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Frozen car!

I have a 1980 Chevy Citation that had no anti-freeze in it when the weather hit this weekend. Unfortunately, I was out of town, and came home to a frozen car. I went out this morning to try to start it (that’s when I discovered it was frozen) and it fired right up, but because the water pump is full of ice, it didn’t turn, the belt screamed, and I shut it off. The block doesn’t appear to be damaged. My question is this: what’s the fastest way to thaw it?

Take off the fan belt and run the engine for a few minutes. Just run it long enough to warm it up a little since you will not be circulating coolant.

I would prefer putting a space heater or a heat lamp in the engine compartment. You may very well find that you have a cracked block and/or a popped freeze plug which isn’t leaking now because it’s frozen, but once it thaws and is subjected to any sort of coolant pressure will leak like crazy.

I hope you are lucky and get by with only minimal damage.

Keep in mind that we have not used anti-freeze in a car since before I was fist driving. It is call coolant because it’s primary job is to cool the engine. Modern coolant is more efficient at transferring heat than water and it also provide anti rust and corrosion properties and usually has a lube for the water pump.

I it can be a costly mistake to use water, even in an area where it will seldom if ever go below freezing.

I recommend not trying to run it until it’s thawed. Rent a space heater from an equipment rental facility (they rent them to construction crews) and use that to thaw it…slowly.

I hope you realize that by running the car on straight water you’re sacrificing the pump lubrication and corrosion inhibiting characteristics that are so critical to keeping an engine running well. And your boiling temperature is lower than it would be. You should be running an antifreeze mix in all weather conditions, not just in the cold.

I saw this happen to a brand new car back in 1962. The car was a Chevy II (later called a Nova). The dealer had forgotten to install the antifreeze. The water pump had to be replaced, but otherwise the car was fine.

I still call it antifreeze, but I agree with your post.

An Ounce Of Prevention (Or) … “The block doesn’t appear to be damaged.”

Most damaged blocks, don’t. See the Greasy Jack response for details. If you are lucky the freeze plugs took the hit.

The only way to do it is to tow it to a shop and have it warm up inside. If it can’t be done cheaply, the other methods apply.

Wait for warm weather.

I think this car is done but let us know otherwise.

Water expands when it freezes. You may first notice the effects after the thaw. I would not be surprised to hear the radiator cracked in one or more places.

That’s GREAT for getting the water in the block unfrozen…but NOT for the water in the radiator or hoses. In fact it’s probably the WORSE thing you can do. When the water in the pump does thaw and you put the belt back on and it tries to circulate the water it could easily start putting holes in things like the hoses or radiator.

The BEST solution is to use a space heater (may take a day)…or to tow it to a heated garage.

I have to ask…WHY would you ever run a car without antifreeze??? It’s not something I’d EVER consider.