Winter prep and maintenance for the car

Herein you will find the list of most of the winter-related repairs and modifications to the car that needed doing or wanted doing – in all cases I am deeply thankful to my friends Mark and Tom, who have given me guidance, help, and ideas on these projects and many more.

Frostheater

A diesel engine doesn’t use spark plugs (as it is a compression engine), but it does have glow plugs – used to heat the air so it can be compressed and start the engine when it is cold outside.  Though I camped in Vermont and the car start in -15 degrees F without a problem, it is nevertheless bad for a vehicle to start when the oil is so cold.  Our family’s Ford Excursion came with a block heater, which is often necessary to even start that huge 7.3 liter engine in the 10 degree cold – but it only heats part of the engine, the block.  Enter the VW TDI-specific Frostheater, designed by an owner in Minnesota who was sick of the car starting just fine but struggling (as all diesels do) to produce enough waste heat to make the cabin warm up for 10-15 minutes of driving.

Frostheater on the left, new metal heater core on the right

Frostheater on the left, new metal heater core on the right

So, this design actually heats the engine coolant directly, and because of convection the coolant flows throughout the engine and is heated fully – and thus the moment the car is started, the engine in its entirety is running on warm parts AND the vents will immediately start blowing warm air.  I am not one who gets cold easily, but I do know that warm air immediately will be safer as the windows will be clear from the beginning of the drive, on a daily basis.

Lurking in the dark depths of the engine, ready to heat the car every night this winter!

Lurking in the dark depths of the engine, ready to heat the car every night this winter!

My good friend, the Wallet Destroyer Tom, gave me a huge amount of help installing this properly, and I am thankful the product came with such an informative guide on installing.

This was my Christmas present from my parents, but I figured it would be alright to install this particular item prior to the SNOWDOOM which is the norm for being home.

Two studded snow tires

Tom also took with him the two front winter wheels for the car, with their bald Primewell tires (a hint: NEVER buy that shit, they wore out in less than 10,000 miles).  He will take them to the dealership where he works and get me some studded snow tires to run on the front – because growing up here and being excellent in the snow doesn’t mean 1) the roads will always be safely doable with a front wheel drive car or 2) that other drivers on the road can be trusted.  So, even though it is extra money, I always try to do whatever I can to ensure efficient and safe trips with my car!

For those curious: in Ohio, the law on studded snows allows these to be run from 1 November to 15 April, and so I am good to go with this significant improvement to driving up big hills with lots of snow!

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Bonus non-winterizing projects

FINALLY cleaning the intake manifold in the engine!

The intake manifold on my car is known to gum up with a mixture of oily vapors and carbon in the exhaust… and over time turn into a severe blockage, driving up exhaust gas temperatures, lowering efficiency and power, and generally being unpleasant.  So, with Tom’s help and following the as-ever excellent guide on myturbodiesel.com, we got the part out:

Carbon build up needs to go...

Carbon build up needs to go…

Thanks to the help of a propane torch, compressed air, and ~fire~…

…the carbon build-up was conquered and vanquished, and so the engine went back together, cleaner than ever, ready to continue its path to a million miles:

Our own little intake manifold bbq, with freshly derived charcoal!

Our own little intake manifold bbq, with freshly derived charcoal!

Assaulting the engine oil leaks

The biggest leak, as Mark rightly identified back in January, is likely the vacuum pump – so we took it apart, and used two of the three o-rings I ordered back in March (they sent the wrong one for the third) – I have high hopes this will make a big difference in reducing oil drips; as the difference in the o-rings shows, the seal will be a LOT better now:

Top is the old one, flattened like all hell from use and wear

Top is the old one, flattened like all hell from use and wear

Tom also identified that the oil drain plug and its crush washer were leaking – so I ordered a new plug which is magnetic (to pull any extraneous metal shards or slivers out of the oil) with 10 replacement crush washers – leaks prevented for a long time to come.

A busy day, but very exciting to both get so much done AND make rainy-day use of the garage I have so painstakingly cleaned.

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