COLD CAR CARE: 6 tips to keep motorists moving - FOX 10 News |

COLD CAR CARE: 6 tips to keep motorists moving

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With dangerous temperatures and wind chills covering the state, staying warm and safe is the main priority for man Minnesotans -- but the cold can take a toll on cars and leave motorists stranded.

The sub-zero cold can be brutal on vehicles, especially older ones. Without a doubt, being stuck somewhere with a suddenly stationary car is no fun -- something Fox 9's Bill Keller found out when he had to jump start his truck with a snowmobile on the Gun Flint Trail while the thermometer read -30.

In the Twin Cities, there's better access to help -- and a lot of people have needed it so far. On Sunday alone, AAA responded to a total of 862 calls for service, which is about 100 more than their average. They're expecting that number will rise as the temperature continues to drop.

For those who plan to drive to the office on Monday morning, there are some ways to increase the odds that your car will start.

1. Go for the garage

Wind chills can suck the heat straight out of a warm engine and leave motor oil thick and more difficult for an engine to cope with. In the end, that also puts more strain on a battery that is already battling the elements.

Even an unheated garage will provide a buffer from the blustery winds, so while it may be a little longer walk to the back door, those few steps could keep you from spending several frustrating minutes with a car that can't contend with the conditions.

2. Use an engine block heater

For those who don't have a garage, an engine block heater can help take over some of the duties of warming up during extreme winter chills.

When temperatures drop to -20, the devices that only require a simple electronic plug can provide the extra bit of juice to heat up an engine block and help it turn over by keeping oil warm and helping the heater pick up the pace.

"[Oil] is like molasses, and the thicker it is, the harder it is for that engine to crank over because it's pulling all this heavy oil up," Drew Landaeta, of Bobby & Steve's Autoworld, explained.

3. Buy a new battery, or pamper the one you've got.

Anyone who doesn't remember when they last replaced their car battery would probably do well to replace it, because they don't last forever and the harsh cold could be what causes an old one to give up the ghost.

"Three to five years is about the average age for a battery to fail in this climate, and that's the number one thing," Dmitry Zelenskiy, of AAA, told Fox 9 News.

Yet, even a battery that has a long life ahead of it can struggle in subzero temps, so bringing it inside for the night is a good way to make sure Mother Nature won't make you late.

4. Fill 'er up.

Getting to a gas station and topping up the tank is a good way to make sure that fuel won't freeze, and it helps prevent the flammable vapor from condensing or worse, turning into to crystals.

A good general rule to follow is to avoid going below a quarter of a tank any time the temperature takes a dip below zero.

5. Top off tires.

The physics of air pressure can put a car in park on cold days because for every 10 degrees the temperature drops, tires can lose about 1 pound of pressure per square inch.

Maintaining correct air pressure in cold weather is a challenge because air contracts the colder it gets, which also means that it will expand once temperatures rise again. So, it's important to check tire pressure regularly to make sure it's in the recommended pressure range.

6. Acquire some antifreeze.

Although keeping an engine cool obviously isn't a Minnesotan's main concern right now, the water that keeps engines from overheating can freeze. Antifreeze will lower the freezing point of the coolant, and there are also antifreeze products for fuel lines.

"A lot of people already talked about if they're going to call in 'cold' tomorrow, so I'm preparing -- getting my Heet," Shayla Perkerewicz said.

Of course, even the most-prepared person can find themselves in an accident they never could have planned for. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety published an information pamphlet on how to survive in a car if the worst should happen. More information can be found below.


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