Saturday, 11 February 2012

Big-freeze drive

A sudden attack of winter is probably the best incentive for some people to tidy up their garages and find there enough room to park their vehicles. The rest, who don’t have garages, use their garages as lumber-rooms or have too small garages to keep their cars, have their vehicles put to the test by the cold weather. Below is a coverage of how my car, almost nine-year-old Renault Megane (runs on petrol), kept for the first winter outside a garage, has borne up the recent big freeze.

Friday, 27 January 2012
06:50 / -13C
Engine starts obediently, something near the clutch squeaks when I pull out or change gears. The unpleasant noise ceases when engine warms up.
17:50 / -11C
Fires up like a dream, oil in the gearbox is a bit thick.

Saturday, 28 January 2012
Night-time low: -13C
08:20 / -12C
Engine starts without enthusiasm, but also without hesitation, then it warms up and defrosts windscreen and rear screen while I scrape the hard rime off side windows. Clutch again is a bit frozen up.
08:50 / -12C
Fires up like a dream, off for a 12 kilometres journey, everything warms up and runs very smoothly.
10:45 / -10C
At the car park outside my grandparents’ block I spot a guy starting his Skoda Octavia with diesel engine. The owner has a rough ride, the third attempt is successful. My engine hasn’t run cold during an hour-long sitting.
14:10 / -8C
While on my walk I hear two other cars wheezing… Note temperature hasn’t dropped below –15C and problems have begun for many carefree drivers.
17:15 / -10C
No sign of six hours of sitting, cranks up like in summer…
21:15 / -12C
Again exemplary start, later the car left for a cold night and morning…

Sunday, 29 January 2012
Night-time low: -14C
09:50 / -13C
Just like yesterday, everything works properly. No sign of winter on car’s bodywork, so after a minute of heating the engine up I set off to Media Markt Okęcie. I cover altogether 40 kilometres, therein first 7 before the engine reaches its working temperature. A longer run at the steady speed with radio and heating turned off does good to the battery.
11:30 / -10C
And now the vehicle left for 19 hours of sitting, including twelve hours in double-digit frost, expected to hit even –18C.

Monday, 30 January 2012
Night-time low: -16C
06:35 / -16C
Okay, this might be boring, the car cranks up obediently. My colleagues say there’s nothing to be excited about, each well-maintained, petrol-fuelled car, with properly charged battery, will start without problems in temperature above –30C. I somehow don’t feel like checking it, but nothing indicates it could pack up…
18:20 / -12C
Fires up as if it was summer, unfortunately the bottom part of windscreen froze over inside and the car defrost itself very slowly. OK, as long as it doesn’t impede driving…

Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Night-time low: -17C
06:40 / -17C
No changes since yesterday. It should keep running well as long as it’s driven every day, albeit it has to be said exposure to frost is not what vehicles like the most. Natural selection on the roads – I put down lighter traffic to the fact some cars failed the cold weather test
17:45 / -13C
Engine warms up quite quickly – wondering why…

Wednesday, 1 February 2012
Night-time low: -20C
06:35 / -20C
It has to be said for over 8 years in my family Megane had never been used in temperature lower than –19C.
Another good start and another rough ride with frosty windows. Hard rime is very hard to scrape, plus fingers, even in gloves are freezing. The traffic is sparse and 90% of cars on the road have driven out of garages (no sign of sitting in the cold), so I go by car to the office…
17:50 / -15C
The car sat for 10 hours in the sun and an unpleasant surprise inside – the windscreen has frozen over… inside. It’s not totally frozen, so I pull out and begin the crawl in a traffic jam towards Plac Zawiszy (less than one kilometre out of my 18 kilometre journey and covering it takes 15 minutes (vs. 45 minutes for remaining 17 kilometres), by the time I reach it, the car defrosts itself. I was a bit stressed out by goings-on at work and frozen screen and didn’t make out whether the engine was hesitant to start…

Thursday, 2 February 2012
Night-time low: -22C
06:40 / -22C
Oil in the gearbox is very thick, but the battery is doing a great job. Kicks in immediately despite harsh frost. Number of cars on the roads that have stayed the night in the harsh frost is lower than yesterday. Warsaw is full of cars left where they packed up.
17:05 / -18C
I leave the office at time and again find the windscreen frozen inside, but the layer of frost is not as thick as yesterday. After warming the engine up for half a minute I pull out, all frozen elements creak, windscreen is being defrosted while moving in a snarled-up traffic. A very frosty night ahead!

