Prepping a car for extreme temps

I live here in Indiana and while our winters can get cold its not really extreme colds. Well next week they are calling for highs around 0 and nights below zero. I was wondering what things I can or should do to help my van get through it and lessen my odds of breakdown.

Well, bertrand, we know you were a little behind on brake repairs so how is the engine’s coolant? It’s also called “antifreeze,” of course. At an auto parts store you can by cheap little antifreeze testers. They’re designed to tell you if the fluid in the system has the right proportion of chemical goo in it for protection. Get your hands on one of those testers and check it.

I forget what van you have, but there is a recommended oil weight. You’d rather not have a heavier weight oil in there than is called for given below zero temps.

Try to keep the gas tank full. Check the tire pressure. The colder it gets the lower it goes.

What kind of vehicle? What year? How many miles? And how old is the battery? Is it parked outside? All of these things have a huge effect on what our answers will be.

Main thing is test your battery and charging system, Obviously if your battery is older than 6-7 years old I would replace it no matter what if your really concerned.

Synthetic oil of proper weight WILL make your vehicle easier to start no matter what. It is not necessary but it will help.

Coolant should be good to 30 below.

Have your doors ever froze shut? Silicone or armor all or aerospace protect ant will prevent seals from freezing against your door.

There more, but more information is needed about the vehicle.

If your car is in good shape, there’s not much to do. If your battery is nearing the end of its life, this may be the time when it refuses to start the car. Is your windshield washer fluid rated for the expected temperature? Are your tires correctly inflated?

Put in new battery back in august, will be changing oil on monday and having all new breaks put on friday. Coolent levels look good. I have a 2002 Kia van at 165000 miles.

I have the normal windshield fluid its blue.

Have you tested coolant with an antifreeze tester? It should be ok, but if its ever had plain water added or improperly mixed antifreeze added your freezing point may not be ideal. Coolant testers are cheap, you should be able to pick up a decent one for 10-15 bucks.

Here’s the big one, How old is the timing belt? If its got 12 years and 165k on the original timing belt it will be a miracle if it don’t snap on a -20 cold start…

I knew a guy with a 99 Kia sephia, when it was new the first winter it would be almost impossible to start anything below -10. No one ever found anything, he used gas line antifreeze and continued to have problems. If it ever got that cold after that first winter, he would just leave it run.

Maybe it doesn’t get that cold in Korea?

hand or spray wax the door jambs where the door weather stripping touches. Also wipe silicon or a rubber lube on the weather stripping.

Replaced timing belt in 2011 at around 140000 miles and all the belts then also. My anti freeze mix has been an out 75-25 anti to water.

In addition to the good suggestions so far, let me add ; if you have done a good job maintaining your car year round and kept up with recommended services, it should be prepared well for winter where you live regardless of how the weather changes. The only exception, might be tires. We use RainX washer fluid which really cuts down the need for continual use. That would be my only additional. suggestion. 50/50 antifreeze mix has worked for me for over 40 years in Maine

Old school stuff, throw some heet into the gas and a trouble light under the hood for a little extra warmth.

Trouble light?

Also a question. …since the battery has water in it how does it not freeze?


You need to do a coolant drain and refill ASAP. Drain the radiator and the block. Might as well flush out the radiator with plain old water until it comes out clean.

You’ve most likely got “long life” coolant, but it’s supposed to be replaced every 5 years. I recommend a 50-50 mixture. Half antifreeze. Half distilled water.

You’re overdue by a few years

While you’re at it, also replace the cap and the thermostat

@bertrand, the water in the battery is diluted with sulphuric acid and the freezing point is in the neighborhood of 30-70 below on a half or fully charged battery. A dead or heavily discharged battery can freeze at temps well above zero so a battery tender might not be a bad idea if the vehicle is left unused for certain periods of time.

Regarding the oil change, make sure that the proper weight of oil is used for the temperatures as too heavy an oil could cause starting problems.

You can have all of that winter weather. At the current time here, the wind is howling, ice and snow is going sideways, everything is frozen, and I’m wishing that I lived at the equator… :slight_smile:

What would be the best weight oil wise should I have the use.

Use the viscosity listed in your owner’s manual

But use full synthetic

75/25 (3:1) antifreeze to water mix, who did this? You can get a simple ball tester for the antifreeze for about a buck, a better gauge only runs $4 or $5 last time I checked. None of them goes to a 3:1 ratio though as that is way too high for ethylene glycol. If you are using the less toxic propylene glycol, you can go that rich or richer, but you need a different tester for that.

If you are using ethylene glycol at a 3:1 ratio, and you can confirm this, then you should drain a little coolant out of your system and replace it with distilled water to get it down to at least a 2:1 ratio. Above 2:1, the freeze point actually goes up, not down. Be sure to drive around to get it all mixed up.

If you had the water pump replaced with the timing belt, then the coolant should be fresh enough and not need replacement.

Nope didnt have the water pump replaced when belt was replaced. Dealership said it didnt need to be replaced and didnt have the monies anyway.

If that water pump is driven by the timing belt as a lot of them are, then your dealer did not give good advice, but the risk is actually a lot lower than some people would have you believe. Get it next time though. Maybe your water pump is driven by the accessory belt instead, in which case the dealer was right.