Using a Standard Duty hard drive in a Cold Climate . . . what are the chances of survival ?

All MyGig automotive navigation / media systems are initially built with an Automotive Duty hard drive. These drives are more tolerant to environmental extremes in temperature, humidity, air density, vibration and physical shock.

Cold is the Greatest Risk

If a vehicle is used in a very cold climate, sub-freezing temperatures are the greatest threat to a Standard Duty drive. If the disk is unable to spin up because of the cold, it can damage motor and head-servo components. Also, the disk surface and data can be damaged by the heads if the disk is not spinning or is spinning at the wrong rpm.

What to expect from a Standard Duty drive ?

It's a surprise to us we've had no feedback about drive failure from a large number of customers who ordered Standard Duty drives for use in cold climates. To see what actually happens, we did some cold weather field testing with Standard Duty drives. The results are below.

MyGig Freeze-Test Survival

When will a MyGig hard drive freeze in very cold weather In a cold climate you may be able to avoid super-cold conditions most of the time, but when traveling, your car may end up outside over-night in sub-zero weather. Will your Standard Duty hard drive survive being powered on when its internal temperature is 0 -18C° or colder ?

The Test  Switch to Fahrenheit version of this page

We tested 60GB and 40GB Standard Duty Toshiba hard drives through three freeze cycles. These are the same models we ship to customers.

We parked 2 Jeep Grand Cherokees outside overnight on three separate nights with outdoor temperatures as low -33°C (actual temperature, not wind-chill). We had remote temperature sensors attached to the hard drive mounting plates for tracking temperature through the nights. The hard drives started at over 49°C following a drive around town. Hours later, when they dropped to -7°C we started testing at 3°C intervals to see if the drives would read Navigation and Music data when the MyGig radio was turned on.

Test Results - Mechanical Freeze Temperature

Both Navigation and HDD Music worked normally when the hard drive temperature was -12°C. Neither drive would spin-up at -15°C but the head servos were actively trying to find data on the stationary disks. This is not a good condition because normally the high velocity air film on a spinning disk keeps the heads flying a few nanometers above the disk surface. Head to Disk Contact destroys data.

Test Results - MyGig System Behavior

We recorded MyGig system behavior when the hard drives were fully seized by -20°C hard drive temperatures.

    The system will hang on the vehicle-logo for about 15-20 seconds. All AM/FM/Sirius features will work normally.
    If a radio program was played last, these models will resume the
    AM/FM radio or Sirius program if Sirius equipped.
    This message will be displayed if you select the Nav button.  AM/FM/Sirius will work normally.

The System Information Screen will show missing Gracenote and Navigation Database error messages

Test Results - Freeze survival

Our 40GB and 60GB Toshiba Standard Duty drives survived 3 mechanical-freeze cycles and returned to service when they warmed up. We were careful to minimize the amount of time the drives were "trying" to spin up while frozen using the "warm up" guidelines in the next column.

MyGig Hard Drive Freeze Test Results

When will a MyGig hard drive freeze in very cold weather If you have a Standard Duty hard drive in your MyGig system and live or travel into cold temperatures, it might be helpful to know how long it will take for your hard drive to mechanically freeze when you park outside. A Standard Duty drive freezes when its temperature drops into the range of -12°C to -15°C. There is a good chance with will cause permanent failure the first time it happens.

So How long can I leave my car outside ?

(Starting with your car interior and engine fully warmed from driving)

Answer 1: with no sunshine

  • With the outside temperature at -10°C or above, your hard drive will be fine no matter how long your car is parked outside.
  • You can park your car for 4 or 5 hours when its really cold outside (below -18°C), without a problem - provided it started with a fully warmed engine and interior.

Answer 2: Sunshine Saves the Day

If you park in direct sun-light you can leave your outside all day at -20°C without a problem. Sunshine gives you about a 10°C advantage over being parked in the shade or overnight.

This Graph comes from an overnight cool-off with a 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The residual heat in the engine block and transmission keep your MyGig system fairly warm for a few hours. The Jeep has a 5.7 Liter engine which has more stored heat than cars with small engines.

12 hour Hard Drive Cool Off at -16°C Outdoor Temperature

Starting Temp  55°C (after highway driving)

"UnSafe" Temp -13°C (after 8 hours parked)

 Ending Temp  -14°C (after 12 hours parked)

Safe Line -12°C

Outdoor Temp -16°C

How to warm up a frozen hard drive ?

  • Start your engine
  • Turn off your MyGig and leave it off until the interior of the car has fully warmed to room temperature. If you try to run your Mygig before the drive has thawed out, you risk further damage to the hard drive.
  • This can be done with the car parked or when driving normally.

After you have run your engine long enough to warm up the interior of you vehicle, your MyGig system may not actually work until you • stop the car • turn off the ignition • open and close the driver's door •turn on the ignition.

Standard Duty Hard Drive Temperature Facts

Review these temperature facts if you are considering using a Standard Duty hard drive in a cold climate.

5°C = the low end of the operating temperature range in most manufacturer's Standard Duty hard drive Specifications.

-7°C = the low end we specify in our product listings.

-10°C = the tested "Safe" temperature to avoid mechanical freeze up.

-14°C = the tested temperature (+/-) where the Toshiba drives mechanically freeze.

Powering your MyGig when the hard drive is mechanically frozen causes extremely high stress for the drive and may cause permanent failure on any occurrence.

On some models, opening the driver's door with the ignition OFF causes the hard drive to spin up. If you have moved your vehicle into a warm garage to thaw out a hard drive seized by cold temperature, leave the driver's door closed to avoid having power being delivered to the hard drive.