As we've pointed out earlier driving a Project Car as a Daily Driver requires a bit of insanity. Not quite Charlie Manson levels of insanity but certainly closer to Charlie Sheen's. And when the temps are below freezing it's a whole new ballgame.
Keeping a project car running is a full time job, even with the best of them. And requiring it to be used daily magnifies that commitment. We've discussed dealing with all the niggling little things that will make it a challenge if not a major cause of stress. But old man winter will kick your ass. Hard. Let's look at all the things you need to worry about.
Obvious, yes, but there are lower levels of project car hell awaiting you when the temperature drops. Everything breaks. Everything. Wires get stiff and crack in two, particularly older cars wiring. Clearances between things get bigger and rattle or completely come apart because there's no longer enough tension on the nuts. Carefully set air/fuel mixtures are wrong and may lead to a non-starting car. Which brings us to ...
Batteries in Project Cars are, by default, on their last legs. There are numerous reasons for that but mostly it's because you bought it cheap. And any Project Car worth it's salt is a pain to start and keep running ("It's just highly tuned!" you tell your friends.) In the cold it's harder to crank that beast. And you probably need to crank it even longer than usual. So it won't take long for that battery to fail. Frequent charging will also kill it quicker.
And one last observation. Batteries fail most often when a weakened cell ruptures and dies because the temps dropped overnight into the 20's. It's a guarantee.
As mentioned above starting is a big deal during the winter. Your project often has thicker oil, more vacuum leaks, bad grounds and tweaked mixtures and that spells a cranky car in the winter. Final effect is you're stranded and stranded with a bad battery as well. And put the starting ether away!! It's not a Ferrari to burn to the ground!
They deflate more than a Patriots football and they do it overnight. Various reason for this but mostly because you don't have new tires. And your air compressor will blow the house circuits when it tries to start up (thick oil).
Fortunately you have a nice cozy garage to use when fixing all of this. What? You don't? Oh yeah, we're broke! That's why we're driving The Beast to work everyday. So just where do we get to work on the car?
If you have your own driveway you're better off than the dude living in an apartment with a "no auto work" clause in the rental agreement. That just sucks. Raise the hood to check your oil and you get a note from the manager. Find a friend with a garage or a driveway. Pick up dates with lines like "Nice hair, got a garage?"
Working in your driveway is the right of every gearhead. Working in a dry, sunny driveway isn't. Here's my spot of heaven. Notice how having it parked there before the blizzard created a nice spot for you to work in. Try not to care that it's the spot you're car's also been leaking upon.
Car ramps are awesome in the winter. Slick as hell. If you can drive up them try and feel safe under the car. Go ahead, try. Make sure jack stands aren't on ice. I set the parking brake on my car the other day and watched it slide down the driveway anyway.
One last point about your workspace. It's busy freezing your tools. Go ahead and grab that 22mm box-end. That's a pound of cold, hard steel. But mostly cold.
Why, oh why do cooling systems break during the winter? Because nothing can piss you off more than working with a slimy green fluid-covered engine during Zero degree temps. On the other hand this is how you determine which of your hoses are weaker than the others.
Bought The Beast during the summer didn't you? Now you're wondering where the heat is? Older cars often have partially clogged heaters and malfunctioning vents. Shame you waited until now to discover that your 70 mile commute requires an artic parka, touk, gloves and two blankets over your legs.
I once bought a Saab 99 in July that had a totally clogged heater. End of October I drove a Saab full of rally fans to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for Press On Regardless. We left in 70 degree weather. It was 20 when we got there. I apologized a lot. A whole lot.
Got a winter story to tell?
Oran Sands is too old to do this shit anymore. Yet, here he is.