10 Quick Tricks For Getting Warm In a Freezing Vehicle

Freezing temps are not only uncomfortable, but they really can be dangerous to you and your outdoor buddies and family.



Colorado, USA -(Ammoland.com)- Outside of living in a few western or eastern sunshine states, most will agree that we’ve had some really cold winter temperatures.

I keep asking Al Gore to send us some of that Global Warming, but my e-mails have thus far… gone unanswered.

When it’s cold outside, I mean sub-freezing and sometimes down to -25 degrees… as it does here in the high mountains of Colorado, getting inspired to get your hunting or fishing vehicle started and warmed up for an outdoor adventure is sometimes a daunting task.

Asking my wife or my outdoor buddies to help with that, while I am feigning a limp or bad back…, nearly always falls on deaf ears.

Automotive lesson #101 is also a simple rule of physics. Mechanical parts (metal, plastic or composites) that have to move, twist, turn or rotate in extremely cold temperatures are rarely “happy campers.” Add in that your vehicle’s heater is not working properly or feels like it takes until summer to warm up, and even the best planned winter journey can be a cold and miserable start from home to your final destination. Sometimes, it can even be life-threatening.

Here are a few tips for taking the chill off your next sub-freezing expedition.

1) Start your vehicle a good 10-15 minutes before you plan on piling in or loading everyone up. Even if your heater is not working, firing up the engine and adding the heat under the hood with the heater/fan turned on will add a few degrees to the inside of the vehicle.

2) Check your radiator for anti-freeze fluids. Running just water in your radiator is a big mistake! Make sure that you are running the right mix of water to anti-freeze fluid so that they circulate properly. If you don’t, you can actually overheat your engine with the frozen water, especially if the temps are below zero.

3) Install a block heater on your engine. They range in costs from $50-$250 depending on your vehicle type and the quality and brand of the block heater purchased. The block heater plugs into a household outlet and warms the engine and vital fluids even when the temps turn “nasty cold.” In addition to helping the engine components work better and with less wear, it will help the engine heat up more quickly and actually assist in warming the passenger compartment.

Several models are available, including some that use powerful magnets to attach to the engine block, oil pan or intake manifold. They can be pulled off once the vehicle is warmed up, and save a lot of money versus those requiring permanent installation.

4) Use/install a remote starting system. Push the button to start the vehicle 10-15 minutes before venturing out in the cold. Many newer vehicle models come with this feature as standard equipment or as an option. Even older vehicles can be “retrofitted” with a remote start.

5) Park your vehicle in the garage. It may seem obvious, but if your sportsman’s vehicle is usually delegated to park out in the elements, think about moving it inside the night before your trip. Inside garages, even if not heated are often a few degrees higher in temperature than those in the parking lot or great outdoors. If nothing else, you won’t have to deal with blustery “wind chill,” spend time scraping ice/snow or digging it out before you leave. If a garage isn’t an option, park your vehicle facing the east, and in a place where the morning/rising sun gets a chance to let Mother Nature help warm the vehicle a little.

6) Invest in a 12-volt heater. Available at most all auto supply stores and even truck stops, these inexpensive heaters will plug into your old cigarette lighter (now termed auxiliary 12-volt outlet) and can make the passenger area toasty warm before you have to get out in the cold. It’s best to use these heaters once your engine has started.

Many will work even without starting the engine, but make sure you don’t drain your battery!

7) Power inverter and space heater. While not ideal, a power inverter system (built into the vehicle, or a truck-stop accessory) can take the 12 volt DC power from your vehicle’s battery and convert it to 110 volt AC power. In plainer words, you can start your engine, turn on the inverter and plug in a regular household space heater. Just be very, very careful to make sure it does not overheat/melt anything on the floorboard or other parts of the vehicle.

Propane heaters like you might use in a work shed, duck blind or ice hut should NOT be used. There is a real and too much danger of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning!

8) Vehicle seat warmers. Seat warmers are cheap and nearly universal in fitting most bucket seats. If you have passengers in the rear bench-type seats, you can also get seat blankets. A 12-volt splitter or two may look a little goofy with wires running around the inside area, but for the sake of warmth, that is soon forgotten! If all else fails, huddle and cuddle with some blankets from the house.

9) Chemical hand/body warmers. Not real high-tech, but they actually can help out in a pinch by putting them under your arms, down between your legs, in your boots and across the back of your neck. Keep a handful of them stored in your glove box.

10) Warming up your “insides.” A big mug or thermos full of hot drinks such as coffee, tea, or hot chocolate can also aid in the process of taking away the chill from the inside out. Also, eating spicy foods before heading to your vehicle is another way to toast-up. In the winter, there are advantages to being a “pepper belly!

The bottom line with cold and frigid temps and trying to get your vehicle warm is that it is not only uncomfortable but can be hazardous to your health and anyone else in the vehicle as well. Hypothermia can set in within minutes, and a 3-degree F drop in body temperature can cause severe/uncontrollable shaking and disorientation. If it continues, it can kill you! Once it starts, it can take hours to recover and totally mess up whatever outdoor adventure plans you may have had.

Stay warm, my friends…

Andy Lightbody is a TV/Video producer and host, as well as an outdoor writer/photographer. Lightbody is the former Managing Editor for Western Outdoors Magazine; Senior Editor at Petersen’s Hunting Magazine and Editor of the Guns & Ammo Book Division.

He remains an avid shooter, hunter and angler, as well as a regular contributor to the Sportsman’s Warehouse publication-Sportsman’s News Magazine. Visit Rocky Mountain Television/Productions : www.rmtv.net

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I pack an action packer box with extreme cold mittens , baffin or bunny boots Extra parka , winter carhartt bibs wool gloves , mittens , trapper hat either on my head or in front seat . Of course a 40S&W or 454 casull ammo. Thats my driving out of Anchorage or its -10f or colder. I live in coldest part in 2001 it was -34f nothing would start even plugged in . 4 vehicles dead , got 1 going by changing oil to synthetic . Another I put charcoal in a metal container (trash can lid) and when it… Read more »

Mike L

If you’re going to put your car in the garage, you shouldn’t start it remotely and run it for 10-15 minutes before getting into it. The exhaust fumes ill kill you. And if your garage is attached to your house, even worse.