/thinner oils flow more readily (especially when it’s very cold) and less friction equals better gas mileage. Check your owner’s manual and see what’s allowed. If it’s ok to use a 0W-20 vs. a 5W-20 (meaning, it won’t affect your warranty coverage) go with the lower (thinner) oil during the cold season. Older cars (pre-’90s stuff, generally)  can really benefit from going lower because they often started out much higher (10W-40, etc.). Many – most – of the “0” weight oils on the market are also either semi or full synthetic – which adds another layer of benefit. Synthetics have better flow characteristics at extremes of temperature (cold as well as hot) and you can also extend change intervals significantly (5,000 miles or more vs. the old once every 3k).

Throw it in the Woods?


  1. The trend towards using thinner oils is 100% driven by the EPA.
    The FACT is EVERY car using 0W-20 can use 0W-30 without a single issue other than it will run quieter and lasting longer.
    Every single car that uses 5W-20 can use 5W-30 without a single issue other than running quieter and lasting longer.
    The reason most modern engines now burn oil worse than a 1950 Edsel is because of using oil that is too thin and piston rings that are too weak to properly seal the oil in.

    I made these statements many years ago on every forum i could and promptly got banned from all of them
    because these forums are all run by lefties that drink the EPA save the planet koolaid and merely perpetuate the same old myths, lies, and propaganda of the left coast.

    Now here it is years later and people are finally beginning to wake up and realize that i was spot on.

    I wonder how many millions in unneeded repairs and engine damage would have been saved if only the lemming would have listened sooner.

    • This is interesting!

      Do you/your friend have any idea how much heat is generated? Any way to estimate how big the unit should be to provide sufficient heat to a given sq. footage?

  2. Wimps, we had one winter in Fairbanks where in January the high for 3 weeks was -35F, and the low -58F. Mostly lows of -50 highs of -40. Ice fog everywhere. OTOH I’ve seen winters in Fairbanks where the low for the whole winter was above -40F. I was there from 1990 to 2004. Least snow 20″ most snow 140″, but at least in Fairbanks hardly ever wind above 15 mph. I lived in Kotzebue for ten years, and while the low might only be -20F it could easily be blowing 30kts gusting to 45kts. Stacks of plywood would blow away like a deck of cards…surprisd builders from out of town.

    • Fairbanks? Hmm. 400 feet above sea level. If you want serious cold you want to try the western slope of the Rockies at 6000 feet. Sure, it might only hit -35 for a few weeks in February, but the wind blows 30mph on a good day 🙂

      Etna Wyoming. Now that’s a frozen hell that reminds me of Dante’s 9th circle…

  3. The thing on the oil pan is NOT a block heater. Its an oil pan heater. If one lives in a place that gets really cold like Fairbanks AK, you install a 1500 watt block heater in the coolant lines going to and from the car heater, which also flows through the engine block, keeping the coolant and the engine warm. On the bottom of the engine oil pan glue a 100 watt rubber electic pad. If you have an automatic transmission good to put a heater on its oil pan too. Also put a 50 watt pad heater under the batter to keep it warm. If driving an Army Jeep with heavy oil in the manual transmission, when you shut it down at night, shift it to neutral. That way when it starts in the morning you can let the clutch out slowly to get the gears moving so you can shift gears. Otherwise if you let the clutch out suddenly in Neutral the engine will stall, even at just -20. If you can park under any shelter, for some reason the windows will stay clear. If not, all the windows ice up over night. Been there down all that. like changing an alternator belt at -40F.

  4. I am grateful I’m not a piston . . .

    And I’m even more grateful I live in Florida! In nearly 18 years the coldest I’ve seen here is around 20 F.

    Spent several years in the DFW area. Saw the all-time record low of -1 F. Had to start the car at least 10 minutes before going home from work.

    I still get nightmares about the two winters I spent in Omaha while in the USAF. Blizzards and brutal cold — down to -25 F. Had an 8-day stretch when the high temp never got above 0 F. The only thing worse was all the zombies constantly chanting “Go Big Red”. 😮

    Eric’s advice is good. Garage your car if at all possible. The battery tender works too.

