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Cold Starts

One of the many challenges of life in Fairbanks has been starting the car when the mercury takes a nosedive. Today, many of us enjoy warm garages, remote start and fuel injection. Forty years ago, starting a car in winter required different strategies and the effectiveness depended on what kind of Alaskan you were.

Fairbanks Daily News Miner – March 1, 1975

STARTING AN ALASKAN CAR – The staffers at the Yukon Sentinel, Ft. Wainwright newspaper have raised some interesting theories about cold winter car starts depending on the type or driver you may be. They suggest:

CHEECHAKO – Owner fresh from the states, dashes out at 7:15 full of optimism and energy, chops off enough ice from the windshield to form a peephole to be used as a sort of sight over the radiator cap, injects a pint of ethyl into the carburetor, pours a pint of alcohol into the tank, (takes a snort himself), steps on the starter which is connected to four batteries. Result – Arrives at work three hours late.

EXPERIMENTAL – Owner, becoming desperate after having tried everything but arising early, is now a gadgeteer. Installs crankcase heater, headbolt heater, carburetor heater, de-icers and fuel pump heater as well dipstick heater. Result – Heated vocabulary.

SOURDOUGH – Uses the accepted method tested by time. Arises at 3 a.m. (reluctantly). Digs car from ice and snow. Kicks car soundly three or four times to establish respect for authority. Appears disinterested in whether car starts, lights pipe or cigar, hovers in the vicinity, musing aloud about the beauty of the scenery, raises head, shakes head disapprovingly, mentions several reasons shy the purchase of a new car in indicated. Kicks car soundly for or more times, returns to house with intention of remaining. Drinks a cup of coffee, being sure car can see him through the window. Nonchalantly saunters back and kicks car four more times. Pries open door with crowbar and removes icicles from dashboard, steering wheel and seat. Unobtrusively pulls the choke out 3 to 4 feet. Turns ignition key on with pair of pliers. Now hurriedly jumping into car, he slams foot on starter, kicks car soundly with other foot three or four times, curses loudly and beats dash (preferably with a hammer.) Result – Arrives at work only one hour late!

Note: Today many of us enjoy remote starts and heated seats. While we have gained those luxuries, we have also lost a great excuse for being late to work! (You just can’t win them all!) This lesson in cold weather starts has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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