Bitter cold temperatures always generate a car starting drama in my garage. This winter things are even worse: I live in Duluth and I have no garage.
The last few days the backyard duck thermometer hasn’t flapped its wings over zero. The low Tuesday morning was -18. Wednesday it snowed.
A cold snap like this makes a set of car keys and an ignition switch feel like a game of Russian roulette.
Will this be the time my engine dies?
The odds of failure certainly increase in Duluth.
My dad likes to tell a story from his 1970s work trips to Duluth. It seems one winter dad spent the night in a downtown hotel. Waking up early the next morning, he heard a subzero weather discussion on the radio: “And at the U.S. Steel plant,” an announcer reported, “just one worker got his car to start after the night shift.”
“I could just see this guy driving through the parking lot past all his buddies. His chest puffed out and a big grin on his face,” said dad.
I bet all the other guys had five-year old batteries.
The age of my 2005 Toyota Tacoma battery is unknown. The battery came with the truck when I purchased it in 2011. So at best the thing is pushing five years old.
And that’s my limit.
I’ve learned you can’t trust any battery over five years old. Don’t believe the commercials, don’t believe the warranty. They don’t last forever in northern Minnesota. If your battery is over five and the temperature is below zero you’re going to have a problem.
Especially in the Twin Ports where the frigid winds roar across Lake Superior and slam into the shoreline like a V2 rocket loaded with ice.
A garage can provide some cover against winter’s attack.
In Maine, our two-car garage was more like a hillbilly tractor shed. A pile of boards on top of a tar patch. But those boards blocked the “NorEaster” winds and kept frost off the windshield.
I’m not so lucky in Duluth. Cars driven by university professors get priority.
And that’s OK. I feel like I can puff my chest out and smile whenever the truck turns over.
Minneapolis sports columnist Pat Reusse said many years ago that there are two signs of adulthood:
- You don’t ask your friends to help you move.
- Your car starts in the winter
We had a mover pack up and haul all our stuff from Maine to Minnesota this summer, so I guess I got that covered.
I’m not sure about the car starting thing, though.