Concerns about antifreeze protection

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
(on edit: I just got reminded online about expansion plugs...maybe I don't need to worry about anything at all - ?
(although having to replace them would be an absolute b!tch, it would beat a cracked block)

I'll start by saying that 2 of the 3 trucks I'm concerned about have been tested and *should* be good to about -30F. Those two have to sit outside, however. Also, I *know* what's in the Envoy, having done it myself about 18mos ago - it has a perfect 50/50 which should protect to -34F, per the charts.

The 3rd one is in my garage, sitting for a couple of weeks now. I believe I tested the coolant, but need to go check it once I finish this note, just to be sure. If it's marginal, I'll probably need to drain the coolant to be safe, or use a starting regiment (see below).

Why am I concerned? Because come both Wed-Thu, Chicago is going to have -15F for the high temp, and -22F for the lows.
-15F will be the 'lowest high' ever recorded, and Chicago hasn't seen -22F since 1985 (all-time is -27F)

I'm planning on leaving the vehicles sit once it starts dropping (although maybe I should start them - I dunno. I'd set an alarm for every 2hrs around the clock, if I needed to).

I doubt the Envoy will start once it gets below 0F- (-5F). It's always slower to turn over, compared to the old Sierra (which usually whips over, but today I could tell it was even a little slower than usual (ambient was about 9F about noon; when I loaded Torque immediately after starting, the coolant (& trans fluid) both reported at 5F - I thought that was weird (and got more worried).

As for the one in the garage, its battery is marginal to begin with, but I could hook the charger up if I need to start it up). IIRC, my garage will usually be about 20F warmer than ambient.

To make it worse, I live about 40mi north of O'Hare, which is the 'official' reporting station for Chicago, and it's always a few degrees cooler up here (just a few miles from the WI border). Suffice to say...I'm officially worried. The Voy is going to turn into a DD come June (but I don't want any of the blocks to crack). The two LQ4s are iron block; the Voy's is aluminum.

(postscript: the Weather app on my phone now shows my zip code heading for -24 / -26F over those two days). :quiverlips:

Some reassurances from our Canadian or northern members would be nice. 'Hold my beer' references especially welcome :smile: I do realize that you guys prolly run 60-70% concentrations, though.

50/50 has always been fine for Chicago for almost all of my adult / driving life. Until now. :confused:
 
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Sparky

Moderator
50 50 should be fine. My Trailblazer sat outside nose into the wind when it was deep subzero (like -10 or lower) with even lower windchills and not only was it ok, it even started ok with a battery that was old and died that spring. And another time it got close to -20 overnight (which is ridiculous for central Ohio) and it still had no trouble. My pipes in my apartment froze and I had ice on my walls inside the bedroom, but the TB was ok lol.
 
OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
See...that's why I wanted some Canadian input (even if you were a bit of a smartass, which is OK...I asked for it) :smile:
So -39C is close to the point where the two scales meet up (-38.2F)

Since you guys go 50/50 and no more...and that protects to -34F/ -36C ... what did everyone in Winterpeg do when temps passed -36C ?

Mass reports of ruined engines?
City-operated 'warming centers' for all the cars in town?
Everyone in Winnipeg owns a garage & a block heater?
The entire populace drove south of the 49th?
Everyone put on a toque, another log on the fire, and cracked open another Budweiser?

(I'm hoping it's the last one, of course) :Lager Louts:
 

littleblazer

Gold Supporter
The -34 rating is the point it starts to freeze. It needs to be significantly colder before it starts expanding.

You can go 60/40 with no Ill effects other than it would transfer heat as well. Closed cooling on the boats reccomended it incase od salt water intrusion to help prevent corrosion.
 
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OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
Yeah...my research shows that the mixture will start getting slushy, rather than just expanding. Sort of like RV antifreeze (only that's a 100% fill, after draining all water out).

Also, for those wondering...expansion plugs ain't a-gonna help, if you get stupid and have straight water in the motor. Water will expand 10% in area from liquid > frozen. And iron, being more rigid, will crack, while aluminum will warp before cracking (either case, it's a trashed motor).

