Hooniverse Asks – What Cold Weather Precautions Do You Take?

Oh baby, it’s cold outside. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re slogging through the depths of winter, and even in Los Angeles – where sun and fun usually vie with gridlock as the most common daily occurrences – we’re getting record levels of rain and snow. In fact, most of the country has been getting dumped on these past few winter months, Boston even running out of places to put all the white stuff and having to get special dispensation to throw it into the Charles River.
With all that wet weather, you can be assured that your driving habits are going to have to change. You’ll probably be driving a whole lot faster, in an attempt to get out of the weather as quickly as possible, and you’ll want to take the high-horsepower rear-wheel drive pony car with the shaved racing tires because they are immune to the influence of black ice and hydroplaning. The wearing of flip-flops is also prudent as bundling up your feet too warmly can engender nasty fungus growth.
Okay, maybe not all that, but there are things you do to your car and driving habits that take into account the vagaries of cold-weather driving. Maybe it’s a set of winter tires that have spent the summer lounging in a corner of the garage, or maybe it’s an annual tradition of changing your wiper blades and fitting the windshield washer bottle with a little al-key-hall to keep it flowing when temps go to brass monkey retrieving levels.
So, do you have annual rituals for when the weather turns biting? Do you switch out tires or whole cars when the roads get treacherous? Right now, the cold is probably getting pretty old, and if you do change either habit or hardware, how has it been working for you? And those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, just you wait.
Image source: [SparkNotes.com]

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40 responses to “Hooniverse Asks – What Cold Weather Precautions Do You Take?”

  1. muthalovin Avatar

    <img src="http://automotores.info/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/bmw-s-1000-rr-ice.jpg"&gt;
    First, I break out the ice racing tires.
    Just kidding. In Central Texas, I just make sure my battery has a charge. Nothing sucks worse (well, maybe quite a few things do) than hearing the motor struggle to turn over in the cold-dead of winter (40F).

  2. B72 Avatar

    This year I bought tire chains for the RWD van. Just in case I need run over a horde of zombies. I hear they can be a bit slimy.

  3. Alff Avatar

    I haven't resorted to extreme measures in years. I have one set of cables, from a car I haven't owned in 16 years. If any of the Hoons has a use for cable chains that would fit a first-gen Legend or similar (can't be arsed to look up the size), let me know. Perhaps a swap from your equally useless stash is in order. Otherwise, you can have them for the price of postage.

  4. OA5599 Avatar

    I've had to add R-134a to two cars in the past two weeks, because I was getting too toasty on my ride home.

    1. Joe Btfsplk Avatar
      Joe Btfsplk

      Jump-pack, booster cables, extra washer de-icer, shovel, cell phone, sleeping bag and candy bars…all loaded into a fully gassed and serviced Land Cruiser.

      1. chrystlubitshi Avatar

        i carry pretty much that same list of stuff (and more) in every vehicle i've ever owned… year round…

      2. toby Avatar

        Landcruiser owner here…FJ60…upvote.

  5. Mechanically Inept Avatar
    Mechanically Inept

    I wear warm clothes for the inevitable breakdown. I carried a shovel once, in the first big snow that I drove in. The only time I needed it was at the bottom of my driveway. A cell phone, too.

  6. P161911 Avatar

    I actually bought 100lbs. of sand to put in the back of the truck. Also tossed in a few concrete blocks that were laying around. On most days I just made sure the top was up on the Z3.

  7. thomasmac Avatar

    Store Chevelle, switch to Subaru

  8. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Well, I don't really take any apart from carrying more breakdown gear around.
    My father, though, tends to put the E39 in hibernation for the winter and smoke around in the KA. That thing dances through snow and ice like a young dear. And won't matter so much when he stacks it.

  9. mdharrell Avatar

    <img src="http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5249/5206582903_3b59dc0159.jpg&quot; width="350">
    I carry chains. Sometimes I even install them.
    (Sometimes I also recycle photos, but hey, that's the one that's handy.)

  10. Deartháir Avatar

    Yeah, when you guys actually start to see cold weather, maybe you'll be justified in worrying about it.
    /Currently -32C and falling, with snowfall warnings in effect.

  11. Ryans92L Avatar

    I plug in my block heater.
    Yeah a block heater on a Ford Taurus… In northern PA it is a blessing!

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      They sell cars without block heaters?

      1. P161911 Avatar

        Only in places actually fit for human habitation.

