Garage vs Outside


I live in Fairbanks Alaska where the long winter temperatures are quite harsh. I would like your opinion whether it is better for the vehicle to be parked in a heated garage or left outside in the winter. Condensate formed inside the PCV valve, damaging it and ultimately causing serious oil leaks through various gaskets (here, humidity levels are higher inside the building than out). This was a consequence of parking inside that I did not anticipate and now I am not certain what option will best prolong the life of my vehicle. Thoughts?


Parking in a heated garage will accelerate the rusting process, so I would advise against putting a car in a heated garage.

But, how about putting it in an unheated garage? At least that way, you don’t have to scrape the windshield in the A.M., you don’t have to clear snow off of the roof, hood and trunk, and it is slightly warmer in there if the garage is attached to the house. If it is raining, you just walk from the house to the car without getting wet, as long as it is an attached garage.

I am really glad that I don’t have to park my car outside!


Traveling through Canada I was struck by the number of carports. Though Alaska would get my vote a heated garage, we have been very happy with a large carport added to the front of our garage. Great for keeping car frost free (yes, frost travels down like rain) and free from summer sun. Great for rain or shine parties and the boats and Kabota get the garage, which is the way it should be…One big vote for a carport and heater.


Yea, but how do you keep the mosquitos from carrying it away. :slight_smile:


Having spent some time in the North, I think it is definitely better to have your car inside. It will be necessary to get the car really warmed up before you park it. When gasoline burns, for every gallon of fuel you get one gallon of condensate, which mostly goes out the exhaust, but some will slip past the rings and condense in the crankcase.

When you park outside this consdensate will form ice, and plug up your PCV system and blow the crankcase seals or pop the oil filler cap. A car with piston blowby is better off inside than outside. Other items on the car age much quicker outside, and in really cold weather you will have to heat the engine, transmission, and even the oil pan to ensure smooth starts and minimize wear.

This condensate even forms in the lower 48 from short trip stop & go driving, mostly by senior citizens.

If I were you, I would:

  1. Check the engine compression; if you have excessive blowby, the engine should have new rings.

  2. Drive the car until the engine is thoroughly warmed up before shutting it off.

  3. Change oil frequently; use the “severe service” interval for changing oil & filter.

  4. At work, plug the car in, I assume you have a block heater to keep the engine warm.

Your condensation problem will not disappear by parking outside; it might be worse. My mother-in-law lives near Buffalo, NY, parksa outside, and her son drives the car fast on the freeway on a regular basis to blow out the condensation. So your problem is not unique to Alaska; it’s just that the condensation is more likely to plug the PCV system and blow your seals.

Hope this helps you decide!


Just set the heat in the garage to -20 F.


ehelme, I park cars for extended periods of time in a garage in a northern midwest location in the lower 48 in both the summer and in the winter. My brakes would rust so as to lock the car in place which required some additional throttle to break away. Also, my clutch rusted one time so badly that it would slip on acceleration on the freeway. It scrubbed clean after some use before which I thought that my clutch needed replacement. Better garage ventilation was the solution. Moisture can move through a concrete floor. If I had to install a new concrete floor, I’d use a plastic sheet moisture barrier at the bottom as additional insurance.


I’d park it in a heated garage.

Doing this allows the engine to cool down more slowly after shutdown. This gives more time for any moisture in the crankcase to evaporate. Where when parked outside during cold weather, the engine cools much faster. This can cause any moisture still evaporating from the crankcase to freeze inside the PCV system.

As far as the body rusting? Todays vehicles are pretty well protected from rust. Just wash the thing every once and awhile.

Besides, you like scrapping windows in the morning?



I would park it in the heated garage and get a dehumidifier.


Dehumidifiers do not work when the coils freeze up. Even down around 50 or 60 degrees, they freeze up and stop working.


Condensate in the PCV wasn’t caused by parking inside. It happens everywhere there is cold, inside or not. You are much better off parking in the heated garage. Your vehicle has an engine and transmission and oil and gear lube, wheel bearing grease and a battery and starter. Your gas mileage will improve if you don’t have frozen lubricants. Your battery will last longer. To hell with the body, it’s going to go there anyway.



