Automotive

Leaving electronics in a cold car

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  • Nov 11th, 2009 1:05 pm
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[OP]
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Nov 3, 2003
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Leaving electronics in a cold car

Is it ok to leave electronic gadgets (e.g., BT headsets, BT car kits, GPS receivers, etc.) in the car in cold weather? If so, is it necessary to let them warm up before using them?
18 replies
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Aug 18, 2005
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Burlington-Hamilton
In many cases, the manuals will list maximum and minimum storage and usage temperatures. This is true for most computer equipment.

DEFINITELY let the equipment come up to room temperature before turning on. Sometimes students kill their own laptops by walking 20 minutes in Winter from residence to the lecture hall, and then turning on the cold laptop immediately. Condensation forms inside on the motherboard...
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Jan 27, 2006
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Woodbridge
I'm not sure about Gadgets like OP listed but I know Notebook, Home Theater Components need to settle at Room Temperature before turning it on.

I leave/left my BlackBerry Bold, iPod touch/nano's in the car during cold winters and haven't had any problems. *knock-on-wood*
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Dec 26, 2005
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Guelph
It's a greater concern with a longer time period. If, for example, you're leaving your car overnight, then yes, actually wait a somewhat lengthy time. But if it's just leaving your phone in your car for a few hours then maybe give it 10 minutes, if that.

Laptops need a little more car. If you have to leave it in a car then wrap it in something.. like a blanket or a shirt.

I'm also fairly sure that the more harmful problem is repetitive temperature changes (Freezing to sauna to freezing - lol ok, you get the point). Try not to go in and out and in and out... etc of different temperature areas..
In all honestly I've never had problems either, but hey, I could just be lucky.
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[OP]
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Thanks for all the replies so far. I'm most concerned about the gadgets that I might need in the car (wireless devices, GPS) so having to wait until they warm up would be quite inconvenient. Of course I could take them with me, but again, what a hassle...

And what about factory installed gadgetry (i.e., onboard audio system, onboard GPS)? Are they designed so that they will withstand extreme temperatures more than other devices?
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Gigi wrote: Thanks for all the replies so far. I'm most concerned about the gadgets that I might need in the car (wireless devices, GPS) so having to wait until they warm up would be quite inconvenient. Of course I could take them with me, but again, what a hassle...

And what about factory installed gadgetry (i.e., onboard audio system, onboard GPS)? Are they designed so that they will withstand extreme temperatures more than other devices?
These things are manufactured with the intention of being in the car so it may be different.
I suggest you go into the manual and check. They may have info.
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Sep 12, 2006
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My ipod never used to turn on in the winter after being left overnight. I'd have to warm it for a few minutes with body heat (ie. with my butt, lol).
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Mar 7, 2009
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Waterloo
I keep my GPS unit in my car in the winter and the summer and haven't had a problem yet.
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May 7, 2006
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Ontario
Jucius Maximus wrote: In many cases, the manuals will list maximum and minimum storage and usage temperatures. This is true for most computer equipment.

DEFINITELY let the equipment come up to room temperature before turning on. Sometimes students kill their own laptops by walking 20 minutes in Winter from residence to the lecture hall, and then turning on the cold laptop immediately. Condensation forms inside on the motherboard...
+1

The temperature difference is a problem (condensation). Definitely let it sit and get to room temperature before using it.
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Jan 5, 2003
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Toronto
Anything with a battery will get shortened battery life being exposed to extreme heat/cold and temperature swings. LCD displays usually refresh slower when very cold. As others have say, the biggest problem is condensation on internal parts.

Either bring them inside or buy stuff that you won't mind having a short life. If you have an attached garage, it might be warm enough that it's okay, but for a detached garage in the winter, consider your electronics disposable. I usually wear the same coat in the winter, so put my electronics into my winter coat when parking for the night.
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Oct 18, 2006
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I specifically want to know about a Garmin GPS wiht a touch screen 255w. Anyone leave it in their car all winter?
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Feb 9, 2008
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Gigi wrote: And what about factory installed gadgetry (i.e., onboard audio system, onboard GPS)? Are they designed so that they will withstand extreme temperatures more than other devices?
Yes, but eventually the temperature will drop low enough that they fail.

