How long would your vehicle last in a winter storm?


DES MOINES, Iowa — Last week, drivers in Virginia found themselves stranded in their vehicles for nearly 30 hours after an ice storm caused hundreds of crashes. It is a worst-case scenario, but do you know how long your car would last if you were stranded on an Iowa road?

“It sort of depends on how much gas you have in your tank at the moment and how big of an engine you generally have. You can go a while,” said David Undercoffler, editor-in-chief at Autolist.

Undercoffler says it’s all in the numbers. A full tank of gas for a four-cylinder engine will run longer than a six-cylinder engine that burns more gas, and if you find yourself in a traffic jam with half a tank.

“This is very rough math,” said Undercoffler. “If you have 10 gallons of gas in the tank, then maybe you’ve got 10 hours.”

However, it’s a different story for electric vehicles.

“The batteries in an electric vehicle don’t like the cold. They lose a lot of their energy when it is cold outside,” said Undercoffler. “But it’s a lot trickier to know how long you have in an electric car to keep the heat running versus a gas car.”

Lastly, he recommends checking your car’s exhaust if you are ever sitting in a traffic jam during a winter storm.

“Keep the tailpipe clear because that’s where your exhaust is coming out,” Undercoffler said. “And if the exhaust is backed up by snow, that’s carbon monoxide [and] that’s going to start getting into the cabin of the car, and that can be potentially fatal.”

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