Through the wire: How and when to plug in your car during winter

Get yourself a good extension cord and a timer

Jens Nielsen | Driving With Jens

Now that winter has returned it’s time to look at plugging your vehicle in at night so that you can depend on it starting for you in the morning.

Get a really good quality extension cord that will reach from your vehicle to the nearest outdoor plug allowing 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 it in, so you know there is power there. It just offers some peace of mind. 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 a hair dryer or something. If there isn’t power there then the breaker is likely turned off to that plug.

On the other end of that cord is a heater of some kind. There is likely more than one kind. Over the years many different types of heaters have come and gone.

Circulation heaters were quite common at one time. 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.

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 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.

There are three main heaters used today that you may have installed on your vehicle. Block heaters, oil Pan heaters and battery blankets.

Block heaters are the most common type and many vehicles come right from the factory with one already installed. They consist of a simple electric heating element that is installed in your engine block in place of one of your engine’s core plugs. This immerses in your engine’s coolant and 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 the next two types.

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.

Battery blankets are just as they sound: a warming blanket wrapped around your battery that keeps it insulated and warm when plugged in. This helps prevent the battery from freezing and will help start your car quickly on cold mornings.

At cold temperatures, your battery’s ability to provide sufficient power to start and run a vehicle is greatly diminished. Keeping your battery fully charged will also help. Batteries can freeze. A weak battery can start to freeze at 0 C, while a fully charged battery won’t freeze until about -60 C.

Batteries are often rated in cold-cranking amperage. This is the amount of current a battery can deliver at -18 C without dropping to a specified voltage. The higher the cold-cranking amperage, the better the battery will perform in the cold.

Having all three types of heaters in your vehicle will offer the best help with freezing cold weather starting.

According to a study by the University of Saskatchewan, you should plug in your car in the temperature will drop below -15 C during the night. Check your weather app or the local news to see what the temperature will do. 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 it’s too easy to forget about it.

The same study showed that after four hours you are no longer adding any benefit. Timers are very affordable and are available at Walmart, Canadian Tire and Home Hardware. 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.

Even at -25 C or colder you can probably still start your car without plugging it in, but you shouldn’t.

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.

Just Posted

Yukon government releases WCC inspection report

The report contains 40 recommendations on how facilities and services at the WCC should be improved

No new forensic unit planned for Whitehorse’s hospital

Justice says hospital may expand services it offers inmates but not enough to qualify as ‘forensic’

NDP decries lack of ‘urgency’ in governments response to WCC inspection

‘The reality is that the longer this goes on the less humane our prison system is in the territory’

Whitehorse Correctional Centre report a ‘starting point’ to address justice system issues, CYFN says

CYFN executive director Shadelle Chambers says the justice system ‘requires fundamental changes’

Paddlers ride down the Yukon River in the annual Chili and Beans Race

‘We’re always trying to find ways to keep people active’

Gymkhana tests Yukon horses and riders

‘I don’t ever want somebody to leave feeling like they didn’t accomplish some kind of goal’

Whitehorse volunteers turn to GoFundMe to raise cash for thrift store

The Whitehorse Community Thrift Store is hoping to raise $70,000 in ‘seed money’

The air up there: why you should buy a plane

Hell is other people. If you own a plane you can fly away from them

What to ask when you take your car to the shop

A visit to your garage, tire shop, dealership or repair shop can… Continue reading

Whitehorse resident Steve Roddick announces bid for council

Housing, consultation top list of priorities

Cozens, Team Canada off to strong start at Hlinka Gretzky Cup

Canada rolls through Switzerland and Slovakia to set up showdown with Sweden

Selkirk First Nation says chinook salmon numbers similar to last year’s

Sonar on the Pelly River had counted just more than 7,900 chinook as of Aug. 5

Most Read