On January 23, 1971 the town of Prospect Creek recorded Alaska’s and the United States’ coldest temperature of 79.8 below zero. So far it’s the lowest recorded temperature anywhere in the country. Which means things were probably running pretty slow from the faucets to the citizens. But what about the cars? Granted back then the quality of engines and the quality of coolant wasn’t up to modern standards but suppose that temperature was recorded today.
Would the gas in your car freeze?
Here’s some science for you from the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:
Gasoline doesn’t really have just one freezing temperature, and in fact, gasoline isn’t made out of just one kind of molecule, but many different hydrocarbons. If you get it cold enough, it will get pretty hard. Freezing is a phase change, in which the symmetry of a system reduces — a liquid with a random distribution of molecules turns into an orderly crystal in a true freezing phase change. Gasoline on the other hand, just has molecules that slow down as they get colder, and remain in a disordered state at lower temperatures (you might get some crystals of some hydrocarbons if you cool it slowly enough).
Got that? What it really means is that we don’t have anything to worry about. Unless it gets down to 79.8 degrees below zero here in Kansas City. In which case we probably have more to worry about than freezing gas.