Alberta & BC Rockies Vehicle Engine Maintenance - Starting Car in Winter
Even on modern reliable cars, frost still forms on the windshield, door locks ice up, batteries run down and seats take longer to warm up. While drivers can't do anything about the weather, you can make small changes in your morning routines to make winter car trips less numbing.
- Use your garage if you have one. It may be okay to park the family vehicle outside during the summer, but clear the garage and park the car inside in the winter.
- If you must park outside, look at your vehicle first thing in the morning. Is there snow piled on the roof? Are the windows covered with frost? Is it possible the door locks are iced over? Will you need some extra time to get underway this morning?
- If the door locks are frozen, fill a small container with lukewarm water and pour it on the lock to melt enough ice away to insert a key and unlock the door. You'll damage your paint job if you try to chip the ice away with your key. (And, pouring hot water on windows may crack them.)
- If the car is covered with snow, using a brush. Deal with clearing frost or ice from the windows later.
- Start the car, keeping the transmission in park, with parking brake set. If the vehicle is indoors, open the garage door so carbon monoxide can escape. Switch the heater to the defrost setting and turn on the rear window defroster, if you have one.
- You might go back inside and have a hot beverage for five minutes, while the vehicle begins to warm up and clears the windows. You should have an extra key so you can lock the car doors, so it won't be an easy temptation for car thieves (some municipalities now have an anti-idling bylaw to prevent this temptation0
- When you go back outside, remove the remaining ice or frost from the windows with an ice scraper. Once the windows are clear, you are ready to begin your trip.
- Never drive with windows not fully cleared of ice or snow, or struggle in traffic through still-foggy windshields.
One of the most common and frustrating problems encountered during cold weather is battery failure (see Electrical & Battery). To ensure your battery will start reliably on cold mornings is to have it tested by a reliable repair shop, especially if the battery is more than two years old.