Today I did some work on my mother’s car, to help prepare it for winter.
For those less familiar with some of the things many of us Canadians need to do to our vehicles so they better survive our winters, most vehicles here have, at the very least, a block heater. That’s all our van has. This prevents the oil from freezing and cracking the engine block.
We actually had that happen to us. We were living in Victoria, BC, which is temperate rainforest. Getting snow there is a rarity, and temperatures below -20C/-4F even rarer. An unexpected windfall meant we could afford to drive out to be with family for Christmas. We had no car of our own, so we rented one. My husband called several places and, at each one, told them that where we were planning to drive and asked for a car with a block heater. The typical response was “what’s a block heater?” So we took what we could and headed out, stopping for the night along the way. That night, temperatures plummeted and wind chills reached -61C/-77F. Amazingly, the car started the next morning, but we barely got back on the highway when it started making noises, so we stopped. This was in the days before cell phones, so my husband started to walk back to town, getting a ride from someone (thank God!) along the way, to get help. Long story short, the engine block had cracked (also, a 6 pack of pop on the floor of the back seat exploded. 😀 ) and by the time all was said and done, it cost the company some $5000.
A few years later, when we went back to rent a car there again, we learned our story had become legend in the company. Also, the franchise owner replaced his entire fleet, and all their cars now had block heaters.
So… yeah. These are essential.
If you ever see a vehicle with Canadian plates, and the end of a cord hanging out the hood, now you know what it’s for. 😀
My mother’s car, however, also has a battery warmer and, because it was used so little, my brother added a trickle charger, too.
All of which need to be plugged in.
The plug and cord for the block heater in newer vehicles are different. They don’t need to be on constantly to do that job so, to save power, the cord itself is designed to shut itself off about about 20 minutes, then if the temperature of the lines drop below a certain point, it turns itself on again.
When my brother set things up, he used an extension cord they could all plug into, tucked neatly away.
I needed to replace the extension cord.
He also had a wire around the battery warmer to hold it in place. However, with my mom’s car having so much work done in recent years, things got moved around. After the battery died while sitting at the garage for so long, it was taken out to be charged, but I guess the wire that had been around the warmer was forgotten. I was going to use Zip Ties to hold it, but they kept breaking, so I used a Bungee cord; the red that you can see around the battery.
This is the plug for the trickle charger, after I pulled the rest of it loose. As you can see, there’s no way to plug in the block heater or the battery warmer. My mother didn’t drive the car in the winter and, until we took over taking care of it, my brother stored it here at the farm and took the battery into the house for the winter.
Remember how I mentioned the extension cord used to be neatly tucked in, until work was done on the car?
This is why the cord needs replacing.
I had noticed an odd sound a while back (this was before we had the serpentine belt and pulleys replaced) and found a loop of it hanging down, touching the belt. Thankfully, it didn’t get caught, but there was enough contact for the friction to wear right down to the wire. In another spot, it had been caught between something tight enough to cut through two layers of plastic.
We had the same type of extension cord set up in the garage for our own van, so I was going to just switch them out. I had gotten to the point of trying to figure out how to fit the end, with all three plugs in it, in place when I realized something.
Our cord was much longer than the one I’d just taken out! There was no way I could safely tuck away any excess.
Since I couldn’t leave everything half done like that, I made a quick run into town. Of the 2 hardware stores, one was already closed, and I had less than an hour to get into the second one!
I have never seen an extension cord for block heaters before!
I could have done with shorter, but that was the shortest they had.
It took a fair amount of fiddling to find a way to lay the plugged in cords out.
More Zip Ties were used to keep things from slipping down, while the new extension cord was set up to exit at the other end.
At this point, I’m not bothering to hook up the trickle charger. It’s not needed right now.
The battery has nothing to indicate which side is positive and which is negative! Only by stretching to see the far side of the battery can I see which connector cable is red and which is black.
I’d used the slots for holding the battery cover in place for Zip Ties to hold the cord. Thankfully, that did not prevent me from being able to fasten the cover back into place.
I then dropped the hood a couple of times to make sure I could actually close it with the end of the extension cord sticking out.
For now, though, it’ll stay tucked away. When we get colder, I’ll hook up the trickle charger and leave the plug hanging out. A lot of public parking lots have outlets available, so an extension cord will be kept in the vehicle in case we want to plug it in while out and about, too.
Aside from that, my mother’s car is all set for winter. 🙂