Snow's on the way tonight. Was supposed to be 6-8". Now it's been revised to 8-12". Ugh. This is turning out to be a bitch of a winter, over here. Easily the worst since moving out here 15 or so years ago.

Thanks to all who replied. Fingers crossed that I'll be OK for later in the week.
 

littleblazer

Gold Supporter
You'll be fine
 

Mooseman

Moderator
You could use the block heater, which is normally installed in all vehicles in northern climates if you're that worried or have to be sure one of them starts. It's that plug that's normally rolled up and tied up near the battery :biggrin:

I can tell you that unlike vehicles of yesteryear that wouldn't start in anything below -10c, these vehicles start down to like at least -30c, which is the temperature I started my TB recently in North Bay a couple of weekends ago. Even my old TB with 3 times the mileage started in the same temp. I've also started my Saab with the 5.3 in similar temps. BTW, all without the block heater being used.

Oh, and I use 50/50 in my snowmobile too without any issues.
 

BrianF

Well-Known Member
Only once have I had any coolant/antifreeze related problems. Last winter, which was one hell of a bad one. Ambient regularly hit -40 and sometimes lower. It was just miserable.

My 1993 K1500 rez rocket, with its unknown coolant began to freeze. Rolled into work one day and found a green slush underneath. After the initial OMG panic did I crack the block or burst the rad subsided, I found the coolant was slush and pushing out of the rad cap. Made a hell of a mess. I plugged the block heater in, boosted its frozen battery and she fired up. Freeze plugs were all in place and the rad not bulged or cracked even.

What I forgot was this: The coolant in the block was liquid and once it warmed up and the thermostat opened, the coolant needed somewhere to go. Well the garbage in the rad wouldn't flow so I ended up dumping over a gallon of coolant out and nearly over heating the engine. Caught it in time and ended up flushing 3 gallons of 50/50 mix into her. No issues thus far but we really have not had anything more than -30 yet.

Same crap different pile: Accidentally command started the diesel at -30C cold soaked without it being plugged in. Grid heater cycled as normal and she fired right up. Nothing more than seasonal blend diesel in the tank. The Tb has been running 50/50 Dexcool at least since I did the water pump in 2013 and it occasionally gets the block heater plugged in. Occasionally...
 

Chickenhawk

Well-Known Member
The thing to remember is that temperatures rarely get much below minus 34 (except, apparently, in Winnipeg.) Vehicles are not subject to wind chills because that only affects humans. So, at minus 34, in a 60 MPH wind that brings the windchill down to about minus a thousand, the vehicle is still minus 34. So when it comes to coolant, ignore windchill figures.

I would also be cautious of mixing greater than 50/50. Concentrations greater than 60/40 can cause overheating in the summer and 60/40 provides no greater protection against freezing than 50/50.

And, yes, at minus 39, being smart asses keeps us warm.
 

littleblazer

Gold Supporter
:iagree:The only effect windchill has is how fast it gets to the ambient temp. -40 is -40 but a hot engine only at -40 vs one at the same temp but with wind will cool significantly faster. Read forced convection. That's why we have fans on our radiators.
 
OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
You could use the block heater, which is normally installed in all vehicles in northern climates if you're that worried or have to be sure one of them starts. It's that plug that's normally rolled up and tied up near the battery :biggrin:

I can tell you that unlike vehicles of yesteryear that wouldn't start in anything below -10c, these vehicles start down to like at least -30c, which is the temperature I started my TB recently in North Bay a couple of weekends ago. Even my old TB with 3 times the mileage started in the same temp. I've also started my Saab with the 5.3 in similar temps. BTW, all without the block heater being used.

Oh, and I use 50/50 in my snowmobile too without any issues.
Heh...down here in the lower 48, at least back when my stable of '03s were produced, both the block heater and the cord to control it were options. IIRC, they're quasi-standard on Canadian vehicles, and the Alaska dealers would either outfit them or specify them when they placed their orders (industry-wide, not just GM-supplied). These days, with $60-80K pickup trucks, I'd imagine that GM might (?) just throw in the heater for 'free' - but that's just a guess.

