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Kicked out of my garage and winter's coming

I live in upstate New York, where there is plenty of snow, ice and road salt. I’ve always been able to park overnight in a garage, but this winter I will be parking in an apartment parking lot. Are there any recommendations, tips or tricks that will help me get through the winter and keep my car in the best shape?

I’m especially interested it, (1) should I warm up the car? Normally I don’t, of course, but for my morning commute I drive 2 blocks and then get on the expressway at 65mph. And, (2) what about car washes? Should I wash frequently to get the salt off, or avoid washes because the water will freeze in the doors and underbody before it dries off? I’d like to keep this car for 10 years if possible.

Any other tips or tricks to survive the winter would be appreciated.

(2010 Ford Fusion, currently using conventional 5/20 oil)

I would not use the parking brake if the weather is freezing. The vehicle only needs to be warmed up for a couple of minutes in freezing weather and I would drive slowly the first 2 blocks. I would gently ease up to 65mph if there is no snow or ice. I never use the car wash in freezing weather. Keep some lock de-icer handy in case your door locks freeze and always carry a high quality windshield scraper. I install new heavy duty windshield wipers in late fall. Leave early for work if it’s snowing. You may need to use a shovel to dig out your Fusion.

You should be fine.

Are you experienced driving in snow and ice?

[i] (1) should I warm up the car?[/i]

Normally no.  You should start the engine and drive off at surface street speeds (35 mph) for the first couple of miles.  Idling is hard an a car.  It is better to drive than to let the car idle. 

[i] (2) what about car washes? [/i]

You will get different opinions, but I believe car washes create more problems than they fix.  

[i] 2010 Ford Fusion, currently using conventional 5/20 oil[/i]

Is that the weight oil recommended in the owner's manual?  If not use what is recommended. 

[i] Any other tips or tricks to survive the winter would be appreciated. [/i]

If this is your first experience in snow and ice, be very very careful.  If you have any doubt, slow down or don't drive.  There are times you should not drive.

Spray a rag down with an aerosol silicone lubricant and wipe it on the door seals. This will prevent the doors from freezing to the seals.

Purchase a jumper pack and keep it charged. If you ever come across a dead battery, you won’t have to wait around for a donor vehicle to give you a jump while holding the jumper cables in your hand. Just connect the jumper pack.

If there’s plug-in where you park, and the engine has any kind of heater, use it during extremely low temperatures when parked for long periods.


“I would not use the parking brake if the weather is freezing.”

If the parking lot is flat, I agree. But parking on a slope with the wheels rolling in the direction of the slope can result in the car rolling away if the pall gives way. the “Park” position in a car is not meant to be used this way. Also, in MD it is illegal to park without the engaging the parking brake. But I don’t know about NY.

My choice for a motor oil for this type of climate would be a 0W30 full synthetic, like Mobil 1. It will flow and pump at any weather upstate NY can dish out. Unless you have electric plug-ins for block heaters, which, I assume the building owners would not provide.

You can also buy flexible covers for your windshield which saves all that scraping in the morning when you’ve had one of theose lake-induced snow/oce storms.

Yes, that’s the recommended oil. I’ve lived here for 25 years, this is just the first year I will be parking outdoors every night. No engine heater, and no electric available (unless I run an extension cord from my unit).

My normal commute is only 0.3 miles on surface streets before I get on the highway. I could take an alternate route which is all surface streets. It’s actually a mile or two shorter but is longer in time, at least on non-winter days. I don’t know how effectively the two routes will be plowed.

I was thinking about a sheet or something for the windshield. Can I get these covers at an auto parts store or online?

Best thing to do is raise your blades before a snow/ice storm to prevent them from freezing to the glass…covers are great as long as they don’t freeze to the glass. Many more cars are left outdoors rather than garaged and there are few problems.

You don’t actually need to warm up the car for more than a few tens of seconds in order to protect the engine. But use a little common sense. If there is frost on the inside of the windshield – and there will be at times – run the car long enough to clear your vision so you can drive safely.

I don’t think there is much point in washing the car before Spring unless you can wash it in the apartment parking lot or the car wash is within a block of home. By the time you get home from the car wash, the car will be doused with salt water again.

While some will argue against it, I’d look into getting a remote starter for your vehicle. You could start it up a few minutes before you leave for work, provided you remember to set the temp and fan on high the night before, and get some of the ice/frost off the windshield before you head out. This will also allow the inside to be comfy when you get in to leave for work.
You might also look into getting windshield washer fluid that has a deicer in it as well.

The reason for not using the parking brake is because it can freeze up. If it does the only way to move the vehicle is with a tow truck.

In some ways, being parked outdoors in cold weather is better than having the car in a heted garage. The heated garage just speeds up the corrosive action of the road salt. As far as the engine is concerned, after starting the car, let theoil pressure come up to its normal level and then drive gently for the first couple of miles.
I would guess that you will be fine with the recommended 5W-20 oil. I started the Ford Maverick when it was parked outside and the temperature dropped to -25 F. It had 10W-40 oil in the crankcase. It fired right up. A modern car with fuel injection instead of a carburetor, electronic ignition rather than the old mechanical ignition points in the distributor and 5W-20 oil in the crankcase shouldn’t have any problems starting in upstate New York winters.

As far as washing the car is concerned, wait until the outside temperature is above freezing (32 degrees F) before having the car washed.