Coming to Alaska – What Is a Plugin for a Car

When you live in the South or somewhere with warm or mild winter, many everyday things of people in the north may not seem obvious on first view. They may even be totally unknown to you because they wouldn’t have a function or use at home. Read this real life story for an answer on “what is a plugin for a car?”, and for entertainment.



Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.


A Male Plug Hanging Out of the Hood

When I was the first time in Alaska for my job interview at the university, the wife of the search committee chair had picked me up at the hotel. I saw a male plug hanging out of the hood of her car. Therefore, I said to her “You have an extension cord hanging out of your hood.” She smiled and said “No, it’s just the male plug to connect to the extension cord.” “What for?” was my follow-up question. About 20 years ago, electro cars weren’t a thing except in warehouses. “To plug your car in when it’s cold in winter.”



Plugins Serve to Operate to the Block Heater

I must have made a face like a question mark or so. After a short pause she explained that Alaskan cars have a motor block heater. This heater serves to keep the engine and battery warm so the car would start when it is standing outside in negative temperatures (temperatures below -18oC).


extension cord in snow wrapped on a bumper in Alaska
Extension cord wrapped around the hooks that are on the bumper of a Wrangler. When it snowed one has to “dig” it out of the accumulated snow.



Then she pointed to the about a yard high (~1 m) poles in the parking lot of the hotel. Due to my jet-lack and stress related to interviewing, I hadn’t even taken notice of them. “See these poles? They are to provide the electricity for the block-heaters. You connect your car with a connection cord to power the block heater. Such connections exist in the parking lots of schools, employers, public buildings and even private residences. Sometimes permafrost causes plugins to stand at an angle – like that one.” She pointed to a pole on the other side of the street. With a sudden, I saw them everywhere, and realized that all cars – including my rental car – had a male plug hanging out of their hood.

She continued “The cord tells us how cold it is.” Because I already had inquired what is a plugin for a car, I put on my poker face to hide my thought “What on Earth is that supposed to mean?


You Have to Order a Block Heater as Extra When Buying a Brand-New Car

Anyhow, when we came to Alaska and had the challenge to buy a new car without credit reports, we demanded to add a block-heater so we could plug-in.


photo showing an example of what is a plugin for a car
Example of how a plugin pole can look like. Wood or iron poles are most common. Typically, two adjacent parking spots share one pole with two outlets. A hood protects the outlets. This unit is what is a plugin for a car. See how the cord kept the “curves” that resulted from wrapping it around the hooks on the bumper. That’s what she meant saying that the cord tells them how cold it is.



What She Meant with “The Cord Tells Us How Cold It Is.”

In the first winter, I learned fast what she meant with “The cord tells us how cold it is.” The colder the ambient air, the stiffer the cord becomes. At 40 below, you can hold the about 4 to 5 yards (3.66 to 4.57 m) long cord horizontally, vertically or at any angle in the air like a stick. The cord won’t bend on its own. Therefore, you have to bend it to get it into your trunk, roll it around your side mirror or about the hooks when you have a Wrangler (see photo).



Starting Your Car with a Remote Control

Plugging in your car is not only about getting your car to start in the cold. You could as well idle the engine for ten to 15 minutes every two or three hours. In deed, the majority of people even use a remote control to do so. The remote starts (and stops running) the engine of automatic cars. The owner just goes to the window and points the remote towards their car.

Some car owners plug their cars in and use the remote control to idle the car its inside is already warm when they enter the car.


Plugins Can Reduce Winter Air Pollution

In winter, you see a lot of cars and trucks with diesel engines idling all by themselves in front of stores, in mall parking lots and in front of restaurants. Of course, idling your car means that your car produces emissions. Even worse, running an engine on low load means incomplete combustion. Or in plain English, high emissions.

Speaking of Alaska air quality, did you know that there exists an optimum speed at which emissions are lowest? Above that speed emissions increase again.


Black heater extension cord on a bumper with snow
Extension cord unwrapped and connected to the plugin outlet


When you plug in your car, the block heater warms the engine (and battery). Consequently, when you start the engine its emissions are smaller than when it would start (if at all) at low temperature. Cold-start emissions increase with decreasing temperature. Therefore, plug-ins help to reduce winter air pollution in Arctic and sub-arctic cities.



Look of the Day

Now that you know what is a plug-in for a car let’s look another example of how to get more wear out of your wardrobe. Here I am wearing a dress as a skirt by pulling a sweater on top. To imitate the half tuck, I pinned the sweater to the dress.


style blogger in winter look with dress as skirt and sweater
Front view of look described below


fashion blogger in work outfit with top, flare skirt and chain embellished footwear
Lula Roe fit-and-flare abstract print dress, GNW tights, Vince Camuto suede boots with chain details, unbranded sweater, citrine and moonstone necklace, Hermes collier de chien


How do you like this look? How do you “pretend” to have a larger wardrobe than you actually have? Just curious.


Photos of me: G. Kramm

Photos of equipment: N. Mölders

© 2013-2022 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved


Related Posts