Cold car after the weekend.
January 31, 2007 4:58 PM   Subscribe

Oh no! We're going to freeze this weekend, and my car will be in an Amtrak parking lot! How can I guarantee that my trusty Volvo 240 will start when I come back on Wednesday?

I'm heading up to Minneapolis on the Empire Builder this weekend, and it just so happens that there is a very cold air mass coming in from Canada (damn you Canada! I suppose this is what we get for global warming, right?). My car will be parked in the parking lot of an Amtrak station over the weekend and on to Wednesday, when I return. I'm worried that my car battery will get cold enough to not push enough electrons to start the engine.

What can I do to make sure that I can leave when I get back to my car?

PS: To those that have followed my previous threads, I plan on moving to Minneapolis within a year. My boss likes me though so it'll be a tough sell.
posted by yellowbkpk to Technology (19 answers total)
That's not really that cold, your car should have no problem starting. As long as your battery isn't already dying, you should be fine. I'm in Canada and get temperatures far colder than that all the time, the only thing that happens is that you get a longer crank time before the engine starts.
posted by Sonic_Molson at 5:11 PM on January 31, 2007

Make sure you have a good set of jumper cables in the trunk (good, heavy-gauge ones, not $10.99 Wal-Mart specials) and several cell-phone numbers of friends with cars.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:16 PM on January 31, 2007

It's common here to leave blankets under the bonnet to keep the engine wrapped up. However, this is Britain, and we don't get the serious cold the US or Northern Europe gets. If it's super cold, that probably won't help much.
posted by bonaldi at 5:20 PM on January 31, 2007

Response by poster: I feel silly for asking this. Now that you mention it, that isn't all that cold at all.

Thanks guys. I will make sure my jumpers are in the boot.
posted by yellowbkpk at 5:31 PM on January 31, 2007

unless you *really* need to keep the stereo presets, disconnect the battery. Any small draws (radio, whatnot) won't draw it down at all.

one drawback to this is if you have to get the vehicle emissions inspected any time in the next month or so. Some computers will not give an "emissions ok" signal to the testing station until after a large number of keycycles.
posted by notsnot at 5:32 PM on January 31, 2007

DryGas, to keep your fuel line open.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:41 PM on January 31, 2007

The typical battery spec'd for a 240 is many times larger than it needs to be for the teeny tiny 4 cylinder engine that resides in the huge engine bay. My '84 240 sedan started every day in all temperature extremes up until 3 years ago when I finally retired it out of boredom, not because it died. It's sitting in my parents driveway, waiting for someone to do something nice with it, or junk it. It still starts every time I come home and work on it. My family has had 80s and 90s 240s for almost my entire life, and never had an issue with cold battery starts.

If it ices or snows, you very well may have issues with the brake calipers freezing to the discs, but battery fears are rather unfounded in my experience.

My '03 Mazda Protege5, on the other hand, seems to be a bit lethargic starting up when it's really, really cold out -- even with a new battery.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 5:57 PM on January 31, 2007

you can buy one of those auto jumpers and keep in the trunk. Here's some as an example.
posted by bleucube at 6:28 PM on January 31, 2007

Your car will probably be fine. Do make sure you have some good jumper cables though. If you're due for a new battery any time soon and have some spare time, you could have it changed. But you should probably be fine as long as your battery isn't very old.

Unrelatedly, you should listen to the song Empire Builder, by Mason Jennings.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 7:24 PM on January 31, 2007

nthing the "you'll be fine" sentiment. The two things to watch are that your battery is ok (and this is a short period of time, if it's recent (less than 5 years old) it'll be fine), and that your radiator has a healthy 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water. If it's too much on the water side, it'll freeze.

Hey, that Lisp programming finally came in handy somewhere.
posted by knave at 8:04 PM on January 31, 2007

One of my cars is a 240 wagon that sees little use these days (the 850 does the bulk of the wookie-hauling). Two weeks ago it was encased in two inches of ice. It sat for a week in -5 to 5 degree weather before i chiseled my way into it.

It started right up. A Volvo will never let you down.
posted by sourwookie at 8:10 PM on January 31, 2007

Remember to keep at least 1/4 - 1/2 tank of gas. If you leave a car on empty in very cold weather you may run the risk of it freezing.
posted by any major dude at 9:33 PM on January 31, 2007

Remember to keep at least 1/4 - 1/2 tank of gas. If you leave a car on empty in very cold weather you may run the risk of it freezing.

This is not something to worry about. I can't imagine anyone I know being concerned about it, and temps get colder here than anywhere in the US.

Generally you don't need to worry about anything until temps dip below -20 C. Around here, lots of people don't plug in their vehicles until -25 C. If your car is sitting for several days at a time or if it's a POS and you want to be safe, cut those temps in half.
posted by smorange at 12:13 AM on February 1, 2007

Those numbers are morning temps, by the way, not overnight lows, which is why you have nothing to worry about.
posted by smorange at 12:30 AM on February 1, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks guys. Someone at work suggested I park the car facing south (which I do anyway), but otherwise I won't worry about it.

The Mason Jennings song is very appropriate. Thanks gauchodaspampas.
posted by yellowbkpk at 5:20 AM on February 1, 2007

Just leave it in your garage and take a cab/bus to the station. Based on your coordinates, Route 12 will take you pretty close - it's just a short walk from Wisconsin Ave to the station. A cab ride from that area is probably around $20 one-way, but then you don't have to drag your luggage anywhere.
posted by desjardins at 6:25 AM on February 1, 2007

As a ten year veteran of Volvo 240s, I can assure you it'll be fine. Make sure your battery's strong, but it gets way, way colder than that in Sweden. Seriously.
posted by pullayup at 7:22 AM on February 1, 2007

Whoa! Calm down. Many of us live with this every winter. You want assurances? Go to a local auto parts store and ask them to test your battery. If it fails the test, put in a new one.
posted by kc0dxh at 10:57 AM on February 1, 2007

Every car I've had has started with little hesitation at -25C. 0C is nothing to be concerned about. Give it a little gas if you need to but make sure not to flood it.
posted by loiseau at 1:43 PM on February 1, 2007

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