Join Date: Aug 2017
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You are a brave man to go camping in a trailer in -20F.
A lot of the answer to your question depends upon details you haven't provided:
- Are you planning to do the OEM cooler or an aftermarket one?
- How big (what is the surface area) of your cooler?
- Where exactly will you mount it? (can affect the amount of direct airflow it will or will not receive)
- If aftermarket, HOW will you be mounting it? (e.g., Will it be in direct contact with the A/C condenser with the zip-ties some aftermarket manufacturers provide?) For the record, this is an easy, but less-than-ideal installation method for airflow.
- Does it have a built-in thermostat to bypass the cooler during cold temps?
- What is the year-round climate where you reside? (Meaning, are you potentially exposed to -20F for months at a time, or just transiently?)
- How often do you plan to be towing something?
The thermodynamic efficiency of a transmission cooler increases as the temperature drops. Most liquid cooled engine thermostats control/maintain a drivetrain operating temperature of 195F (the coolant temperature at which the thermostat allows coolant to enter the radiator rather than recirculate within the engine alone. Transmission oil temperatures (especially when towing) can well exceed 195F.
On standard passenger vehicles without supplemental transmission coolers, it is not an unusual practice in cold parts of the snowbelt (e.g., upper peninsula MI, MN, the Dakotas, etc.) to block all or part of the radiator just to make certain you car reaches and stays at operating temperature during sustained, extreme (sub-zero) cold spells. In extremely low temperatures (read: sub-zero), you MIGHT need to block airflow to the supplemental cooler with a piece of cardboard, IF you are not towing a trailer.
A lot of this comes from experience and the wisdom of others who live in the area and know how to adjust vehicle cooling to the seasonal climate. For above zero temps and "normal" (e.g., non-towing) use, you might not need to do anything beyond allowing the vehicle to adequately warm-up for a few minutes prior to beginning driving.
Much of the above are generalizations and your individual situation/circumstances may vary. Best of luck.