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SwamiSalami 09-26-2012 07:55 PM

Prepping For Alaska!
It goes without saying that living in Anchorage will be cold. While living in extremely cold temperatures will be difficult for me and the "fam," it will be even colder for our Honda Element. Current advising includes: battery blanket, studded or snow tires, and a block heater.

I'm just wondering, terms of warming the engine via block heater and batter blanket, how will this benefit me when leaving any location other than my house? For instance, if I've been at work for 10 hours and the truck's been parked outside or even inside without access to a plug, what's the point? Is it worth installing all this stuff just for a morning commute, especially considering the likelihood of coldness in the evening?

Who's dealt with this (surely I'm not the first one)?

2000neon 09-26-2012 08:31 PM

I can't make any comments on a block heater as I have never/ used one. But I think it would definitely be worth some engine bay insulation, Belly pan, grill block, sealing gaps, etc. It will help the motor to warm up faster, and hold heat a lot longer after shutdown. If the Element doesn't have any insulation directly on the bottom of the hood, I would suggest finding some off of another car.

Frank Lee 09-26-2012 09:09 PM

I've long been advocating engine blankets. Heat rises ya know, so it's good to keep it from going out the top. Combined with a grille block and you turn the engine compartment into an "upside down box" which retains heat much better than stock. Search my other posts on blankets.

Piwoslaw 09-27-2012 01:26 AM

Grille block and engine belly pan!

Even if you can use the block heater only on half of the trips, it's still worth it. Evenings may be cold, but mornings are even colder, and with enough insulation there might still be some heat in the engine bay after 4 hours. Also, there is always a chance that you'll find a plug somewhere (parking lot, friend's house, etc.).

You could look into things like a coolant thermos (gen 2 Prius) or using exhaust to warm coolant (gen 3 Prius), we'd all benefit from your experience and a detailed how-to with pictures;)

Saskwatchian 09-27-2012 02:56 AM

Most parking lots in Saskatchewan have plugins for your vehicle, I would imagine it would be the same in Alaska.

Battery blankets are often neglected. I don't think they would help with FE but sure make cold starting easier and prevent battery damage from the cold. Whatever you do make sure not to drain your battery as a weak battery will freeze and die really quick in the winter.

Block heaters will obviously make it possible to start your car and aid in warmup.

Engine blankets and cardboard grill block will help with warm up and retain heat better. You will also get less ice buildup on your hood when you park.

darcane 09-27-2012 03:38 AM

Anchorage isn't too bad, it doesn't get the bitter cold you get in central Alaska. I grew up just north of Anchorage and went to college in Fairbanks.

In Anchorage, I don't remember many places having plug-ins available, but in Fairbanks they were everywhere.

I recommend synthetic oil in the engine, tranny, and differential(s). I remember starting my truck once and leaving it in neutral to warm up but when I let the clutch out it still lurched forward and died because the oil in the tranny was so thick. That stopped when I changed to synthetic oil in the tranny.

I used a grill block long before I worried about fuel economy. My engine couldnt put off enough heat to warm up the cab of my truck without it. My truck was pretty old though, your Element won't have that problem but would still benefit from the grill block.

Watch out for the moose!

SwamiSalami 09-27-2012 08:57 AM

Thanks for all the great posts and replies.

I want more, though. ;)

bestclimb 09-27-2012 02:24 PM

I live about 60 miles from Anchorage. Most parking lots do not have places to plug in. Most people around here just get by with a single block heater. They leave it plugged in all night though.

I suggest an oil pan heater, coolant heater. A battery blanket is not really necessarily as this area of Alaska does not see the bitter cold. connect those to a timer that turns on about 1.5 hours before your commute, the purpose of the coolant heater is to get you warm air instantly, use just enough time to get that.

Good winter tires is a must. studded does not seem much better than a good snow flake rated tire. Michelin x ice, or hankook Ipike rock. Both have a 45-55 psi max rating, I noted no decrease in mileage with the Ipike on my civic. I did have to drop the pressure slightly as I would get wicked wheelhop if the tires spun at 55psi but if I dropped them to 48 they were fine.

Even if you cannot plug in during the day it is worth it for even just the morning commute.

Insulation helps for about 5-6 hours but after that with any kind of air movement it is ineffective. (This is based on my experience with aircraft which are more tightly cowled than cars).

If you have any other questions about Anchorage or the Valley PM me.

gone-ot 09-27-2012 04:24 PM

...and KEEP a long (50-feet) heavy-duty gauge extension cord in your car, you MIGHT be able to plug it "in" when having to park the vehicle while away from your house.

...the extra "added" heat going into the engine will make "restarting" a LOT easier on both the battery and engine in COLD COLD COLD weather.

darcane 09-27-2012 05:38 PM

Bestclimb is spot on. Oh, and 60 miles? That must put you around Big Lake then? I grew up in Wasilla, and my family is still in that area. I hardly recognize it every time I go back.

I would say oil pan heater or synthetic engine oil is needed, both would be nice.

As for the tires, studs are counterintuitive, they are more beneficial in more moderate climates. Most of the time up there, when it's icy, it's cold enough that it's not real slippery. Ice is worst when temps are right about freezing, and those are the conditions where you really want studs. Plus, the roads get cleared regularly and sanded. When it's snowy, studs do almost nothing, it is all about what tire you have. Most people have a set of winter wheels and summer wheels, especially if you run studs. As long as you're not off-roading, 2WD is all you need.

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