August 17, 2015
The Elk Grove-Sacramento, CA area isn’t necessarily known for its sub-zero weather conditions, although it can get quite cold during the winter. Besides Elk Grove, it’s hard to imagine a more unlikely location for an extreme cold-weather testing ground than the Florida panhandle, and yet that is exactly where Ford goes each year to put over 75 of its vehicle through its paces.
The site for Ford’s sub-zero weather testing is McKinley Climatic Laboratory at the Eglin Air Force Base near Valparaiso, FL. Elgin Air Force Base is a U.S. military facility whose lab is designed to mimic the various weather conditions experienced around the globe.
Ford vehicles of various shapes, sizes and trim levels are tested at McKinley on an annual basis to determine whether they can withstand extreme weather conditions. McKinley is the ideal location for Ford engineers to test their vehicles in below freezing conditions regardless of the season. It also serves as the world’s largest lab of its type and is often deployed by the Air Force to test its aircraft.
The temperature at the climate-controlled lab can dip as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit in a span of 10 hours. Within a brief period of time—usually about three weeks—engineers and technical experts can quickly learn what makes a Ford vehicle tick and make necessary adjustments if needed to enhance the customer experience. Among the tests Ford conducts on its vehicles: determining whether a F-Series truck cabin can warm oil field workers in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay and ensuring that vehicles can start and run in below-zero conditions.
Tests such as these have proved fruitful for Ford. For instance, Ford engineers relied on cold-weather tests to perfect the 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 Turbo Diesel engine used currently in F-Series Super Duty truck. These engineers found that fitting the engine with ceramic gold plugs allowed the engine to heat up faster and the vehicle to start more robustly.
To learn more about the extreme cold weather testing performed at McKinley Climatic Library, watch the video below: