Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

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Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by A.C.E. » Sun Oct 23, 2011 10:07 am

This is meant to be an ongoing project much like my thread on Cold weather and health risks, found in my sig.

This thread will cover the hardware solutions to keep your car happy and on the road through the winter. Driving techniques are not my thing and I don't presume to know enough about it to teach it online.

Discussion and suggestions are very welcome and the OP will be edited along the way to include anything discussed in the thread.

Part 1: Traction
I dare claim that the single most effective change you can make to your car to make it winter worthy is to equip it with proper winter tires. The difference compared to summer tires is incredible. Winter tires are not only designed to grip on snow and ice, the rubber is also different to allow the tire to stay soft in the cold.

There are "all season" tires available, marketed as beeing usable year round. These generally suck during the summer, and they will wear down faster. I recommend having two sets of tires and swapping them out as required.

Winter tires come in two main flavors, studded and not studded.
Studded tires are useful if you spend a lot of time driving on ice, especialy icy slopes. In snow there is no difference. Studs are also banned in many jurisdictions because they cause wear on the roads and create harmful particles in the process.

In most driving conditions, studless tires from a reputable manufacturer are where you want to put your money.

If you want to be ready for heavy snowfall, a pair of snow chains could be a wise investment. These are kept in the trunk until needed and can be mounted in a few minutes if you are practised. Needless to say, you should practise this before it's needed. Snow chains can of course be used on summer tires as a substitute to winter tires, if funds do not permit buying a set of new tires. Be aware though that they can't (shouldn't) be used on dry road.

Part 1b:
4WD vs. FWD vs. RWD
Whatever your car is equipped with. Make sure that you understand the strenghts and weaknesses of each system. If you've recently bought a new car or you are going on vacation somewhere where there's more winter than you are used to, you should seek advice from a driving instructor on how to handle your car.

4WD/AWD is awesome if you have it, but don't let it give you a false sense of security. You'll accelerate much faster and handling will be much better but your brakes will still be the same.
RWD vs. FWD is a debate on par with Ak/AR. The most noticeable difference is how the car will handle a skid, and what you should do to recover from it. Find a large empty parking lot to practise this in, and seek instruction from a qualified person if you are uncertain.

Part 2: Seeing things
This part is pretty straight forward. Keep your windshield clean and keep an extra bottle of washer liquid (mixed to appropriate ratio) in your car. A simple ice scraper and an old towel are the only other tools you really need.

Make sure you have some extra lightbulbs and know how to replace them in the dark. Clean your lights regularly if your windshield washers don't do it automatically. Stop and clear snow away from the lights regularly, don't forget the rear ones.

Part 3: Keeping the engine running
As you no doubt know, your car is dependent on a number of fluids to take you places. Most cold related problems you'll face have to do with one of these fluids freezing over, or beeing forced to work outside it's comfort zone.

As mentioned by another poster further down this page, the engine can overheat if the grille is packed with snow. Always brush off all snow from your car before driving away. Snow left on the roof can come off and hit other cars behind you.


1. Coolant: This is the easiest one, make sure you have a proper mix of antifreeze in your coolant and you'll be home safe. Check your owners manual for what specific type of antifreeze your engine requires and mix with clean water to the appropriate ratio for your expected temperature range. If you are uncertain, a mix of 50/50 is the strongest you should have. It will stay liquid down to -36C. More than 50% antifreeze will not work better, unless of course the bottle specifically says so. If you don't know the ratio currently in your system there are different tools available for measuring the coolant content. There are very cheap ones all the way to very expensive ones. If you believe that you need a tool like this, buy a slightly more expensive one that can also check the battery charge.

NEVER MIX DIFFERENT KINDS OF ANTIFREEZE!!

