Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tips for Winter Car Repairs

   Every year, it seems, a major repair opportunity happens in the winter here in the north land. And there it is, the dreaded puddle of oil under the 2000 Caravan. The dipstick shows nary a drop of oil. This is serious. No amount of hoping will prove the leak is from anywhere but under the timing cover. No amount of complaining about why this didn't happen in July will fix the van. So it's up on blocks in the garage with temperatures in the single digits and a pile of parts to remove. But I have a few tricks up my sleeve to get this fixed without undue suffering.

  •    A garage is essential. I have heard of people doing this kind of work outside in winter but I really can't imagine it. Lacking a garage means turning the keys over to a professional.
  •    Extra time is vital. Trying to rush through a repair with numb fingers is my definition of misery. I have an extra older vehicle on hand so that I have time to do a repair like this without being in a "gotta have it now" kind of hurry. For me this is a two weeks plus repair. I have other indoor work to do (like this blog) where I can warm up between stints at the van. And as cold as it has been here in Wisconsin, as long as I have the front of this engine all torn apart, I am going to replace all the seals under the timing cover, the water pump and the timing belt. I don't want to tear this apart again anytime soon. 
  •    Some kind of heat source at the work-site will help speed up the work. I have a portable electric baseboard-style heater and a propane heater positioned right at the work area. I have done this sort of work without a heater and that just means a longer down time for the car. It means more frequent warm up time in the house and no work at all on extremely cold days. 
  •   Wear warm clothing, especially gloves. Keeping the hands warm is vital. Have several pairs of gloves at the ready and warming up. I like to put extra gloves right on my heater so that when my hands began to get cold I can simply change gloves. I also have used a regular household oven to keep a pair toasty. Just set the oven on warm and put the gloves on a rack. Certain parts of any job require bare-hand dexterity, so a pair of warmed gloves is vital to warm the hands back up.
  •   Take indoor breaks to warm up. Maybe have some hot coffee or hot chocolate.
  •   Work during the warmest part of the day. I have some windows in my garage and the sun streaming in cheers me up and warms the garage, even if it is 8 degrees outside.  
  • Put down a carpet remnant at the work site. It's a softer surface to work on and its warmer than the floor.
      Sure enough, despite our diligent efforts to get the needed maintenance done in warm weather, our cars sometimes still fail in the winter. Seals contract under low temperatures and leaks can occur. Don't despair though, the stubborn do-it-yourself-er can still get the job done with some extra time and determination. Good luck and keep warm.

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