Engine Heat: A math lesson that could save your life this winter

Easy numbers to calculate how long you can idle if you need your car for heatAuthor of the article:Justin PritchardPublishing date:Nov 26, 2021  •  7 hours ago  •  3 minute read  •   6 Comments

It takes more fuel to move more fuel, but it's not a good idea to run low.
It takes more fuel to move more fuel, but it’s not a good idea to run low. PHOTO BY JIL MCINTOSH

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Let’s turn your car’s fuel gauge into a clock.


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Weird, right? second of 4 minutes, 56 secondsVolume 0% 

But consider this: do you know how long your car’s engine can run on a litre of gasoline? And do you know how much gasoline your car’s tank holds?

If you do, you’re a very simple math lesson away from being able to calculate how many hours of heat you can generate from your vehicle’s current fuel supply during survival idling — that is, running your engine to keep you warm if you’re helplessly stuck or stranded in the cold, and trying to stay alive until help arrives.

Whether you suffer a mechanical failure, accident, or other setback that sees you stranded in the cold, this little exercise can help you more calmly navigate things by removing an important unknown from the situation: how long can you stay warm for?


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Two caveats before our math lesson. First, it applies to modern fuel-injected gasoline engines. Second, nothing I’m about to explain takes higher importance than being properly prepared for winter driving emergencies, which includes keeping functional emergency survival gear and supplies in your vehicle at all times.

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