2. Batteries: If you have the older kind of battery that you can refill yourself (there are plugs that unscrew on the top), you need to inspect the cells regularly and refill with distilled water if a cell is running low. The liquid should be about 5mm. above the lead parts. If you have the right tool you can check the charge in each cell of the battery to make sure it is evenly charged. Be aware that the liquid is corrosive, wear gloves and goggles. A cell with significantly lower charge than the rest indicate that the battery is worn out. The more charged the battery is the better it will resist cold, if a cell is uncharged the liquid could freeze and cause the battery to crack. If your battery has frozen and you bring it inside to thaw it, it could start leaking acid as the plastic may have cracked. A battery that has been frozen will most likely need replacement. Even if there are no visible cracks or leaks it is unlikely that it will work properly again.

The battery should be kept clean and you should apply some grease to the terminals to avoid oxidation. If you let dirt and grime build up on the battery it will allow current to leak through, draining the battery and reducing it's capacity and lifetime.

3. Oil: Engine oils are classed based on their viscosity, and more importantly, their ability to maintain that viscosity at different temperatures. Oils are classed in somthing called the SAE system. Most oils used today are multigrade oils, meaning that they are designed to perform both cold and warm. The classification should be written on the bottle and could for instance say: SAE 5W-40. The numbers tell you the viscosity of the oil, lower number meaning lower viscosity. The first number tells you the viscosity at low temperatures. The W stands for winter, meaning that the oil is tested at cold temperature. The second number tells you the viscosity at 100C (210F).

If the oil is single grade, for instance SAE 50, that means that the oil was only tested at high temperatures and is therefore unsuitable for winter use, conversely an SAE 10W oil will be thinner than sweat at higher temps. A 10W-50 oil will have the viscosity of an SAE 10 oil at cold temperatures but be SAE 50 at engine operating temps. What this means is that the oil will be fluid enough to provide proper lubrication and cooling during a cold start but thick enough to continue working when the engine warms up. Non-winter oils turn into something quite like tar at cold temps. If you start your engine during extreme cold with a summer oil it could very well seize up or overheat as the oil will be too thick for the pump to circulate properly.

TL;DR: Buy a good multigrade oil, the first number should be as low as possible, followed by a W. The last number should be as high as possible. Check your owners manual for what oils the manufacturer recommend.

4. Petrol: Petrol isn't really affected by cold, there is however always some water present in you gas tank. Some of this water is present in the fuel as a contaminant, you can't really do anything about this. The rest forms in the tank as condensation, typically when you take your car from a warm garage out into the cold. Or when the temperatures vary greatly outside. You can reduce the amount of condensation by keeping your gas tank topped up.

If enough water accumulates in the fuel it might freeze and cause a blockage somewhere in the fuel system. To prevent this from happening you can add a small amount (0,5-2%) of alcohol to the fuel. This will prevent the water from freezing.

If the worst happens and you do have a blockage in a fuel line you need to warm the car to let the ice melt and then add a slightly larger amount of alcohol to take care of the water. If you are very lucky the problem could be resolved by adding large amounts (maybe as much as 10-20% of the tank volume) of alcohol to the tank and letting it sit for a while. This will have a much greater chance of working if the alcohol is warm when added and the tank is nearly empty.

If this doesn't work (it won't if the ice is in a fuel line away from the tank) and you cannot tow the car to a garage you must warm it in some way. Cover the car with a tarp or blankets and add a heat source. An electric heating element, steam or the exhaust from another car are the safest options (obviously you shouldn't be in the car when warming it with exhaust from another engine). Don't be a retard and attempt to warm the fuel lines with a heat gun or even worse, open flame. Add your heat source, cover the car with a tarp and remove yourself from the whole thing until you are ready to attempt to start the car again. Remember that petrol is flammable.

If you have an older car, with the fuel pump mounted on the engine itself you can run a hose from the pump into a temporary fuel tank and get your car home that way. This will also save you if your tank springs a leak.