My first job some years ago was in military avionics: at the time the only two fields which were considered tougher for electronics design were space and automotive. The environment that cars operate in is really hard on electronics and they have to keep working for years with only limited maintenance.
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Jan 11, 2009
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well think about it, the standard factory gps units that come with the car are not protect, atleast i don't think so...they just sit in ur car overnight, so does the stereo system...how are u gonna protect those? park ur car in a heated garage? park it underground?...that's about the best protection u can do for it...

if ur worried then just bring it into the house...
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jm1 wrote: Anything with a battery will get shortened battery life being exposed to extreme heat/cold and temperature swings.
Batteries are preserved in the cold, however the problem is in colder temperatures Li-Ion batts which are typically found in small electronics (MP3 players, phones, etc.) can't deliver current well when cold. Hence why you have stories like this one:
alex_d10 wrote:My ipod never used to turn on in the winter after being left overnight. I'd have to warm it for a few minutes with body heat (ie. with my butt, lol).
The lower temperature actually doesn't pose too much danger for the battery, it just doesn't allow it to power on the device (or power the device effectively) until warmed.
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Jun 19, 2006
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Jucius Maximus wrote: Sometimes students kill their own laptops by walking 20 minutes in Winter from residence to the lecture hall, and then turning on the cold laptop immediately. Condensation forms inside on the motherboard...
You've heard of this happening??

Aren't most laptop parts continuously, or near-continuously energized?

I've fired up my laptop hundreds of times in -30C weather, after sitting outdoors overnight. Biggest problem is that the battery really struggles to put out enough power, and hence, battery life is very short.
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pitz wrote: You've heard of this happening??

Aren't most laptop parts continuously, or near-continuously energized?
Laptops are not energized when turned off...

This is supposedly an issue that affects Powerbooks.
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Apr 1, 2007
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I leave my iPod in the car every night, and every morning its dead.

I would recommend taking all electronics inside, especially in extreme weather conditions.
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Feb 9, 2006
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Brampton
Electronics in cars and others designed for harsh conditions are "potted". Most of the components are also designed and or picked for harsh conditions. Quality pocket electronics should be potted as well. Potting is when you cover the electronics in a shellack type coating or a rubberized coating. The circuit boards should pretty much run under water. I don't know how many of you have taken apart the main computer for your car but you'll see it's very difficult to repair because of the potting. I know on my Nokia phones that solder joints would have a waxy substance that would easily burn off when you go to solder it but it would protect the joint from water. I believe most pocket electronics employ these methods to resist moisture.

BGA mounted equipment also have a filler under the chip usually an epoxy. To resist damage from temp changes. It's one reason why the Xbox360 had such high failure rates.

Most electronics today have temp sensors that will tell them to refuse to turn on when it's experiencing temps that are out of range.
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DEZI_EL wrote: I leave my iPod in the car every night, and every morning its dead.
Shouldn't be dead per se, if you warm it (and more importantly the battery) it should function fine. The low temperature does absolutely nothing to remove energy from the battery. All it does is slows down the chemical reaction within it which does the two things I said (preservation and reduced current delivery).

Heat on the other hand (as in leaving stuff in the car in the summertime) degrades batteries, particularly Li-Ion batts. Leaving a Li-Ion in the heat will cause it to have degraded battery capacity much more quickly than if left at room temperature.

Take a look at the table here, particularly the 100% state of charge column, and watch what happens to the useable capacity. At 40C after a year with 100% charge, you lose 35% of the capacity of the battery, permanently.

http://www.batteryuniversity.com/parttwo-34.htm
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If anything you should avoid leaving such small electronics in the car in the summer, not the winter. In the winter you just shouldn't try to operate them when they are still cold. In the winter you will not damage the batteries, you will only be unable to operate the devices at low temperatures. In the summer, leaving the items in the car, you will degrade your batteries more quickly than if you removed the items and left them indoors.

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