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Thread: Damage to vehicles that sit out in extreme cold?

  1. #1
    Member BluNosDav's Avatar
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    Question Damage to vehicles that sit out in extreme cold?

    I'm looking at possibly buying a commercial vehicle with a diesel engine that was originally operated in Florida for a few years. Then it was used to transport goods one-way up to Alaska. After that trip, the battery was disconnected, and it was stored in a back-lot throughout this current winter without any further attention or operation. The area where it is parked has experienced some pretty cold temperatures at times: -20*F a lot, -40*F a few times, and almost -60*F during one particularly cold spell.

    What parts of this vehicle could have suffered permanent damage from sitting out in such cold temperatures?

    Thanx, Dave.

    PS - It doesn't have a toilet, sink or stove like an RV. It's more like a cargo truck, but, this forum seemed like the best place to ask?
    "Luckily, enforcement reads these forums, and likely will peruse this one...Especially after a link of it is forwarded to them....." - AlaskaHippie.

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    Member ak_cowboy's Avatar
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    What coolant did they use? If it was a Florida blend you may be better off leaving it. Frozen radiator, heater core, lines, hoses, etc.

    If you're super interested, I would have it towed to a warm shop to fully thaw out and see what happens.

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    As already mentioned I would be want to know what type/level of protection the engine coolant is. Also what fuel is in it now? While it may not effect things, it could prove to be an issue if you attempt to start it up. How was it stored, meaning are tire tires sitting on the ground or are they on some sort of protection? Otherwise I would not too concerned about effects of the cold temps.

  4. #4
    Member BluNosDav's Avatar
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    Cowboy,
    Not sure about the coolant. Owner says that he had it "prepared" for the cold weather drive to Alaska, which took place in November. But, I don't know if they changed the coolant, or just topped it off, etc. Is there a way of taking a sample out of the radiator now, and testing it to determine it's current rating? There is no "warm shop" nearby that I know of, so, I'm probably going to have to wait until spring, or at least late-winter, before I can have it started and driven to a mechanic for inspection.

    Bearcat,
    Since it was driven up here, it probably has whatever formula of diesel was used to fill it up along the Al-Can Highway. Also, I'm not sure what level of fuel is in the tank, now. Does that matter? I wouldn't want to try to start it while it's still so cold, and neither does the owner, so, that's gonna have to wait. Is there some sort of fuel additive, or other steps, that should be taken (besides warmer temps) to prevent causing damage to the engine, when it's finally started again? As for the tires, the vehicle was just parked in a gravel lot. The wheels were not covered, or up on wood, or anything. That's one of the reasons that I probably wouldn't want to even have it towed until it gets warmer. I've heard about "square" tires in really cold weather. After it warms up, is there any reason for concern, if tires were previously stationary for months at very low temps?

    Thanx for your help, Dave.
    "Luckily, enforcement reads these forums, and likely will peruse this one...Especially after a link of it is forwarded to them....." - AlaskaHippie.

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    If they drove it up in November it's fine. If the engine wasn't properly protected it would have froze then. The fuel put in on the way up would have been no. 1. Fire it up when you can, and drive it around. You can do a specific gravity test on the coolant. Buy the tester at any auto parts store. Tires sitting in the dirt won't be a problem for this short of time.
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    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    As SmokeRoss said, if they drove it in Nov. then the fuel already had an anti jell additive in it so that's fine. Even if it did/is jelled you won't be trying to start it now so no worries there. You won't need to worry about the tires because you won't drive it till it warms up. If the coolant was up to par then the block shouldn't have froze. The only other thing that I can think of off the top of my head would be if the battery/batteries had a low charge and possibly ended up freezing? All-n-all it probably will be fine as it's not like it's been sitting for years. Nothing really to do other than wait till it warms up....
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    OP, now with more information, I would say that when the temps get closer to Zero or there abouts, put a good charge on the batteries, plug in the Engine block heater and start it up. As far as the tires go, for the most part modern radial tires will be fine after a little driving. The old bias tires were the ones that really got 'square' in the really cold temps.
    What brand/size engine is in the vehicle?

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    Member TR's Avatar
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    If the parking brake is set, release it. I'm not worried about the cable icing up because it will thaw in spring. I assume it has rear drum brakes. They could corrode a bit and stick in place to the point where return spring tension won't release them. Otherwise, like all have said, you should be fine.
    -Tim

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    If it had at least a 50/50 antifreeze mix it will be fine. If less use caution but not a deal killer. With antifreeze down to about a 25% antifreeze in the mix it will most likely just slush and not freeze solid. Batteries will be a big concern if they discharged then they froze and will be no good. Look for swelling.

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