The risk is greatest when you take a car that has been parked inside for some time with almost empty fuel tank out into the cold. Any water present will be at the bottom of the tank and may freeze in just minutes. Diagnosing might be difficult but the symptoms are the same as when you run out of fuel. Prevent this by filling the tank and adding 2% alcohol before putting your car away.

5. Diesel: Diesel cars run the same risk of getting an ice clog if the fuel is somehow contaminated with water. The solution is the same but don't add more than 10% alcohol to the diesel to avoid problems.

Diesel can also suffer something called wax crystalisation wich will appear as a white substance and clog your fuel filter. This may affect you if you use stockpiled diesel from the summer during the winter (oil companies vary the composition during the year to prevent this problem). If this is the case, or you're struck by enexpectedly severe cold, adding 5% kerosene or 20% heating oil to the diesel fuel will improve it's caracteristics.

Normally the problem can be solved by heating the fuel lines and filter but if the problem is severe you might have to replace the filter. DIESEL fuel lines are safe to heat with a heat gun, or you can use the methods desribed earlier.

Part 4: Keeping the driver running
Driving in the winter is very different from driving in the summer. The roads are icy, it's often dark and possibly snowing. Wildlife is also more likely to appear on the road if there is deep snow. Conditions force you to drive slower than you would otherwise making the trip take longer. Accidents with accompanying traffic jams are more common. If you are unprepared, all these things will come together to turn your trip into an utterly shitty experience. So what can you do to minimise the stress?

1. Plan ahead, expect the trip to take longer so you can avoid the stress of beeing late for something. Plan alternate routes if accidents or weather cause the roads to be closed.
2. Bring food and something warm to drink. A thermos flask with coffee or tea can make all the difference in the world.
3. Winterize your car. Blankets, a shovel and a recovery strap are the bare minimum. Try to have enough fuel to be able to keep the car running through the night if you have to. A car will turn cold incredibly fast if you can't run the engine. A 12v heating element works too, but be aware that it might drain your battery and make you unable to get the car going again. Expect the tow trucks to be very busy so you might have to wait a long time if your car breaks down.
4. Stock up on all the fluids you might need to refill during your trip, especially windshield washer fluid. You will use up copious amounts if the road is wet and slushy. It sucks to be without and it's not unusual to find it sold out at gas stations.
Last edited by A.C.E. on Tue Oct 25, 2011 3:40 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by TacAir » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:43 pm

Rear drive and front drive handle skids differently.

Find a large parking lot and practice skid control if you just got a front wheel drive!

Studded snows are great, if you are not allowed, I trick I picked up while stationed in eastern WA.

Get a second spare
let a little air out of both spare
put chains on
air up

Need chains? Swap out tires. Maybe be faster and/or less messy that trying to put chains on...
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by aa1pr » Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:43 pm

if you stud every hole in a winter tire it can skid on ice and act like a skate (as example) it is better to stud every other hole so you actually have the tire still making surface contact. think of the stud as an aid.

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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by NT2C » Sun Oct 23, 2011 3:40 pm

A.C.E. wrote: I dare claim that the single most effective change you can make to your car to make it winter worthy is to equip it with proper winter tires. The difference compared to summer tires is incredible. Winter tires are not only designed to grip on snow and ice, the rubber is also different to allow the tire to stay soft in the cold. Winter tires are also thinner than summer ones to avoid hydroplaning on snow and slush.
Not true, unless you make it true by deliberately buying tires that are narrower than the standard tire size specified for your vehicle by the manufacturer. If you buy tires as specified for your vehicle by the manufacturer (look at the VIN plate on the driver's door jamb - it lists recommended tire sizes and inflation pressures) then there will be no appreciable difference in tire thread width between a summer or all season tire and a "snow" or winter tire of the same marked size.

