What do I need to do to winterize my car?

It’s time to get your car winterized.

“I just moved here and have heard I need to do something to winterize my car. Also, someone said I need to plug it in. What’s that about? Can you help?” asked a member recently.

Yes, you will definitely need to plug in your car during the cold winter months. The plug you see coming out of the front of cars connects to heaters under the hood.

Local auto shops install winterization kits on cars for $300 to $600. In general, a winterization kit includes:

  • An engine block heater,
  • A battery pad heater,
  • An oil pan heater,
  • And a three-way cord with a lighted end (so you can plug in all of these heaters.)

Some auto shops may recommend a transmission oil pan heater in addition to the three heaters mentioned above. Others may recommend the transmission oil pan heater in lieu of the battery heater. The goal of these heaters is to keep the fluids in your engine fluid so they will cycle normally.

When installing the winterization kit, most auto shops will adjust your engine coolant by adding -60°F antifreeze.

In the Interior, the Fairbanks North Star Borough recommends plugging in vehicles when the temperature dips below 20° F. But your car does not need to be plugged in all the time. If you plugged it in all the time, your electric bill would skyrocket. For example, if you plugged in the average car 10 hours each night, it would cost $60 in electricity. Just two hours would cost $12 per month.

A car really only needs about two hours of plugged in time to warm up. Also, typically, it takes about two hours for a car to cool down after it has been running. If you plan to drive your car again within two hours, there is no need to plug in. When the temperature reaches 20 below or colder, you may want to increase the amount of time your car is plugged in, but generally not more than four hours.

GVEA recommends purchasing a vehicle plug-in timer. Instead of waking up two hours early to plug in your car, let the timer do it for you.
For more information about plugging in and timers, check out GVEA’s YouTube video.