FAQ: How do climate extremes affect a Car PC?
Around Fall and Spring the question of how climate extremes affect Car PC's begins to come up.
In general, Car PC's are remarkably resilient when it comes to dealing with low temperatures that the majority of members are used to dealing with (down to around 0 degrees F or -17 C).
However, cold can and does affect the LCD screen and disk drive. LCD's are liquid crystal devices which can freeze if the temperature goes low enough. In addition, the fluorescent tube that provides the backlight to the screen (called a CCFL) can be dimmer due to the cold.
Both the LCD and the CCFL generally recover as they warm up and will operate normally afterwards. It is not clear whether this shortens the life of either component as we don't have any data from comparison testing.
Disk drives can also be affected by the cold. First, there are two types of disk drives. One uses ball bearings and a race around the shaft of the drive. The other uses fluid dynamic bearings (FDB), rather than the ball bearings. FDB drives are almost always used in laptops and have the advantage of lower noise and the ability to spin at higher speeds.
Mechanical disk drives with bearings seem to survive extremely low temperatures better than the FDB drives. As the temperature approaches single digits farenheit (around -12 C), the fluid in the bearings thickens and the drive platter cannot spin at the appropriate speed. This can cause a boot failure. This suggests that if you live in an extremely cold climate and intend to use a disk drive, you should choose a drive with ball bearings for best performance when cold.
In almost all cases, members have reported that their FDB drives returned to normal operation after just a few minutes in a warm environment. If the drive is inside the computer case, the heat from the processor will often warm it up and a reboot can be accomplished.
Threads on Winter:
Car PC in winter
Does the cold affect my system?
Hard disk life expectancy in cold
Search terms: Cold, Hard Drive, LCD
Most Car PC's are operable in high heat environments (up to 110 F or 43 C). Since processors usually operate at such temperatures when warmed up, there is usually no issue with operating your Car PC at these temperatures.
However, the temperature in a closed car in such an environment can soar to 150 F (65 C), far above normal for a Car PC. If the PC is in an enclosed location such as a dashboard, simply opening the doors of the car, causing it to cool it off by 30 degrees or so may not cool off the enclosure that the Car PC is in.
Temperarture monitoring software such as motherboard monitor is useful in this situation to ensure the PC shuts down if the fans or the incoming air is not sufficient to cool it.
Most members advise against directing air conditioned air into the PC case due to the possibility of condensation forming inside the case. Likewise, attempts to direct outside air into the car are also advised against as the temperature of the air above the road is likely higher than the temperature that a PC would intake from the passenger cabin.
Threads on cooling:
Cooling of a different kind
WizardPC's cooling thread