When should you start plugging your car in for the winter?
October 23, 2020
According to experts, while most drivers know how to plug their car in during the winter, few do it. Although it may seem like an unnecessary task that you may not want to do in freezing temperatures, a few extra seconds in the cold is better than getting stuck and having to wait for roadside assistance.
Why do you need to plug in your car in the winter?
Many drivers assume that newer vehicles do not need to be plugged in but that is not the case. Cold temperatures are very hard on your car’s engine if the bock heater was not plugged in.
There are almost twice as many roadside assistance calls for battery problems in the winter as there are in the summer. Car batteries are much more likely to fail in the winter because of the cold. A weak battery might be ok all summer long, but if you do not plug in your car in cold temperatures, it may not start with a weak battery.
Not only is plugging in your car easier on your engine and battery, but it also helps reduce emissions. According to Natural Resources Canada, plugging your car in will reduce your fuel consumption by 15% for the first 20 km you drive.
What is a block heater?
When your vehicle’s engine is running, the moving parts in the engine block are lubricated with oil. Cold temperatures make the oil (and other fluids) in your car thicker and it is harder for it to lubricate the engine, which then has to work harder, wearing out its parts.
A block heater is an electric heater in your car’s engine that keeps the engine and fluids warm. Plugging it in helps your car run smoothly in the cold. All you need to do is find the plug and plug it into an extension cord leading to an electrical outlet.
You need a block heater if you use non-synthetic oil or park outside in temperatures below –10 C.
When do you need to start plugging in your car in the winter?
It's recommended that you start plugging your car in once temperatures are at –15 C or lower. Your car should be plugged in for at least four hours before driving.
Tips for plugging your car in and preventing a dead battery
Test your battery regularly, especially after it is three years old.
In Canada, batteries tend to last about 3 to 6 years.
Watch for signs that your battery is weak. These include the engine being slow to turn over and your headlights dimming when idling.
If you are not going to be driving for a while, use a battery tender to make sure your car will start when you start driving again.
Make sure the cord you use for plugging your car in is suitable for outdoor use and check it for damage.
If you do not want to get up four hours before you need to leave in the morning, you can leave your car plugged in overnight but plugging it in for more than for hours does not provide additional benefits and will increase your electricity bill. You can use a block heater timer to prevent this.
Make sure to have an emergency kit in your vehicle.