The only vehicle I ever put a block heater in was an '06 Civic hybrid - did it myself. Cold temps kill MPG, as most of you probably already know. Was great for at home - out 'in the wild', it did me no good, as we didn't have power posts in parking lots like I've seen in Alaska and YT; as well as other places in Canada, I'm sure. We do *now*, but they're for EV recharging.

I've encountered fairly low temps before here in IL... maybe 1-2 days every year or two where it gets down to -10F or so. Most of the coldest part of the winter (1st three weeks in January is typically the worst over here), the daytime highs will get to low (+) single digits, and the nighttime lows somewhere in the low (-) single digits. That, I don't worry about at all, either from a fluid or charging standpoint (although, in my experience, once you get below +10F, cars make some unwelcome noises when sitting outside & started from cold (and in the case of the Sierra, it idles roughly for a good five minutes or so.)

But... when we're talking about ambient in the mid -20s F, something that hasn't been here since the 1980s, I start getting concerned, WRT antifreeze. (Since I have M1 in the Sierra's crankcase right now, thx to my mechanic, I'm not worried about oil viscosity at all...although as I check the pour point of the blend I have in there now, it's rated to -39C / -38.2F...one would think that would be higher). With the cars I'm not driving...even if the oil solidifies, it's not going to damage the engine. Just wait until it gets warmer to start it up.

Back in those glorious early '80s, I had one car, and it was a beater...lol...the phrase 'young, dumb, and full of'...er...antifreeze...lol... applied. If a motor or tranny went south, you'd junk it, and spend $500 on another car. Now, I have several; some I'm keeping, others I'm selling...and if an engine gets ruined, that's $$$$ out of my pocket. No skookum, if I could have prevented it. Plus, I have the knowledge now that comes with experience & age...or is that 'failure' ? LOL. Or, to quote Thomas Paine... "The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark."

Finally, one last thing about automotive antifreeze (applies at least to DexCool, if not others)...the point at which it starts getting 'slushy' (let's say, -34F, in a 50-50 concentration)...to the point at which it does freeze solid (but NOT expand & damage a motor, as straight water would)...is not that great...only about 5C or so.

As a result...for those in the 'Peg...it might (?) be worth checking the expansion tank or the radiator, when it gets 'Mars' cold. For the rest of us...'slushy' is fine...the coolant both in / out of the engine can circulate freely, by the time the t-stat starts opening to allow flow-through. Although... I wouldn't move that vehicle until the t-stat starts opening, so that the coolant in the radiator can warm up from the engine compartment, and not become frozen from wind running across the rad while driving.
 

Chickenhawk

Well-Known Member
I run 50/50 and have never seen slushy coolant. We can go weeks at below -30 but it is still rare to get below -36 for more than a few scattered days in winter. (Wind chill temperatures do not effect vehicles.)

We plug the truck in for 3 hours when it gets below -15 or so. (The newer GM block heaters on the 06+ won't even come on above -18C.) Plus, we idle for about 30 seconds max, and then drive off slowly. If the coolant in the rad is not frozen at the ambient temperature, it cannot freeze by airflow across the rad. While air flow will bring an object DOWN to ambient temperature faster - such as blowing across a bowl of hot soup - it cannot cool it BELOW ambient temperature, no matter how fast the wind. It is hard to remember when it feels like -50 on your body, but inanimate objects are not affected by the wind chill effect.
 

littleblazer

Gold Supporter
I run 50/50 and have never seen slushy coolant. We can go weeks at below -30 but it is still rare to get below -36 for more than a few scattered days in winter. (Wind chill temperatures do not effect vehicles.)

We plug the truck in for 3 hours when it gets below -15 or so. (The newer GM block heaters on the 06+ won't even come on above -18C.) Plus, we idle for about 30 seconds max, and then drive off slowly. If the coolant in the rad is not frozen at the ambient temperature, it cannot freeze by airflow across the rad. While air flow will bring an object DOWN to ambient temperature faster - such as blowing across a bowl of hot soup - it cannot cool it BELOW ambient temperature, no matter how fast the wind. It is hard to remember when it feels like -50 on your body, but inanimate objects are not affected by the wind chill effect.
This is explained significantly better than how I did.
 

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