FCT: Freezing Car Tips

Let’s face it, no one likes getting into a vehicle that’s frozen over, however many of us still use the “tips and tricks” of yesteryear to heat our vehicles despite the fact that these are no longer recommended today.

In winters past, vehicles needed to “warm up” in frigid temperatures to allow the correct mix of fuel and air to be delivered to the engine.  With the advances made in engine technology in the 1980s and 90s (when the switch was made from carburetor to electronic fuel injection) the correct mix of air and fuel is automatically delivered to the engine with sensors.  Today’s vehicles are safe to drive when cold, and in actuality, driving is the quickest way to warm them.

  • Vehicles heat up more quickly when driven as opposed to idling. Experts today say a vehicle should be warmed up no longer than 30 seconds before driving.  The load put on the engine while driving will help produce heat at a more rapid rate.  If possible, don’t rev the engine or accelerate hard until it is up to normal operating temperature.
  • When you start the car, turn the temperature to cold and turn off the fan. After driving for a bit, switch it to “hot” and turn on the fan.  Believe it or not, it will get hotter faster than if you immediately turned it to hot with high fan.  (This is similar to the way a pot of water with a lid will boil more quickly than one without a lid.)
  • Use the proper oil. Check your manual to see which type of oil your vehicle requires, but as a rule of thumb synthetic oil can reduce stress on engine components and flows well even in very cold weather.
  • If possible, park your car in a garage to keep it warm and to help avoid battery and oil problems. If a garage is not available, park next to the side of a building, or alongside a big tree or carport.  Face east when parking to help your windshield thaw more quickly.  An external windshield cover will also make it easier to remove snow and ice.

These steps will give you the fastest engine warm up (and therefore the quickest useful heat) and avoid wasting fuel at idle when you’re getting zero mpg.

Stay warm—and drive safely!

LMK 2019