    • The past several days, we’ve had lows close to single digits – and daytime highs in the low 20s. SW Va. is not consistently cold in the winter, but it can (and does) get brutally cold for a few days – even a few weeks – at a time.

      I, too, hate winter.

  5. Buy the biggest battery that will fit in your car is the easist solution to cold starts. You can’t take the garage with you. Heat up a key with a heat gun to solve frozen lock problems.

    Google ObamaBornThailand to view the travel photos of Obama visiting his father last November.

  6. A quick way to keep engine warm is a drop light with 100 watt bulb(if you can find 100 watt bulbs anymore!).My dad did this and worked very well,just let car drip off any road water for a minute before pulling over drop or putting it under car.

  7. Re: Climate change: A message to mankind.

    I tiredly yield to blathering and quit the field in utter disgust.

    God damn you all: I told you so. –H.G. Wells.


    • Re: Climate change: A message to mankind.

      I tiredly yield to blathering and quit the field in utter disgust.

      God damn you all: I told you so. –H.G. Wells.


      You forgot the quotation marks.

  8. Did I ask? Is that first photo in the article for real?
    You guys need photo captions, maybe?
    Is that a Person falling into ice in the photo?

    Geeze, I’ve been through some tough Winters, but Not like That.

    Where the heck was That?

    • IAM – there is no audience in libertarianism, the internet is not cable TV, come on now, the caption, as any 8 year old boy could tell you is:

      A child plays near a frozen vehicle in the Swiss town of Versoix.

      • there is no audience in libertarianism?

        When I rented the film, V, the video store chick enthusiastically told me I’d be “in the know” after I watched it.
        The film revolved around libertarian themes, climaxing with the individuals in the audience in the film participating in a libertarian theme. The members of that fictional audience, and the real one, as presented to me by the sample conversation with the video store chick, were linked. It’s all linked.
        I never saw her again. But she’s out there somewhere, in the audience, along with many/some similar to her?

        Is the phrase ‘hive mind’ the same as audience?

  9. Five days ago, I could open my trunk with my key.
    Tuesday, though, the cold broke something. Now I cannot open the trunk by sticking the key in the keyhole and turning, only poping now. 🙁

      • Well, same thing happened to the driver side door a while back. Apparently its a common problem on 6th gen accords, having the lock cylinder or something break. I tried to lube up the driver side but that didn’t work. No matter how hard you twist it stays in place :/

    • Hi Brandon,

      It might just be moisture that got in (and froze). Try this: Get a spray can of WD-40 with the little plastic tube applicator. Insert that into the lock and spray. The “WD” stands for water displacement. If it’s just that – water, not mechanical damage to the lock mechanism – this ought to to do the trick. You may want to follow up with some graphite lubricant to keep the mechanism from jamming up again.

  10. But Algore said snow was a thing of the past. Outside it is 20 degrees and a couple inches of globull warming are on the ground that fell this morning.

  11. As a kid I remember a neighbour woman of ours would rev her ’68 Ford almost to redline every morning to warm it up. I prophesied to her kid that within 3 months she’ll need a new car. Sure enough, it happened.

    On the CO2 front, it’s a scam. Today they call every weather event as caused by global warming. Naturally, scientist funding would disappear if they didn’t adhere to the political scam.

    If CO2 can hold in heat, then how can you fry in a desert at 50C during the day and freeze at -10C at night? In the tropics, none of that happens. It’s all about water vapour.

    There’s been no warming for the last 16 years:

    CO2 is only 0.039% (390 parts per million) of the atmosphere, and every breath we exhale 4% – 40,000ppm! The oceans outgas far more than humans do every day, including rotting vegetation. In fact, temperature rises some 800 years before CO2.

    Scam! If Obama thinks he can control the weather, he should read up on 3 little words – China, Sun, Canute.

  12. Great points.

    Eric: Have you driven anything with “stop/start” in the cold? I imagine the software would let the engine at least warm up in cold weather before shutting down to “save the planet.”

    Or does “save the planet” take precedence over “save the engine” or “save the poor basards I’m around since I can’t see shit out of my frosted windshield?”