Heard from my brother who’s visited there several times…

Alaska doesn’t have a SINGLE Mosquito

They’re all married with LARGE families.


I don’t like putting a car in a heated garage. It really promotes rust. Having grown up in the Rust Belt I’ve seen it many times. Best is to keep the car in a UNHEATED garage. Far better for the body of the car.


We are talking about a heated garage, aren’t we?


If they use salt on the roads, you want to keep the car below the freezing point of the road slime until you get a chance to wash it off. Otherwise, a heated garage shouldn’t pose a problem from a rust standpoint.

The cost to heat the garage, on the other hand…


And how do you get the car from the carwash to the heated garage without getting salt on it. I seriously doubt Fairbanks Alaska does NOT use road salt.


My vote is for a carport, with a plug in engine heater.

When I lived in North Dakota, which also has extreme temperatures, I learned that in climates of extreme prolonged cold the mechanicals of the car wear out before the metal rusts. Rust doesn’t grow when temperatures are below zero, but all the mechanical parts suffer. They change size and shape, and lubricants including the tranny and differential (we all had RWD cars back then) turn to the viscosity of wet concrete mix.

I also learned what it’s like to sit on a frozen solid block of what was designed to be seat foam every morning at temperatures well below zero. So I guess I really couldn’t argue with the relative comfort of a heated garage.


Agree; my National Geographic Atlas says the mean High temperatue in Fairbanks in January is -2F and the mean low is -20F. Salt is not effective at these temperatures, and Fairbanks is not exactly in a soggy climate like the Great Lakes rust belt! Non of the rust belt recommendations apply here.

In that kind of cimate indoor parking is by far preferred. The best way to avoid engine condensation is to not let it happen in the first place; I would even plug in the block heater in inside the garage, so as to have a warm engine right off. Then run it enough during the day to have it warm before parking it at night. That way the excess moisture is dispelled from the PCV sytem. At the office during the day I would have the car plugged in all the time.

In summary, ehelme, I think your problems were most likey due to not getting the engine warm enough during your daily driving. As mentioned in my previous post, the problem occurs in the Lower 48 as well. If you keep the engine warm by plugging in the block heater, and running it enough to get rid of the condensation, you will be OK.

As others mention, parking outside will make your whole car wear out much faster.


Install an in-the-block engine heater either in the garage or outdoors. Set the heater on a grounded prong outdoor-rated timer. Set the timer to turn on about 3 hours before you plan to leave. Pull the female extension cord and male heater plugs apart. Start, let warm up OUTDOORS for a minute or two. These in-the-block heaters replace one of your engine block freeze plugs. Directions come with the block heater. They use from 100-250 watts. You can set the off time for any time that you want. If you’re unplugged, the only thing drawing juice is the timer motor. When you get home at night, plug the block heater back in to the extension cord. Just ensure that everything is rated for outdoor use. MUCH less expensive than using any kind of fossil fuel to heat the garage. Your electric bill will go up, maybe $10/month or thereabouts, but what’s your vehicle worth? In the middle of the Rockies, in the middle of Colorado, at 8,868 ft. above sea level, I have block heaters in my old beater '71 Chevy van, S.O.'s '89 Toyota All-Trac, '92 Olds Cutlass Ciera, and in my '56 Allis-Chalmers WD-45 farm tractor. Whatever we’re driving the next day gets plugged in the night before. One side benefit: quicker heat in the cabin without setting there 5 minutes waiting for everything to warm up. Ask your parts store for appropriate model of block heater. Instructions are straight forward, the biggest hassle being draining the engine block to get the appropriate freeze plug out. If you’re parked in the garage, when you first start up, just pull the vehicle out of the garage while it idles for a minute or two. That’ll give other engine/transmission fluids a chance to start circulating properly and keep you from being asphyxiated.


Thank you very much for your comment. I have concluded it is still better to park inside although it’s reassuring to learn that doing so does not necessarily increase the likelihood of PCV issues. And it’ll be easier to see when there’s a problem, as evidences by the drops on the garage floor.

Thanks again.