Friday, 3 February 2012
Night-time low: -24C
06:35 / -24C
Minus twenty four – no such word as “fun”. I barely can turn the gear from rear to neutral, then press the start button, hear a short wheezing and the engine cranks up!
Then ensues a long scrape during which my fingers are in a state near frostbite. Than it all looks pretty surreal. Radiation fog lingers, roads are swathed in clouds of fumes from engines of sparse cars. This looks like an icy hell, but Megane bravely carries me to work. Traffic is holiday-time-like – very light. Most cars sitting outside have refused to start… Mine works, but LCD displays go bonkers, when I try to check if the radio works, I learn it doesn’t, the computer indicates current consumption of petrol on cold engine is 40 litres per 100 kilometres…
17:15 / -17C
Well, not a surprise that it starts, but I wonder where’s the boundary of the machinery (battery, starter, engine, oil…). Would it start at –30C?

Saturday, 4 February 2012
Night-time low: -22C
08:40 / -21C
Oil is thicker than yesterday, or maybe it just seems to be just because the car has been sitting for two hours longer. Sun melts some of the frost, so scraping takes shorter and I manage to pull out faster. Two first kilometres are disastrous… I’ve had enough of grappling with barely movable gear lever…
09:30 / -20C
Ok, now it starts briskly… At my father’s insistence I turn the radio on; it seems to work when it’s above –20C outside… When I arrive at my grandparents I see another comedy titled “Using wires to start a car”.
10:40 / -19C
Off to home, engine within an hour of sitting has not run cold, then the car is left for some 22 hours of sitting in the cold.

Sunday, 5 February 2012
Night-time low: -19C
11:00 / -15C
The car sat for 24 hours in temperature below –15C and kicks in without hesitation. There’s no frost on windows and I can easily set it in motion without warming the engine up. Oil in the gearbox is not very thick. To the petrol station and then for a 10-kilometre ride to charge up the battery. If the worst is over and the car withstood the nadir of cold snap, it doesn’t mean precautions don’t have to be taken.

Monday, 6 February 2012
Night-time low: -20C
06:40 / -20C
Another brisk start after 20 hours of sitting in the frost. The car’s got used to the frost, but it only puts up with low temperatures. I’m sick of thick oil in the gearbox and several noises it gives off before it warms up.
17:45 / -15C
Traffic on ul. Puławska is oddly sparse. Longing for single-digit frost…

Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Night-time low: -14C
06:45 / -13C
Dammit, oil in the gearbox is not really thick, only falling snow slightly impedes driving
17:55 / -10C
Hey, I haven’t seen such a brisk cold start for a week. We’re returning to normal driving!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Night-time low: -12C
Is there any point in writing???

Until today, each morning was colder, with –19C hitting today. The engine has always cranked up impeccably. But today I again saw some cars whose owners made the most of the weekend to start them with wires and electric current borrowed from another vehicle.

So why some cars don’t cause their owners any troubles, while other pack up. My take on the issue is that not the car, but its owner (or user) is to blame… Maybe the content below is belated, but I prepared some advice for carefree drivers…

1. If your car runs on petrol, you’re some 10 degrees ahead. Diesel engines need more energy from the battery to be started, but beware – this doesn’t exempt you from taking care of your vehicle.

2. Good battery is a crucial when temperatures drop really low – check it before winter comes, if necessary charge it up or buy a new one. Prudent drivers do it in the autumn (I changed the battery in November), carefree wrangle with a dead one while standing in double-digit frost.

3. Other devices must work properly – nothing’s going to help your good battery, if alternator doesn’t charge it properly, motor starter is worn-down, ignition and injection systems are faulty, or fuel is tainted with water. When it’s below minus twenty any weaker link in the chain might immobilise your car…

4. Avoid short runs and starting the engine many times a day – during short trips shortage of energy used to start the engine is not replenished by alternator. Also crawling in traffic jams doesn’t do good as engine revolutions are low and little energy is produced and goes to battery.

5. Drive every day even if you don’t have to – the big freeze set me back some extra 30 zlotys spent on petrol – on account of driving longer distance directly to work (which in fact is a waste of money, but to my surprise not time!) and driving on one Sunday when I didn’t need to, but it spared me potential troubles. A well-maintained car will sit overnight in –25C and start, but adding to it one more day and a second night might be a risky step.

6. Hold back from using energy-consuming devices – radio and CD are off, heating is not turned up, windscreen and rear-screen heating are in use only when necessary. Energy produced by the alternator should charge the battery (and it’s the last receiver of energy, so it receives only the surplus of the produced electricity), whose capacity in –20C is by some 50% lower and which needs to give more energy to crank up an iced engine…

The frosty period is coming to an end – this means denser traffic…

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