4 ways to protect your car from extreme cold

As most of the country experiences extreme cold the likes of which haven’t been seen in years, it’s understandable to be stressed at the thought of needing to go outside and drive. Even just motoring around town when the mercury shows negative temperatures can make you wish for an icy daiquiri on the beach. But if your car is well prepared for the weather, you can rest a bit easier. Here are four tips for keeping your car ready to go for this deep freeze.

Make sure you have enough gas in the tank.

Olds Vista Cruiser fill gas
Gabe Augustine

A full tank minimizes the opportunity for moisture to build up and cause fuel system problems. Also, when just getting down the road is a white-knuckle experience, the gas gauge should be the last thing on your mind. It’s no fun to stand at the pump and fill your tank, but it is dangerous to be stranded with no fuel.

Check your oil

New cars use thinner, better-flowing oils compared to their vintage garage-mates. New domestic V-8s can use 0W-20 where 5W-30 or 10W-30 oil weights were common. (The number before the W is the weight, and lower means better-flowing.)  Using heavier oil than recommended can cause damage under ideal conditions, and the cold temperatures will only exacerbate problems. Oil weight tends to be a bigger issue with conventional, rather than synthetic oil.

Make sure your battery is in shape

Car battery
Rob Siegel

Cold starts are taxing on your battery. Check that your battery is within its expected life (past three years is worth taking to a auto parts store for a electrical check-up) and visually is in good condition. Make sure those terminals are nice and clean. You can also make it’s life a bit easier by turning off electrical accessories (radio, heater blower fan, headlights) when starting. If your engine cranked slow before it got cold, now might be the time to take the plunge and buy a new battery.

Add a block or oil heater

Engine block heater ford super duty

This tip is only for those who find themselves in extreme cold environments on a regular basis. An aftermarket heater that keeps some heat in the engine oil and coolant makes starting easier and also reduces wear on critical surfaces during warm-up. Don’t be foolish and simply lay a blanket on the hood or under the hood, as neither would hold the engine heat for an extended amount of time. If in the engine compartment it could even pose a fire hazard.

Spring is still far away, so unless you have to, think about not driving at at all and instead stay home and work on some winter projects for you fun-to-drive car.

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    Hi, one item I believe that you may have overlooked is installing a low current (1 1/2 to 2 Amp) battery maintainer. When in a cold snap, I plug my Optima Yellow Top in while the engine compartment is still warm under the theory that the maintainer will keep the AGM / electrolyte warmer at the molecular level. I posed this to Optima’s Engineers and they agreed 100%. Just my 2 cents. Mike

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