Now, that's not to say you can't deliberately buy narrower tires but, like the AR/AK debate, there are different schools of thought on the advantages/drawbacks of going to a narrower tire for winter. In essence it comes down to, "How deep is the snow/slush gonna be, and how often are you going to have it?" Narrower tires, as noted above, help avoid sliding on slush/snow, but they do it by reducing the "contact patch" each tire has with the ground. It sounds counter intuitive, having a smaller area in contact with the road surface to stop with, until you look at it from the view of snow shoes vs. boots. Narrower tires, like boots, condense your weight into a smaller area, and allow that concentrated weight to push through the snow/slush better and make contact with the road surface. Snow shoes and wide tires, on the other hand, spread out the weight more, and allow the wearer to walk on top of the snow because the wider surface area supports the weight. So, wider tires will help prevent the vehicle from "sinking" as far into deep snow, but will also "float" on a thin layer of snow/slush (giving you no contact with the road surface - (think SKIS)) while narrower tires might not support your vehicle in deeper snow when they dig down through the snow layer but don't reach the road surface before the underside of the vehicle is resting on top of the snow.

So, what size tire is "right" for you is going to depend on how deep the snow is, and how often it gets that deep. If you rarely get snowfall over a few inches then a narrower tire might be a smart choice. If you get frequent heavy snowfall then a wider tire might be a better choice.

Also, I'd like to throw in my nickle's worth (used to be two cents but inflation affects everything)... Chains are wonderful things, and I have a set for each vehicle, but they may not be legal in some areas. Chains also need to be properly fitted to the wheel before they can be used. While they aren't "one size fits all", each size of chain set fits a certain range of tire/wheel combos, and you'll have to do the final fitting yourself. Think of it as buying a suit and having it tailored. The time to be doing this fitting is not sitting on the side of the road, with 12" of snow, in the dark, with a flashlight. Pick a nice autumn day, not too cold, dry, on a level surface and take the time to do it right. Practice getting them on and off after they've been fitted. It'll be time well spent. I can install the chains on either of my vehicles in less than 20 minutes, in the snow, in the dark, without a flashlight (though a light certainly helps). You'll also want to learn how to repair your chains when they break (because they eventually will) and have the parts and tools on hand to make those repairs. And, never, ever try to exceed about 30 MPH while using chains. In fact, 20-25 MPH is probably going to be your optimum speed.

The other thing to remember about chains is that you want them on the driving wheels of the vehicle. Front for FWD, rear for RWD, and generally rear for 4x4's (though you can use two sets with 4x4 but, frankly, if it's that bad out you probably aren't getting far anyway).

I could probably write a lot more about chains, winter tires and winter weather, having considerable experience with it in northern NY state, the upper midwest, and parts of the Canadian west, but I don't want to hijack this thread away from the OP. Anyone who wants to though is free to drop me a PM and ask questions.

A good source for winter tire info and winter driving info is http://www.tirerack.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;, and a good source for chains and chain info/tools/parts is http://www.tirechains.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by Hoppy » Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:03 pm

in all things winter people need to realize...lay off the gas.

also, theres a difference between 4 WD and "AWD". AWD in current employment tends to be a FWD biased system, sending more power to the front wheels until theres slip.

AWD has the benefit of being on most if not all the time and is safe to use on dry pavement, making it usefull for cars/light SUV's in day to day driving
4wd has the benefit of equal distribution of power, so if the front tire slips, the rears stay just as strong making it more useful for trucks and heavier vehicles likely to see more offroad use


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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by williaty » Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:51 pm

OK, it's my first post. Had planned on lurking for a while, then posting an intro thread properly, etc. But...


I'm a mechanic. I work with drivetrains several times a week. I get to deal with all the weird labels marking departments throw on crap and have to translate them in to what the physical reality is.