      2. Ryans92L Avatar

        That aren't Diesel Trucks, not in my area… My Taurus came from New England so it was optioned appropriately, which apparently means No A/C or power windows… Then again that is just more stuff to break

        1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

          Of the three Volvos I've had here in New Hampshire, none have come with block heaters. The first is amazingly rusty (so it must be from the Northeast originally), the second has an original Rhode Island title but has lived all over, and the third… I have no idea. Of course, being Volvos, they cheerfully start when it's below zero, although the current winter beater has some sort of fuel-related issue that seems to have no regular cause aside from cold.

      3. mad_science Avatar

        Never seen one with a block heater in California.

  12. engineerd Avatar

    This is the first year I put snow tires on the Mustang. What a god-send. The P-Zeros she wears the rest of the year were decent the first year in the snow, but a bit scary last year. So, I sprang for some Blizzaks and put them on once the temperature was staying consistently below 10 C. They are fantastic in the snow/ice that we've had, and even in the rain (like this morning) they pump gobs of water away and keep the treads mated with the road. Even when it's cold and dry I can feel a difference in the grip level. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking up a set.
    Other than that it was just the normal: ice scraper, shovel, extra bottle of washer fluid, and nerves of steel.

  13. ptschett Avatar

    By mid-November I make sure I've got enough tire tread on the pickup to get through the winter; I get about 3 years/36k miles out of a set of all-terrains. Also I put a big aluminum scoop shovel and 2x 60-lb sandbags in the box. I generally drive the Dakota instead of the Challenger, mostly because my street gets big snowbanks that are hard to see over from a car. The Dakota always gets synthetic oil and I've been known to leave the ice scraper in the cab all year, so I take those as assumptions.
    Below 10 F I let the Challenger idle in neutral for a few minutes before I drive it, so the 2nd and 3rd synchros are happier.
    Below 0 F I'll let the pickup idle another 30 seconds in Park after all the dash lights turn off; sometimes I plug in the block heater, sometimes not. At this temperature and lower the Challenger gets to stay parked, at least for this year.
    Below -10 F for overnight lows and I'll start plugging in the block heater at home just for warmth from the heater sooner during my drive. For cold starts at work (i.e. not at home/plugged in) I give the pickup another 30 seconds of warmup, foot on the brake and shifter in Drive to use the torque converter to build additional heat.
    Below -20F I start taking bumps more slowly, since I've broken some swaybar end links and such at those kind of temperatures.

  14. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    I dug out my ice scraper and put it in the car. Then it went missing. So the one time I needed to scrape windows I found an offcut of thin plexi from model building supplies. It was great. And I brought a shovel to the car a few times, but never needed it. Thank you'W' button on the trans…

  15. Deartháir Avatar

    And when it hits -50, you just don't worry about anything anymore. You sit in your house and don't move.
    I've suffered through a couple of winters that hovered near -50C, and believe me, you're just not going outside at that point. Ever.

  16. Maymar Avatar

    Snow tires, snow brush, a bottle of washer fluid in the trunk.
    Other than that, I'm more prone to sleeping in and just not going anywhere.

  17. Feds_II Avatar

    Snow tires, winter wipers and scrapers when the weather gets cold. While I'm changing tires, I check the brakes and lubricate the slides. Also a good time to check coolant level and belt condition. Since Rain-X started selling a "year round" variety, I don't have to worry about switching to a colder temperature rating.
    Sleeping bag roll filled with: lighter, candles, flashlight, batteries, multi-tool, jumper cables, TP, work gloves, a tow rope, and some food and drink stays in the car year round. A 10-15°C swing is not at all uncommon, so it's easy to get caught in the wrong clothes and have a pretty miserable time if you're stuck on the side of the road for a couple of hours.

  18. Alff Avatar

    Not a precaution but one modification I make to my normal behavior when it gets very cold. I ignore any abnormal symptoms my cars display until it thaws. In my experience, half of the apparent problems disappear when the weather warms up.

    1. ptschett Avatar

      I shudder to think of what would be abnormal for the Alfa.
      Though, my Dakota is about 1 for 2 on this rule… the front end noise was a broken swaybar link, but the latest noise from the rear suspension seems to go away once it thaws out.

      1. Alff Avatar

        I consider it divine intervention that the Alfa cannot back up the driveway with the slightest amount of snow or ice. It gets driven year 'round but maybe only once per month December – February.
        Last week, all of the Subaru's idiot lights came on when temperatures dipped into the teens. I'd been spinning the tires in the snow with a cold engine, so I thought I might have hosed something. Two days later, with temps in the upper 30s, all was good.

