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Here in Minnesota we're looking at 3 days in a row with temperatures dipping into the negative 30s (Fahrenheit) next week. Obviously this is brutal for humans, but I do not own a garage and typically park outside.

My question is, are there any preventative actions that I can take for my car? I'm planning to make sure it's full of gas, but I'm not sure what measures I can take to prevent any short or long term damage to it from the cold. If relevant, the car in question is a 2014 Hyundai Sonata.

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Several additional things that need consideration:

  • The battery should be fully charged. If not charged fully, the electrolyte may freeze. Don't try charging a frozen battery! If you have any reason to believe it's not fully charged, drive a really long trip (ideally 2 hours), or purchase a charger. Do note that cold batteries require a higher charging voltage, so your charger should be temperature-compensated or have a toggle button for cold conditions.
  • The coolant must tolerate -30 degree F temperatures. If you use factory spec mixture, it does, but if you have topped the coolant up with water for any reason, it may not.
  • The windshield washer fluid doesn't necessarily withstand the cold. You should top it up with concentrated fluid, if you have any reason to believe the mixture isn't going to withstand the cold.
  • The fuel. If you have a diesel vehicle, and you use summer grade fuel, it's not going to start. Even ordinary winter grade fuel may not help in starting, you may need to have really-cold-winter grade fuel. However, I you said "gas" so I assume this doesn't apply to you. (Congratulations for making a good choice! Gasoline vehicles are ideal for cold temperatures!)
  • If possible, park the car under some kind of structure with roof. Even if the structure is open and not heated inside, the roof is going to make it less likely that the windshield and other windows will have frost on them (the roof prevents the heat from radiating away to the space). If not possible, purchase some kind of windshield cover or complete cover for the car and use it.
  • Operate the windshield washer before parking. This way, if the windows have frost on them after parking in the cold, if you have to scrape the frost off with a scraper, the operation of the windshield washer ensures the windshield will be clean and not have a layer of small sand particles. It's these sand particles on a dirty windshield that make the windshield full of scratches.
  • After starting up, drive it easy, don't haul ass. The engine is going to last longer if you let it heat up with gentle driving.
  • The suspension components may not like the cold, so don't drive over speed bumps at high speed.

Apart from these, battery charge and heating up to start the engine (and perhaps warm the interiors with an interior heater) will make your life easier, as Cullub and Solar Mike said.

In extreme cases (full windshield washer fluid tank or full diesel tank), you may need to drive the fuel tank nearly empty of diesel and fill up with really-cold-winter grade fuel, or empty the windshield washer container by operating the washer and fill up with the correct mixture.

Off-topic: I currently work in the weather forecasting industry and know well that forecasts can and do change. So, be sure to keep an eye on the forecasts. In the best case, the temperature won't be as cold as forecasted, but in the worst case, it may be even colder!

  • Nice answer! I forgot about the fluids. – Cullub Jan 25 at 17:48
  • I'm marking this as the answer as it's the most thorough, though all 3 are very valuable! Thanks, I"ll follow as much of this as I can. I just replaced my battery two weeks ago, so I'm going to go for a long ride home to make sure it's charged up. – Hermano23 Jan 25 at 18:27
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Greetings from another Minnesotan! For the most part, cars are designed to be able to take weather conditions, so I personally wouldn't be too worried. There are a few things to watch out for in exceptionally cold conditions like the next few weeks here:

  • Starting the car. The problem here is that batteries don't like cold, so if you've had problems with your battery before, you should probably use some sort of warming mechanism. Like Mike said, a simple incandescent bulb under the car could help, or a small heater. Some cars have engine block heaters built in, so you might check to see if yours has that feature.
  • Brittle plastic. Plastic parts also don't like cold, so be a little extra careful around plastic seat edges that might break, for example.
  • And, of course, dress warm. I don't usually start my car early to let it warm, although that's an option. Cars take longer to warm up if it's really cold out.
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I park outside as well, with night-time temperatures of -10 deg c so one thing you can do is to put a battery charger on the battery to help it. Well, works with mine.

Also use a small 400W heater under the bonnet sometimes which makes a big difference to the starting - but that is only on for 2 or 3 hours before I need the car - those timers are great.

  • I'll pick up a battery charger tonight on my way back from work then, thanks. I've got a small heater, I can give that a shot as well. – Hermano23 Jan 25 at 16:27
  • You might find that a shop trouble light, containing an incandescent bulb and placed on the ground under the sump, will keep the engine warmer and do so with only plugging-in an extension cord. – DavidSupportsMonica Jan 25 at 16:54
  • @David my car has a big undertray and, being parked outside then the wind gets under the car... So I fitted the heater under the bonnet pointing towards the engine - works a treat. Yes I have to lift the bonnet to connect and disconnect, but the difference in starting is stunning... – Solar Mike Jan 26 at 6:37
  • @SolarMike An excellent solution! – DavidSupportsMonica Jan 26 at 15:03

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