Diving with Jens: How to keep your vehicle warm on long winter nights

Keeping your battery warm prevents it from freezing and ensures dependable starting after a cold night

Much colder temperatures are coming and it’s important that certain parts of your vehicle are kept warm if you want dependable starts in the mornings. Proper care through the winter will also increase the life expectancy of your vehicle.

Keeping your battery warm prevents it from freezing and ensures dependable starting after a cold night. Yes, batteries can freeze and at cold temperatures your battery’s ability to provide enough power to start and run a vehicle is greatly diminished.

Having a good quality battery blanket wrapped around your battery will keep it insulated and warm at night when plugged in.

Keeping your battery fully charged will also help. A weak battery can start to freeze at 0C, while a fully charged battery won’t freeze until about -60 C.

Batteries are often rated by cold-cranking amperage.

Basically, this is the amount of power a battery can deliver at cold temperatures. The higher the cold-cranking amperage, the better the battery will perform in the cold.

Keeping your engine warm is also very important. You can probably still start your vehicle without a warm engine at very cold temperatures, but you shouldn’t.

The two main engine heaters used today are block heaters and oil pan heaters.

Block heaters are the most common type and a lot of vehicles come from the factory with one

already installed. They consist of a simple electric heating element in the engine block. This immerses in your engine’s coolant, keeps your engine block warm. This type of heater will help allow your car to heat up quicker but does not assist in cold weather starting as much as oil pan heaters or battery blankets.

Oil pan heaters consist of a heating element attached to the bottom of your oil pan that keeps your engine oil warm. Warm oil will immediately circulate throughout your engine during start up. Warmer, less viscous engine oil and less condensation of fuel on the cold metal surfaces inside the engine will assist in cold weather starting.

Having all three types of heaters will keep your vehicle warm and help with dependable cold weather starting.

Cabin air space heaters were also very common at one time. These heaters were placed on the floor, usually in the center of your car under the dash and kept the inside of your vehicle warm. They are still available today but they are not used very much.

Technology has replaced the need for these types of heaters. Remote start systems that activate heated seats and heated steering wheels combined with better, quicker heaters now allow you to warm up your vehicle before you get in it.

Circulation heaters were also quite common. These heaters were basically spliced into a section of heater hose where they heated and circulated the coolant in your engine. There would not be a place to do this with modern engines.

Always get a really good quality extension cord that will reach from your vehicle to the nearest outdoor plug. Allow a generous amount of extra cord. I always like to get a cord that has a built-in little LED light that glows when you plug your car into it, so you know there is power there.

If you don’t have this type of cord, make sure you test to make sure there is power at the plug you are using. You can do this by plugging in, for example, a hair dryer. If there isn’t power, then check if the breaker is turned off.

According to a study done by the University of Saskatchewan you should plug your car in if the temperature will drop below -15 C during the night.

Check your weather app or the local news to see what the temperature will be. If it’s cold when you get home plug your vehicle in right away, especially if you have it on a timer.

Once you get settled in the house and in your jammies, it’s too easy to forget about it.

The same study showed that after four hours you are no longer adding any benefit.

A lot of people just leave their vehicle plugged in all night. If you don’t wish to do that, then using a timer may be a good fit for you. You can plug your extension cord into the timer and then set it to come on four hours before you will need to start your vehicle.

Keep your vehicle warm on long winter nights and it will be there dependably for you in the morning.

Catch Driving, with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail.com, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.

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