  19. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

    Lots and lots and lots of this…..
    <img src="http://blogs.southtownstar.com/money/Windshield%20Washer-3.jpg"&gt;
    I hate running out, and I hate a dirty windshield.
    SIDE NOTE: What ever happened to low windshield washer fluid warning lights? The Bonneville has one, but not the Mustang.

    1. Feds_II Avatar

      Maybe the light is burnt out. Both the protege and the pathfinder have one.

      1. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

        It's a new Mustang, 2006. Doesn't have the sensor. I had (please don't laugh too hard) a 1982 Mercury Lynx wagon that had a warning center. Remember those little LED lights with the "Light Test" button? It had a low washer fluid warning light.

  20. Jim-Bob Avatar

    I put a partial grille block on my Metro. It was getting down into the upper 30's and low 40's at night here in Florida this winter and the little aluminum triple that "powers" it didn't like to warm up. It helped me get better heat and, more importantly, a few extra MPG. (After a few tanks of only getting 39 mpg city I knew I had to do something. The cold engine was not hitting closed loop and had become a gas hog. The grille block helped me get it up to 42 mpg.) I also started carrying a sweat shirt for the colder nights just in case I broke down.

  21. njhoon Avatar

    I check all of the fluids, and belts. Top off the windshield wiper fluid and get more from the store because I will need is sooner or later. I put it in 4 wheel drive just to make sure it works. I usually change the wiper blades in the spring as all of the ice and crap from the roads kill the blades during the winter.

  22. ChuckyShamrok Avatar

    250 lbs of gravel in the bed. First snow storm go out and play so I get re accustomed to being sideways. First winter with a RWD V8 truck and we get tons of snow, with All Seasons

  23. mad_science Avatar

    El Lay winter prep:
    -Determine if car is still mostly water-tight (Jeep and Falcon fail, partially)
    -Determine functionality of heater blower motor and heater core (Falcon blower motor non-functional)
    -Determine how bald summer/all-season tires are, if they're likely to be a total hazard when it rains. (then procrastinate anyway)
    -Replace sun-dried wiper blades. (after first rain hits and you spend a day cursing their squealing)
    -Refill windshield squirter
    -Carry towel for wiping off heavily dewed (or frosted, OMG!) windows. (Prior to pulling into traffic and realizing you can't see sideways or backwards)
    -Carry umbrella and/or coat in case of breakdown or long walk to parking spot
    Remember that you're grossly unprepared to visit places that actually get snow/ice.

  24. AteUpWithMotor Avatar

    First, I moved to Los Angeles… (Although I do still have a window squeegee/scraper in the trunk.)

  25. teargas Avatar

    I'm driving the old 911 in Northern Michigan. To it's credit I have not been stuck yet. KNOCK ON WOOD. I did mount Hella Rally 3000s and I have a short section of 4×8 lumber in the luggage compartment with a bottle jack so that I can jack it up and place the lumber under a drive wheel if I do get stuck, safari style. It worked great on my friend's Subaru that I had to unstick twice in one night a few weeks back.

  26. Hoonda Avatar

    General Altimax Arctics, and I remove the front lip. Then the accord becomes fairly invincible in the snow. That and 3000k low beams, although I use them all year.

  27. topdeadcentre Avatar

    Check the tire tread, change the oil, put custom-made fuzzy warm fleece car quilt in the car for passengers that need more warming than the excellent Volvo heater and seat warmers provide.

  28. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    I bought a winter beater, a 745 Turbo, this year to save my 244 from the salt, as there's a worrying patch on the left rocker panel that I haven't gotten to. Didn't get around to registering and inspecting it until the snow started falling, though – it wasn't until the New Year that I finally got the 745 on the road, and only then because the 244 decided that I could attempt a series of physically-impossible intimate acts upon myself, because she was hibernating (first the overdrive, then the odometer, followed by the timing belt).
    In its favour, the 745 has similarly sturdy bumpers to the 244, as well as a surprise locking differential. Strikes against it include its bitchiness in colder weather and its mediocre mud-and-snow tires (the considerably-more-effective pairs of Firestone Winterforces and Nokian Nordmen 1? Yeah, on the 244, which is stranded in a snowbank 45 miles away). Oh, and the 'turbo' bit is rather optimistic, since boost also exacerbates its fuel issue (mentioned above) and the wastegate actuator arm falls off routinely. The worst bit is, unlike the 244's, the damned seat heaters don't work (at least the driver's side), which would be okay if the seats weren't leather.
    It's got a collapsible shovel, a warm sweater, and a couple of snow brushes and scrapers in the back. There's supposed to be a bag of sand, but I'm not sure where that went.