  13. Not to worry. Haven’t you been listening to our beloved Leaders? Man is causing the Earth warm more each year so dealing with cold Winters will soon be a thing of the past.

    • The political office holders are Followers. I give little credence to the parasites. However, I do pay attention to scientists and their observations.

      We are experiencing record warmth and rainfall this “winter” in Louisiana. On the other side of the planet, according to the Jakarta Globe, record rainfall and extreme weather is occurring in Indonesia.

      Man has stripped much of earth’s cover, and in places even changed the color of the oceans. . . especially the bays,inlets and estuaries. Man has also made other dramatic changes that will affect the temperature generated by sunfall.

      Without further consideration or testing, I pose the following question: How is it possible that Mankind has failed to affect climate?

      BTW, Has anyone seen BLUEFIN Tuna in the grocery stores lately? Somehow Albacore just doesn’t taste the same. Could it be that more than six billion naked apes are just too damned many? Perhaps those of us who have descendants should give serious consideration to some profoundly serious questions.

      The Kanamits would do well to pay earth another visit. In fact, the planet itself would do well.


      • There is man effecting climate and then there is man effective climate with CO2. It is clear that man changes things by changing the landscape. Clearing trees, digging holes, consuming/killing off species. That is not a question.

        What I do not believe, and have found to be largely baseless, is this repeated idea that CO2 emissions by man warm the planet. It’s way too convenient for the power structure. According to Alex Jones and some of his guests the idea of the CO2 environment scam goes back over a century. I have not verified it but it would not surprise me. If I were to pick something to do the old environment scam to control the masses, I would pick CO2. There is nothing else that offers such total control over humanity.

        On another note, climate is always changing. When I hear land based glaciers are melting back I consider it a good thing. When I hear Antarctica’s glaciers are getting thicker, I am concerned. Why? Long ago I found it very odd that ice should build up into infinity. Because it doesn’t work mechanically.

        Now one doesn’t have to be a mechanical engineer to understand this. Many years ago I was putting the left front wheel back on my ’73 maverick. I knocked a balance weight off the drum. The result was horrific vibration when braking. The earth is a spinning system. The surface is weights, land masses, water, etc on top of fluid/semi fluid layer. Now what is ice building up and up and up on land? It’s throwing off the balance. When the earth is off balance the weights are going to try to realign themselves. Quickly.

        I didn’t share this idea with anyone. In fact this is the first place I am publicly sharing it. The reason why is that I recently learned that Einstein considered it a possibility worth considering. Also I learned that the professor who presented it to him worked out the math and wrote a book on it. All before I was born. So there’s the usual frustration of independently coming up with something that others figured out long before but now I don’t have to be shy about it or how kooky it sounds to anyone who can’t apply the principles of rotating machinery to a planetary scale.

        So I find the idea that the ice is only to get thicker, never have periods where it melts back to be absurd. If man is making it melt, then all the better for us because we are avoiding a catastrophic civilization ending event for a slow gradual change that will make the earth more fertile.

        Anyway, I sometimes feel that this entire technological civilization may exist to liberate carbon from the bowels of the earth to renew the planet for continued life. There is no life on this rock without CO2 and H2O, and that is what combustion produces. If carbon continues going into carbon sinks for millions and billions of years the planet will eventually die.

        • Science is a process of creating a mechanism whereby world climate could be warmed or cooled by men as needed. Science is a process to find a concrete way to feed 15 billion people, “just in case.”

          Global warming alarmism and population alarmism are examples of Tavistock Future Shock manipulations.

          “Various beliefs can be implanted in many people after brain function has been sufficiently disturbed by accidentally or deliberately induced fear, anger, or excitement.

          Of the results caused by such disturbances, the most common one is temporarily impaired judgement and heightend suggestibility. Its various group manifestations are sometimes classed under the heading of ‘herd instinct’ and appear most spectacularly in wartime, during severe epidemics, and in all smilar periods of common danger, which increase anxiety and so individual and mass suggestibility”

          Society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a “super-industrial society”. This change will overwhelm people, the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaving them disconnected and suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation” – future shocked.

