Gordy’s Garage: Cold Fluid And Warm Batteries

By Gordy Leach, CBS Minnesota

Rachel visited The Garage recently with a windshield washer problem in her Toyota. It seems when it is really cold out (there is a lot of that around here lately) the washers won’t wash because the nozzles won’t squirt. After running a while, things return to normal.

This sounds like a case of water in the windshield washer reservoir. Perhaps in the warmer months, someone put water in there. That water would dilute the washer fluid that presumably has been added since, and reduce the fluid’s ability to fight freeze-up. I would add some of the more-expensive “deicer” windshield washer fluid. It costs about a dollar more per gallon, and should help absorb the water in the system more effectively than the “normal” fluid. Rachel could also get a small bottle of rubbing alcohol from a drug store and add that to the fluid in the reservoir.

gordys garage, blog

(credit: CBS)

Speaking of cold weather, the City of St. Paul chose this week to unveil an all-electric Ford Transit Connect that it is adding to the city fleet. Mayor Chris Coleman said the Transit Connect has an 80-mile range (distance between charges) and I believe that is true… under optimal conditions.

But below-zero temperatures are not optimal for batteries of any kind. You know how much more slowly your engine turns over when your vehicle is parked overnight in extreme cold. In fact, electric vehicles have battery heaters built in to keep their power packs at the right temperature.

A pure electric vehicle also has to rely on its battery pack to run the heater, defroster, lights and wipers… things we use A LOT in winter weather. Using these accessories will reduce that range considerably.

gordys garage, blog

(credit: CBS)

But the Mayor also said St. Paul is placing charging stations around the city, so the city electric vehicles (they will have three) can be plugged in between trips. This is the one nice thing about electrics: as long as they are plugged in, the heater can be left running, and the driver will never have to get into a cold vehicle.

By and large, for most of us, pure-electric vehicles remain a novelty. But cell phones also used to be a novelty.

As more and more electrics go into use, and charging stations become more common at malls and work places, more people will make the switch. There are very real saving to be had in the cost of gasoline and maintenance. If you had a very robust solar-powered charging station at home, you could (someday) enjoy carbon-neutral daily driving. But you will likely want to keep a gas-powered vehicle for long trips and towing.


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