You’re planning a long journey in the cold, but your car heater is broken. In normal circumstances, it’s always best to fix the problem rather than relying on the backups below. The cost of replacing the heater core would be a few hundred pounds; although chances are the problem is related to the heater fan, which costs significantly less to repair. Nevertheless, if you’re waiting for a mechanic to become available, or you can’t access one easily (perhaps the journey you’re embarking upon is to a garage far away), then the tips below could well apply to you. What’s more, if you’re just interested in staying extra-warm when driving in sub-zero temperatures this winter, the contents of this list could well apply to you.
Get a Small Car Heater
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It is generally a good idea to warm the environment around your body in order to slow the rate at which heat moves into the surrounding air through convection, conduction and so forth. The first item on the list really is something of a last resort: purchasing a small car heater which plugs into your cigarette lighter. They’re generally about 12volts, 150 Watts, and cost about £20. However, they’re widely agreed to be pretty feeble (about one-eighth of one bar on an indoor heater) and, ironically enough, could end up draining the car battery (meaning high fuel consumption and lower range in electric cars). What’s more, despite the availability of cigarette lighter splitter sockets, you probably don’t want too many things plugged in at once. Still, if you really need all the heat you can get, these might be just the ticket. But there are better options.
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Now we’re talking. Sitting in a cold car seat – especially a leather one – will conduct heat away from your body, making you even colder. Your car’s heated seats run from a different circuit to its in-built fans, and provide a marvellous method for keeping you toasty. If you don’t have heated seats in your car, you can always buy a slim, heated cushion for about £10 which plugs into your cigarette lighter and slips over your normal seat.
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The same insulation which is a barrier to sound coming into your car from the engine and tyres can also help retain heat within the vehicle. However, the costs of this are potentially very high. You would need to buy the materials and have them installed properly (bearing in mind the insulation usually sits underneath the car trim). What’s more, there may be some issues related to the extra padding lowering the ceiling height, as well as the potential illegality of packing the driver footwell with heat insulation that blocks the pedals. However, if you plan things well, talk to an expert and double-check with transport authorities before you try this, you’ll probably encounter fewer problems. What’s more, if it’s merely a case of replacing old or worn-down insulation and returning the car to factory specs, by all means go for it.
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It’s an obvious but important step. Without a heater, your car can be just as cold inside as the world is outside; at least until your body warms up the interior. Therefore, wrapping up warm in layered clothing with a coat, hat, scarf, gloves and thermal socks covering your extremities is a must. They’ll do the vital work of containing a nice micro-environment of warm air just above your skin, helping you stay balmy in the coldest environments. You’re sort-of indoors in a car; but also sort-of outdoors. So it’s best to dress for both…and take a blanket just in case.
Tea & Biscuits
By a country mile, the best solution is a national favourite. As if there weren’t enough reasons to sup the British cuisine, here’s a new excuse to carry mini-digestives and a thermos full of Tetley everywhere you go. Eating high-calorie foods will give your body extra fuel to warm itself; and drinking a hot beverage will raise your core temperature and keep you balmy. Who said winter has to be glum?
Overall, there are plenty of options out there to keep you warm in your car during winter, even when your heater is broken. If a Swedish man can survive two months in a snowed-in Cherokee Jeep at minus 30 degrees centigrade, we’ll hopefully be able to stave-off the cold on our trips to the shops. God Jul och kör säkert, everybody!
James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.