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Every proud gearhead loves to share the story of how they replaced that busted universal joint in their 11-degree garage. But telling stories and living them are quite different, and when it’s blowing a gale outside, there are far more comfortable places to pass your time than on the frigid concrete floor of your garage.
Unfortunately, your car can’t understand when it’s a good time of year to make repairs and when you’d rather be warm and cozy indoors. If something goes wrong, you’ve got to fix it. Here’s how to do that without freezing.
1. Heat Your Workspace
Garages in colder parts of the country are sometimes insulated to keep heat in. If you’ve got the benefit of a well-insulated garage, you’ll be grateful when you have to wrench during the winter months.
Regardless of insulation, one or more space heaters are a must-have for working in the cold. They will help keep the space generally habitable. Still, even with space heaters there, it’s good to choose safe stopping points every few hours and head inside to make sure the cold doesn’t sneak up on you. You can get used to it quite easily and fail to notice the effects of a chill setting in.
2. Dress Warm
This should be a given if you live in a cold climate, but it bears repeating: dress for the occasion. Wear multiple light layers of clothing so you can remove some if you start to get too warm and make sure you protect your face, head, nose and ears.
When you step into the shade or crawl beneath a vehicle, you’ll be happy to have some toasty clothes. Remember to wear close-fitting pieces you can work in without catching on sharp edges or that won’t hang down and create a fire hazard. You don’t want something big and bulky that makes it impossible to work. Instead, look for high-quality gloves that offer insulation as well as dexterity. You might even opt for gloves with a Velcro wrist seal if you need a little bit of extra protection. Frosty fingers are not just uncomfortable — they move slow and you might not even feel a cut or burn.
3. Enjoy a Hot Beverage
Heating your insides is just as important as warm clothes and space heaters. Keeping something warm to drink around such as coffee, tea or hot chocolate is a great way to keep your core temperature up. That can help you avoid potentially dangerous conditions like hypothermia. While it’s not likely to occur, the harmful effects of the cold can become difficult to observe when you’re working alone. You should keep this in mind and ask your spouse or a friend to check on you if you stay out in the garage too long.
4. Warm Yourself Frequently
If you’re outdoors, no matter how in-depth your project is, make sure you schedule frequent breaks to warm up indoors. Staying outdoors for long periods of time, even if you’re properly dressed, puts you at increased risk for hypothermia and even frostbite depending on the weather conditions.
Take plenty of breaks during your project. Use it as an excuse to hydrate as well — you can get dehydrated even in cold weather, which makes it easier to become hypothermic. Be aware of the symptoms of both hypothermia and frostbite and make sure you seek shelter indoors at the first sign of either.
Your car might need work, but it isn’t worth your health or your extremities to get it done in the cold.
5. Use Your Garage If Possible
If you have a garage, you’ve already got the best place to work during the winter months. Even an unheated garage helps protect both you and your car from the harsh effects of cold winter weather, but if you want to work on your car during even the coldest winter months, your best bet is to look into heating the space.
First, look into insulating your garage. There’s no point heating the space if all the warm air is going to just bleed off. Next, choose your heater type. Forced air heaters warm the air and are a good choice if you’re keeping the door closed. Infrared heaters create more ambient heat but taking longer to warm your garage up. Finally, make sure your garage is properly ventilated before installing a heater. Even electric heaters require some ventilation and LP (liquid propane) varieties require quite a bit more.
Don’t let the cold winter months discourage you from working on your car — just make sure you dress warmly and, whenever possible, stay indoors. You should be just fine.
It’s Still Possible to Work On Your Car In The Cold
Keep your workspace warm and dry to ensure you work safely, and never stay out long in the cold if you don’t have the proper equipment. In a situation where you have to wait to fix the car, a little patience could be the difference between getting the car running and injuring yourself when conditions are nasty outside. You don’t want to have to go out to get treatment in bad weather any more than you want to work on the car.