Tips from the Nation's Icebox


How cold does it get in International Falls? It gets so cold, Marvin tells us, that...

Some people actually start charcoal or propane or wood fires under their crankcases to thin the oil on those extreme cold days in order to start their engines. (Of course, the fires get away from them sometimes and burn up their cars.)

Other people try another strategy: they cover their cars' hoods with blankets to hold in the heat...while they fire up electric-heated blowers or propane heaters to warm the engine. (The downside? The engine compartment can get so hot it blisters the paint on the hood of the car.)

Many locals have been able to start their engines finally on an extremely cold morning...but when they are able to put the car in gear it won't move because the rear-end oil is too stiff.

Police arrested an intoxicated man one cold morning for urinating on a car in public. His claim? He was only trying to thaw out the frozen locks on his car.

Visitors who aren't used to plugging in their cars overnight often drive away in the morning without unplugging their car. What happens? They tear off the wooden posts at the electrical outlets installed by the motels. In fact, one lady even forgot to unplug the extension cord running to her car's block heater. She drove away with a 50-foot electric cord trailing after her. How far did she get? Turns out, she drove downtown before anyone was able to tell her about it.

Remember that arctic-looking frozen lake in the Sears "Die Hard" battery ads? Yup...International Falls.

Metal springs in auto and truck seats get so stiff on cold mornings that there is no spring left to them. What does this feel like? "Like sitting on plywood," says Marvin.

A boiling cup of coffee or tea or water tossed into the air when it is 40 below will not hit the ground! It vaporizes in a second in a cloud of steam. Marvin insists he's tried this, and it's true. (Memo to Marv: Wasting a good cup of Joe on a morning like that? Are you nuts?)

Rubber tires on vehicles actually freeze flat against the ground. How's that affect handling? No problem! The ride is just a little rough for the first few miles.

The local evergreen trees make exploding noises as the sap in the trees freezes and splits open parts of the trees on extremely cold mornings.

The local car-rental agencies recommend to their customers that they let the car idle--get this--*all* *night* *long* to prevent starting problems on those extremely cold mornings. In fact, most logging operators do this routinely. They never shut their engines off for weeks at a time.

Some residents actually take their batteries out of their vehicles at night, take them into the house to keep them warm and reinstall them in the morning...while other folks prefer to drain the crankcase oil, take it into the house and warm it up in the morning.


If car doors are slammed shut too hard on those cold mornings, windshield glass shatters.

The rearview mirror will break free from the windshield and come off in your hand if you try to adjust it on those extremely cold mornings.

Speedometer cables freeze up, squeal like mad...and then break.

Windshields on cars and trucks shatter on cold mornings if they're sent through a car wash and warm water hits the ice-cold windshield.

Cars get flooded so badly, from continuing to pump on the accelerator during cold mornings, that the engine will finally explode. Sometimes, this even blows the dipstick out of its socket and dents the hood of the car!

Marvin himself once cracked the plastic steering wheel of his car as he was pulling himself into it on a 40-below-zero morning.

Plastic-coated jumper cables get so stiff that they crack and can't be used.

Mufflers blow off cars when they finally start after continued pumping of the gas pedal.

Most International Falls residents have more miles on their snowmobiles that they do on their cars!

Many vans and pickups are used to plow snow on the frozen lakes. How do they adapt the vehicles to this special task? Simple...by cutting a hole in the top and covering it with a piece of canvas. Why do that? So you can escape if your truck goes through the ice and the doors get pinned closed, of course.

And, last but not least...

Human flesh freezes in a few minutes if in contact with the metal gas-pump handles at gas stations.

Read Our Senior Web Lackey's Conversation with Marvin Read Marvin's Extreme Winter Driving Tips Check out Marvin's International Falls Thermometer Read Car Talk Winter Driving Tips

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