When I got up this morning it was eighteen degrees outside. I got into my nineteen degree truck (no heated garage, just a carport) and shivered. I had the heater turned up full, and by about fifteen minutes later, when I was on the freeway at fifty-five miles an hour, the heater was putting out an adequate flow of heat. Adequate, anyway, given that I had on long johns, pants, a heavy shirt, sweater, down parka, wool cap, and gloves. If I had been running my old 1977 Chevy’s heater at full blast under these conditions, it would have melted the soles off of my shoes.
I’m not sure I understand this – my truck was designed in Japan and built in Canada, neither of which are particulary warm countries. And our German car’s heater is the same way, even though no one would put Germany in the European Sun Belt. I’m assuming that it has something to do with the fact that today’s cars do not have the big honkin’ radiators that they used to, but rather little plastic ones. And possibly the fact that few people live in Detroit anymore?
4 January 2010: This is apparently due to emissions control; the engines are designed to waste less heat these days.