As we reach the lowest depths of winter down here in New Zealand, one could be forgiven for not wanting to venture out into the garage or workshop from the warm, cosy confines of the couch… however it is us that look forward to the coming summer, when we would rather be enjoying our rides than having to carry out major work in the form of building or fixing, that brave the elements and make the most of the long, dark evenings.
Therefore the sacrifice is made and as I sit here writing this introduction, I am geared up, rugged up and tooled up ready to hit the garage again and get on with the building part. My fingertips may be numb but there is fire in my belly and I’m determined to get this project completed! So here we go with my top tips for keeping warm when working on your pride and joy during the winter months…
1. Get a heater.
This might seem an obvious solution but it’s not always that simple. You might have an exceptionally large space that is difficult to heat efficiently, in which case running a heater for any length of time isn’t an option. But if you work in a standard size single or double garage, it is usually quite easy to bring the temperature up to something more comfortable; a simple electric heater, preferably wall mounted, should be more than adequate. If your garage space is integral to your home, you may even have installed a water radiator connected to your GFCHS.
For larger workshops, a diesel-fuelled space heater would be more suitable; they are highly effective however not terribly efficient. Store a few jerry cans of diesel to save a mid-session trip to the pump! They also require proper ventilation and can be noisy, so these are other factors to keep in mind. A gas-fired ceiling heater is also a good option, they are quieter and more efficient but will still require adequate ventilation.
Check out these garage and workshop heaters available on Amazon;
Optimus H-9010 Garage/Shop Ceiling or Wall Mount Utility Heater – possibly one of the cheapest small area electric heaters you can buy, but still offering a decent heat output of upto 1500W with the added convenience of being wall-mountable. This compact unit also has an additional built-in halogen light.
Mr. Heater F260550 Big Maxx MHU50NG Natural Gas Unit Heater – with 50,000 BTU of heat output this gas-fired unit is suitable for larger spaces of over 1000 sq.ft. Wall or ceiling mountable and comes with installation kit and a 3 year warranty. Great value for the money if you already have a natural gas source!
2. Lay that sucker down.
As we all know most garages are built around a concrete slab floor, which you really don’t want to be sitting, kneeling or laying down on for any length of time. Even standing in the same spot, such as at the bench, can allow the cold to creep through your boots and before you know it you have a chill.
It is well worth it to find some old carpet that has a decent thickness to it and lay it down on the floor, in at least the areas you’re most likely to be working. It doesn’t have to be great, but something is better than nothing. My father contracted arthritis from spending years laying and kneeling on cold conrete as a mechanic, so this will be cheap insurance against potential issues later in life.
3. The 3 H’s.
Stand for Hat, Hoodie and Half-gloves. Over 70% of body heat escapes through the head, so bunging on a beenie and popping the hood up is a smart choice. You might also want to go the whole hog and wear a full face balaclava, however for me this is a little too claustrophobic and if I ever need to pop out to get supplies I wouldn’t want to be mistaken for holding up the joint!!
The half-gloves are an option, but I mention them because they keep the tips of the fingers free. If it is really cold then I find wearing thin work gloves with a nitrile glove over the top works really well to keep hands and fingers warm without being too bulky, as many regular mechanics gloves are.
Grab a pair of these work-tough and winter-ready tactical half gloves here… featuring a breathable microfibre lining and a durable, hard knuckle protector these will not only protect you from the elements but also prevent injury when that wrench slips!
4. Rug up!
I’m not a fan of having to wear several layers of clothes, so wearing the correct layers can help avoid that Michelin Man feeling! First up is a themal vest; whilst a polyprop is fine, I find merino are more comfortable and help regulate body heat better. I then put on a good cotton t-shirt followed by the above-mentioned hoodie. I will often wear long, wool/wool-mix socks to keep the chill off the feet and lower legs, and a good pair of jeans or cotton work pants like Dikies are both hardwearing and warm.
5. Plug the gaps (then gap your plugs).
Nobody likes a cold draught blowing through their workspace so it’s just as important to keep the outside weather outside as it is to keep your inside heat inside. Fitting a rubber strip to the bottom of the main door and any other doors that lead directly outside will help eliminate snow, leaves and wind from distracting you from your fettling. A garage door insulator is also an effective way to stop it acting like a huge radiator to the outside, and a cheap and easy solution is to use polystyrene or even carpet (although carpet is heavy so might not be a great idea for up and over or roller doors). Double glazed windows, or a DIY alternative using polypropylene sheet cut to size, is a sure-fire way of sealing them up without any loss of light transmission.
6. Get to work!
This may sound daft since it’s the primary reason for heading out into the cold in the first place, but how many times have you ventured down to the garage with the aim of getting a particular job done and just found yourself tinkering about with something else and not achieving anything? I’m guilty of this also, and I often find myself staring at whatever project I’m supposed to be working on and not actually doing any work!
It’s times like these where we just stand around that the cold creeps in, so the importance of keeping moving and building up a sweat cannot be over-emphasised. My suggestions for avoiding those stale, frustrating and non-productive workshop sessions is to have a plan of action, ensuring you have all the parts and tools you require, and a second pair of hands is always a welcome and useful addition.
So that about wraps up my top tips for staying warm and productive during the colder months of the year, allowing you the free time to enjoy the fruits of your labours during the summer. Remember, not only will you feel more comfortable and remain healthy, your mind will be more focused on the task at hand and not on your freezing fingertips!!
Check out the product recommendations above to get kitted up ready for the coming winter. If you have any great tips for how you keep the cold at bay in your garage or workshop, feel free to leave them in the comments below… Have a great day and I’ll see you all again soon.