Cold Weather Truck


Senior Member
Fairbanks AK
After tinkering with my 83 1/2 ton for the past couple days, I have determined a few things: I need a new tranny, I need to spend some time doing routine maintenance, the paint needs more work than I thought (probably a full job) and in general it needs about a week of full evening TLC. I love this truck but I think it will be parked until I get it all done right, and I'll just have to drive the newer one. Sorry about these super long posts I love, but I just gotta explain myself :)

I'm thinking about finishing up my last couple years of school up here in AK instead of down in Idaho for a number of reasons that I won't get into, and I'd be going to school in Fairbanks, which is about 100 times colder than Juneau, where I am from. I would love to have my old pickup up there with me, but it's the kind of place where you can be in serious trouble if your equipment fails. What do you guys in Canada, and in the north central US for that matter do to your rigs to deal with the extreme cold? I have a block heater already, and good tires, and chains, but I think I need to loose my manual choke edelbrock performer series in favor of a good old electric quadrajet, with the full air intake plumbing instead of my open element I have now. I also have two big batterys, and was wondering about heaters for these, as well as the transmission. What about those Espar (I think) gas fired coolant heaters? Anyone try these? My thinking is to fiddle with the truck some over christmas, depending on how much time work leaves me, and over summer also. The new truck doesn't have the cold climate package, block heater, any of that that my old one does, and I think the old one would be a lot more fun up there. So, sorry again for the essay, I'd just like to know what you all do to keep your rigs working right in the extreme cold (-40 is fairly regular). Synthetic oils? Heated battery trays? Give me the goods :)

Another fun question, if the temp is -40 F, what is that in Celcius??????

Thanks guys,


75 Addict
Sounds like you're on the right track to me. Open-element breather is not the best thing in the cold, although I still use a manual choke on my Q-jet.

I have dual batteries and a block heater, battery blankets can't hurt either. Winter front for your grille can also help.

Never gave much thought to a trans heater or Espar coolant heater. Mind you, although I'm in Canada I'm down near Toronto - NOT quite as extreme weather as you'd see up AK way!

According to the (dual) scale printed on my thermometer, the -40 F mark is also -40 C. So either way it's c-c-c-c-cold! :eek:
A manual choke isn't a bad thing to have. I've found that here in Calgary, with wild temperature fluctuations (chinooks especially), I can't get an automatic choke set just right. Maybe I need to do some more tinkering, but I've stuck with my manual choke and been very happy with it.

You'll want to run a thinner oil in the engine, something in the order of a 0w30 or 5w30. I tried Mobil 1 synthetic at one time, and whether it was a direct result or just stupid coincidence, it spun a rod bearing and eventually broke that connecting rod. Since then, I've stayed away from synthetics, although lots of other people run them and love them.

"Battery blankets" that 75 talked about are a great idea -- I won't run a vehicle without them! Just be sure to buy the proper size as you don't want it to overlap itself when it's wrapped around the battery.

Basically, a battery blanket is a flexible heating pad that's long enough to wrap once around the battery and is held in place with extra long garbage bag-type twist ties. It plugs into 120 volt power with your block heater/s and keeps the battery warm in order to provide full cranking amperage.

A grill winter front is also mandatory, as suggested by 75.

Lose your open element type air cleaner and put the proper THERMAC air cleaner housing on it. This air cleaner has a flap in the snorkel that closes off the fresh air intake to the carburetor and replaces it with warmed air trapped from around the passenger side exhaust manifold to the bottom of the air cleaner housing via a flexible metal hose.

As the air temperature inside the air cleaner warms up (there's a sensor mounted to the bottom of the air cleaner housing, also on the passenger's side of the housing and uses vacuum hoses out the bottom of the air cleaner to regulate the flapper on the snorkel snout), the flap returns to normal position and allows full fresh air to the carb.

I usually remove the flexible air intake hose that runs from the air cleaner to the radiator support (between the radiator and the headlight assembly) so that even when the THERMAC is completely open, the carb is still pulling "pre-warmed" air from the engine compartment instead of from the very front of the vehicle.

I learned this trick after driving a long distance in -40 weather. When I needed to stop for fuel in a small town, my carburetor had iced up and the throttle wouldn't close! Yes, the sensor inside the air cleaner housing was faulty and not allowing the flapper to close properly at that temperature, but I'm sure the situation was made worse by the carburetor pulling cold air from the very front of the truck.

Another nicety is an interior car warmer. It, too, plugs into 120 volt power when you're parked, but it keeps the chill off the interior (your buns will thank you!) and can eliminate having to scrape ice off the windows first thing in the morning.

Some folks swear by two block heaters, and others prefer circulating type coolant heaters. I've never used either, personally. The circulating ones don't seem to last too long from my experience with them on HD diesel farm tractor applications. Two to three years, typically.

Don't forget simple things, like gasline antifreeze and windshield washer antifreeze and good wiper blades. EVERYTHING stiffens up considerably in the deep cold, and you may notice the shrinkage of heater and radiator hoses will cause some weeping of coolant at those junctions.

Think warm thoughts and enjoy!



Senior Member
Fairbanks AK
Thanks for the responses, guys. The winter grille is something obvious that I didn't think about. And as for the electric choke, it's something I've never had a problem with, while I have had the cable freez for my manual one, but that was probably just me not keeping it lubed well enough. Raceman, that's a good point about leaving the tube to the grille off to preheat the air a bit with the engine. I believe I still have the original closed element air box with the flapper to direct air from the hot air intake, but I have headers on the truck now, and will probably need something custom at that end. Anyone running a setup like this? I don't think that it'd be too hard to do.

As far as tires go, it would make sense to keep them pretty full to keep the tires from freezing with a buldge? Is my logic good here?

I've also noticed that remote starters are very popular in BC and the part of Alberta I drive through when I go home, even on some older vehicles. I think the alarm I have now has a provision for a remote start, but most say you need fuel injection to make them work. I also have a few other button operated functions that aren't used, and was thinking about how cool it'd be to rig a solenoid up to the system that would open the throttle. It does have some safety implications though, and I'd probably want a lockout switch on it, in case something went haywire and all of the sudden I had full throttle when I didn't need it. Thanks again guys,


PS -
Rob, I'm close with the pics, found a buddy here w/ a scanner, just gotta dig up a good photo or two now

75 Addict
Remote starters are neat but I'm not going to bother putting one on my old truck. Then again, I work outside in the winter quite a bit so heading out into a frosty morning to crank up the truck isn't a big deal!

I'd keep the tire pressure up to the max, not so much for the freezing aspect (remember the old nylon bi-plys and how they'd flat-spot in the cold? First 10 miles or so were fun............. :eek: ) but because tire pressure will tend to drop in the cold weather.

Raceman brings up some good points there, especially about the coolant hoses "weeping" a bit when it's real cold. And I know this sounds ridiculously obvious, but I got caught once long ago - make sure your coolant is in good shape BEFORE the cold really sets in. If in doubt, flush and fill with fresh stuff. I didn't and wound up with a rad full of "lime slushy" once..................... :(

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