Archive for the ‘#coldweather’ Tag

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Posted January 11, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Cold Weather Prepping   4 comments

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I thought long and hard about this post and finally decided not to share a craft or something writing related and my garden has been frozen for a few weeks at least. Which is kind of my point. So I decided to post on preparing for winter.

Alaska has really COLD weather, so we actually have a season for prepping for it. Pretty much everything stops right after moose season while we turn toward getting our houses and cars ready for winter. Our cars especially need some TLC to be ready for the icebox.

Image result for image of head bolt heater cordOur garage was built by people who apparently owned toy cars. We can pull in, but we can’t open the doors of either car … and heating our garage would be prohibitively expensive because it was incorrectly insulated, so … well, it’s an unheated attached tool shed that we can, if needed, pull a car into if we are prepared to climb out of the trunk to exit the car.

First order of business? Change the oil. You can, of course, do this at Jiffy Lube, but I like knowing it’s done right, so we usually do it ourselves. We have a special tub for catching the oil (and our local solid waste collection site accepts fluids like oil.) We buy a new filter, five quarts of 5W30-50 (depends on the car; we use 10W whatever in the summer) and a replacement fuel filter. While we’re changing the oil, we check to make sure all the lights are working and that the battery is doing well. Being an electrician, Brad has meters for that. We also check the coolant in the radiator, which also requires a meter. While most people can get away with premixed coolant, here in Alaska we have to make sure the antifreeze can go down to at least 40 below, so we usually mix it ourselves. We check our tire treads in the spring to give us time to buy new tires if needed, but we check them again now just to be compulsive. This year we have a tire that needs repair as it has a slow leak. That could easily become a big leak as the cold hardens the rubber in the tires.

Then we check the engine heating devices. Because it gets so cold here, whenever your car is parked, you have to plug it into a headbolt heater. Mechanics insert a heating element into the engine through the headbolt. We also warm our oil pans with a glue-on heating pad. While not absolutely necessary, it can be helpful to also put the battery on a battery-warming plate. (I am personally not a fan of battery blankets, probably because my stepfather the mechanic had no use for them).

These devices usually run to a central cord that hangs out of the grill of the car. You plug it into an extension cord that runs to an outside outlet that, ideally, is connected to a timer so that it only comes on for a couple of hours before you leave. Ours comes on at 5 am. We also have an override so we can give the cars some heat before going to pick up kids in the evening. Of course, we have two of these timed plugins because we have two cars. At one time, we had three cars, so one person had to plug in inside the garage – by running a cord under the door and actually get up two hours before departure to manually plug her car into that outlet. She was young and overslept a lot, so her mom often did it for her.

To check the headbolt apparatus, I plug in the car when it’s still warm outside and check to see if the engine compartment gets warm within a half-hour. If it does, we’re probably good to go. Brad checks the industrial Arctic-grade extension cords for cracks annually and replaces the ends about once every two years. We check the timers to make sure they’re working, still keeping time, etc. We run the 20-foot extension cords behind the garbage cans because, should we forget to unplug the car, the cans will fall over as the extension cords uncoil. This acts as a warning that prevents us from dragging the cords down the street — which often results in destroying the cords, or in getting them wrapped around an axle, which can seriously damage the car.

A final step in prepping the engine involves wiring a piece of cardboard to the backside of the grill, blocking about three-quarters of the airflow. This keeps the engine from being too cold, allowing the interior heater to actually warm us up. Brad’s Jeep has a bra, but my car needs the cardboard.

We squirt graphite-based deicer in the locks, clean the windows, smear this anti-fog stuff on the inside to try to prevent frosting (it’s debatable if that actually works), cover the backseat with a blanket so the dog can enjoy car rides without getting frost-bitten, fill an auxiliary gas can with gas and put it in the trunk along with some survival gear (most especially jumper cables) and a couple of bottles of oil. We move the ice scraper with attached brush from the trunk to the back seat (we’re going to need it).

Starting right about now (mid-October), we’ll warm the car for about a half-hour before starting the engine and then we’ll let it run for a couple of minutes before backing out of the driveway. When true winter (defined as colder than 0 F) arrives (around Thanksgiving, but sometimes as early as Halloween), we’ll warm it for an hour and run it for five minutes before departure. When it drops to 20 below, we go to an hour-and-half or two hours of warming. I only usually let the car warm up for five or 10 minutes, although there are people who let their cars run until they’re warm inside. That wastes a lot of fuel, I am not convinced it is easier on the engine, and it sure adds a lot of pollutants to our atmosphere. I also wear clothes that suit the weather.

When I get to work, there is another extension cord waiting for me to plug into because that’s what’s needed to keep the car going around here. Brad carries one with him in his vehicle so that he can use clients’ plugins so his vehicle doesn’t freeze when he’s inside. It’s not uncommon when you visit friends for them to tell you where the extra plugin is, but if they don’t have one, you have to go outside about every two hours to run the car for a few minutes (10, 15) to keep the oil loose. There is a big move here to encourage employers and businesses to provide outlets. That would be nice for those times when you go to the movies or out to eat and you know you have to take care of the car every two hours or pay the consequences.

So, there you go. One piece of a larger puzzle for winter time prep here in Alaska.

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