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Warming Vehichle - in the Arctic

I?ve read your comments on warming a vehicle during the winter. However, the trouble is that I live in Iqaluit, Nunavut way up on Baffin Island. Here, during winter temperature are routinely between -22F and -40F and the wind is generally between 10-20mph (for simplicity, I?ve kept everything to standard units). In the three years that I lived here, the coldest I?ve seen it was -70F with the wind.

I recently inherited a 2004 Chevy Suburban, and I was wondering if you had any guidance if and for how long one should warm their car, plug in their battery blanket and block heater at different levels of ?extreme? cold (i.e. below -40F, between -40F to -30F, between -30 to -20F?)

Furthermore, beyond using a block heater, battery heater, synthetic fluids, leaving and/or selling it, would you recommend any other maintenance/driving habits to extend the life of a vehicle.

Qujannamiik (thanks in Inuktitut),


First off…Tom and Ray don’t answer here…you just have us.

Second…Wind Chill only determines how fast an object will cool…NOT how cold it will get. If you take a glass of water and put it outside when the temps are 35 degrees…but the wind-chill brings it down to 20…that glass of water will NEVER freeze.

As for what you should do it those EXTREME temps…Everything you mentioned. Definitely use a block heater…I’d also use FULL synthetic 0-20 or 0-30. Battery blanket is probably a good idea. I’d also switch you tranny fluid, differential oil and transfercase oil to full synthetic also.

After you start the truck…let it idle for a couple of minutes…and when do start to move…take it slow for first couple of miles.

The best answers to your questions are going to come from local folks who have experience in these very extreme temperatures. MikeinNH covered the fluids pretty well.

After getting the motor running, let it run for a minute or so. Once the motor is running smoothly you can put it in gear and go, slowly. The heat from the motor isn’t going to do much to warm up the rest of the parts, ie transmission, wheel bearings etc. Basically once the motor is running smoothy you can put it gear and wait a bit for the transmission to engage. Once you feel the transmission is in gear just drive off very gradually and keep the speed slow like about 15 to 20 mph for a couple of minutes then gradually increase your speeds.

I don’t see how driving the Suburban at slow speeds and easily for the first few minutes harms anything and the motor and car will warm up faster if it is moving.

Be very careful with anything plastic in such extreme temperatures. Plastic knobs, bumpers, and interiors panels will break very easily in extremely cold weather. I picked up a brief case made of plastic (leather imitation stuff) in -20 degree weather and it just cracked and fell apart in pieces.

Markoosie; good advice so far. I spent some time in Inuvik, NWT and -50 there was not unusual. We had 0W30 synthetic in our Suburban, synthetic transmission and differentail fluids, and block heaters of course. A 0W20 oil for a 2004 V8 Suburban is too light.

No trouble starting, but since you don’t drive much or far in the winter, I recommed a fitted radiator cover with small windows that open for faster driving. That way you get quicker engine warmup and good output from the heater.

Plug it in at least 2 hours when it is that cold. And drive off aslowly since the transmission has to warm up as well. Some of my colleagues even had transmission heaters.

For personal comfort, we also had in-car heaters.

With the price of power there, you don’t want all this plugged in overnight!

I live in ND and we see temperatures that low, I glad that it doesn?t happen more than a week or two every year. On my full sized truck I have two block heaters and never have any trouble starting. I wait until I get a little heat in the truck before I start off, then drive slow until I get up to operating temperature. I just plug my truck in when I go to bed it.

As far as maintenance, check everything before winter, change or repair anything that is questionable, trust me standing in the middle of nowhere trying to fix something or waiting for help isn?t fun and can be deadly.

Take it easy on plastic parts when it gets that cold, check tire pressure often, also keep a survival kit in the truck at all times, it can be a lifesaver.

My opinions are subject to change with new facts.

Having been stationed in North Dakota for three years, let me add one other suggestion: put a piece of corrogated cardboard over the front of the radiator. The engine will never reach operating temperature if you don’t.

I live in North Pole and we have similar weather with virtually no wind. My advice is if the vehicle is an automatic park the vehicle so that you don’t have to put the car in reverse when you take off first thing. If you have ever overhauled an automatic transmission you would understand. Also one of those silicone heaters siliconed to the engine pan and the transmission pan would not hurt. My experience with battery blankets is that they do more damage to the battery than they prevent. As long as a battery is fully charged and in good condition cold temperature is not an issue. Can’t wait for electric cars in the arctic.

Get your anti freeze mix as close as you can to 2 parts anti freeze, 1 part water. No more, no less.

Mark, if you have lived there for 3 years, then YOU are the expert, not us…

At those temperatures, you don’t “warm up” a vehicle. You never let it get cold. If you do, it’s all over until next Spring…

Besides, where are you going to go??

use a dipstick heater along with you other stuff.