Gif: Garage 54 / YouTube (Other)

The eccentric mechanics at Garage 54 are at it again. This time, they’re answering a question that I think many of us have. What happens to an engine during a cold start in sub-zero temperatures?

I know you probably don’t want to be reminded of winter as things are finally warming up and all that snow is melting away. But I’ve long wondered what goes on inside of an engine during a frozen cold start. Thankfully, our friends at the Garage 54 YouTube channel conducted a test to find out.

To answer this question, the team partnered up with some local experts to create a transparent rocker cover and oil pan. These experts made the parts out of polycarbonate using molds. The montage of watching a rocker cover get made from polycarbonate is deeply satisfying to watch.

Gif: Garage 54 / YouTube (Other)

I’ve seen polycarbonate car parts before and they don’t seem to perform too well without some extra support. The guys had a solution for this by cutting out the edges of metal parts and making mounting plates out of them.

I love this finished product. If it weren’t for high heat and obstacles in the road, I’d totally make transparent engine parts for everything in my fleet. But these parts aren’t just here to look pretty. The guys filled up the engine with oil, sealed it up then took it outside to freeze.

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Screenshot: Garage 54 / YouTube (Other)

When Vlad said that they were going to freeze the car, he meant it. When he returned to the car in -22 degree Fahrenheit weather, the oil was so thick that it didn’t even drip off of the dipstick. He described the thickness as being like honey. That’s cold.

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Screenshot: Garage 54 / YouTube (Other)

The poor wagon struggled to start in the freezing temps and when it did, it just didn’t want to keep running. It reminds me of trying to start a diesel without glow plugs in the dead of winter. Hearing the poor thing fail to start was painful.

In the car’s few moments running, the oil didn’t have good circulation through the engine. The timing chain kicked up some oil but the head and camshaft remained dry. The oil was just too thick to be shoved through the engine.

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Screenshot: Garage 54 / YouTube (Other)

In the Garage 54 team’s attempts to get some oil circulation, they apparently pushed the engine so hard that the splines on the distributor broke.

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Screenshot: Garage 54 / YouTube (Other)

Their result was actually pretty surprising to me. I expected to see a bit more oil flow. Perhaps with a different type of oil they would have gotten more flow. This is as good an example as any for why people in cold climates get engine block heaters for their cars. Check out Garage 54 for more awesome car experiments.