          The majority of social problems are symptoms of the future shock. One of the components of such shock, is the popularized the term “information overload.” Other concepts are adhocracy, paradigm shift, and digital divide.

        • I agree Brent — there is actually a body of scientific work out there that projects if carbon continues to be sequestered at the rate it has been for millions of years, in about 200 million more years there will not be sufficient carbon to support plant life.

          Prior to the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric carbon had been on a millions-of-years-long decline. When it goes below ~200 ppm plants start suffocating.

          No plant life, no animal life. No animal life, no steak & chicken for dinner.

          Regarding whether we were put here to release carbon — I often wondered about that myself. Maybe we’re a defense mechanism?

          • The goal of the “human-caused global warming” hoax is the imposition of a carbon tax on the world population for the crime of breathing. In the face of record-setting winter weather, I have had climate change cultists insist that “global warming is WHY we have colder winters”. I told them to put a pan of water on the stove on low heat and get back to me when it freezes.

          • Tron, I’m sure there are many who still remember all the calls about the coming “ice age” back in the 70’s and 80’s. I do!

            Whatever became of that? Now you hear the global warming ninnies saying that it’s “cold” because of global warming! WTF?!

            These past few years we’ve seen some of the coldest weather on record and they STILL persist in peddling this bilge.

          • That’s been my experience too, Tron. The myth is so pervasive that the lady who cut my hair a few years ago, when I joked about global warming, very angrily presented the “record cold snaps” we were having at the time were indeed a result of global warming. She attempted to explain her position with some psuedo-sciency explanation I’d seen before in a newspaper article.

            I think the problem is that alarmists have the solution staring them in the face: they should stop breeding, driving to work (or anywhere for that matter), and heating their homes.

            But they understand this would saddle them with huge costs, so they deflect their own shame onto others.

        • “If I were to pick something to do the old environment scam to control the masses, I would pick CO2. There is nothing else that offers such total control over humanity.”

          Personally I’d pick methane but that’s for intimate reasons best left undiscovered. My wife would call it an “overshare”.

          “there’s the usual frustration of independently coming up with something that others figured out long before but now”

          I have that problem too. I’m constantly coming up with the next great idea only to find out someone’s already done it. The advent of Google has caused the drama in my life to be reduced significantly.

          I like the unbalanced wheel analogy. I can visualize the whole planet vibrating itself to death much easier than warming up violently and making hush-puppies out of all us surface dwellers. The global warming folks can’t do math. I actually wrote a paper about that and Michael Mann paid no attention to it at all. Sigh.

          Keep up the good fight Brent. Nobody important will pay any attention to you though because the important folks pay to have morons anointed then claim their geniuses. It’s a rigged game, then you die.

          • How embarrassing. I even proof read it.

            “they’re” not “their”

            Also, I should have cut the quote earlier, but you get the idea…

  14. Be careful with synthetic oils on older cars with rope type seal main bearings….when a leak starts in will never stop.

  15. “Many new cars already use very “thin” oil – 0W-20, for instance vs. 10W-30 in years past. This is done for two related reasons: Modern engines are put together with very tight tolerances – and car companies want to extract as much fuel efficiency as they can from their engines.”

    Bingo! One never hears “Ptooey! They shore doan make um lak they yooze to.” any more. Hell, if they did the air would be so foul that new hospitals would have to be built and staffed to care for smoke related illnesses.

    Tinsley Grey Sammons (1936 –)

  16. Well done Eric. For both men and machines things change dramatically for the worse with intense cold.

    The cold crippled the German Military on the Eastern Front. Although most are dead by now I was acquainted with several Germans who had served in Russia*. Knowing that I had a genuine affection for Germany and Germans they withheld very little from me.

    Absent the utter dominance of the air and having machinery on the ground that worked, America might very well have lost an entire Corps in an effort to withdraw from Chosin.


    *Much of what the Germans learned about dealing with the cold, they learned from Russian prisoners.

  17. With the freeze we’ve experienced in the Northwest, something that was completely foreign last winter, it definitely helps to have it parked inside the garage. The downside of all this winter “wonder” is that once you hit the roads with the ice and slush is returning home with your wheel wells and underside caked in ice and snow. Bring it into the garage now?


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