There is no industry-wide accepted definitions for "AWD" and "4WD". Generally, most manufacturers use 4WD to describe a system whereby the user is required to take some from of action to switch the drivetrain from a state where it powers only two wheels to a state where it powers all four wheels. This can involve just flicking a switch, stopping the car and moving a secondary shift lever, or actually getting out of the car to engage manual locking hubs. It is very, very common to also find that, on a system labeled 4WD, all three differentials become fully locked when 4WD mode is engaged. AWD usually refers to a system to a system where either the system is driving all 4 wheels all the time or the system can transition from 2WD to 4WD without needing input from the user (or sometimes even informing the user that such a thing has happened). The torque can be split 50-50 between the front and rear wheels, be biased forwards to give a FWD effect, or be biased backwards to give a RWD effect. In most implementations labeled AWD, the differentials are usually either always open, or have varying degrees of limited slip functionality.

If your vehicle is labeled 4WD and it's a switchable system, you need to pay close attention to any recommendations the manual makes about wither or not the 4WD system may be employed on anything other than snow and mud. If the system is using 3 locked differentials, all 4 tires will turn in lockstep until either something breaks or the tires skid. The downside to this is that the tires have to roll at different speeds while you're turning. So if you run 3 lockers on pavement, stone, etc, you'll either snap something in the drivetrain or scrub all the rubber off the tires. As a further suggestion from having owned a manual-transfer 4WD vehicle, I STRONGLY suggest driving in 2WD mode until you can't. First, it'll handle better and staying out of trouble to begin with is always better than being fortunate enough to get yourself out of trouble on your own. The second advantage is that, if you get yourself stuck, you have a little something extra waiting in reserve to get yourself unstuck. If you're in 4WD when you get stuck, you have already exceeded your vehicle's capabilities and will immediately have to resort to something outside the vehicle to either remove obstacles (aka shovel) or add traction (aka carpet).

Finally, I cannot possibly emphasize enough the HUGE advantage of using separate summer and winter tires. Coming from Midwestern America, I bought all-season tires for many years. Then I was finally convinced to buy seasonal tires. I couldn't believe I'd wasted that many years and that much money on crap tires! A cheap, mediocre set of summer tires will out-perform a top-flight set of all season tires. A cheap, mediocre set of winter tires will out-perform a top-flight set of all season tires. In fact, the summer and winter tires together may cost LESS than a single set of really good all-season tires and will last more than twice as long, thus resulting in a BIG reduction in cost-per-mile. You simply won't believe how much easier it is to drive in snow, slush, and ice with proper winter-only tires.

Keep in mind that there are varying degrees of winter tires, and they are not all created equal by any means. The most general designation in the US is "Mud and Snow" tires, which will be labeled as either "M&S" on the tire or have a little icon of a mountain with a snowflake. Just because they're M&S tires, don't expect them to be any good in the winter. Frequently, all it means is that they're made from a rubber compound that doesn't harden badly at temperatures below 40F. It's worth doing background research to find out what a given set of tires actually is for. For most people, a set of either "winter high performance" or "snow tires" is the best bet. Which you need depends on the climate you drive in.

Here in Central Ohio, I face mostly cold, dry roads all winter long. If they're not dry, they're probably wet with standing water. For a few days each year, we get a decent snow that turns into heavy, wet slush within a day or two. The government also usually has the main roads plowed within a few days. For this reason, winter high performance tires are the best compromise for my area. They are really quite good on cold, dry pavement and don't have any of that somewhat-disturbing squirmy, wondering feeling many people associate with a winter tire. They're also generally fantastic in cold rain as well. In snow, slush, and ice, they'll be better than any all-season tire you've ever experienced, however, they *won't* be as good as a true snow tire will be.

For people who live in places with steep grades, significant snow all winter long, or where the government doesn't remove the snow from the road, a true snow tire is called for. There's some significant downsides to a true snow tire. They wear very quickly when driven on bare pavement. They have a vague squirmy feeling to them that most people find unsettling. They can be noisy. They can also have a bad impact on your fuel economy. On the other hand, you can nearly ignore the fact that you're driving on top of snow. I have a set of true snow tires that I keep just for racing. I have used a solid-state accelerometer to verify that I can brake on dry, compacted snow with 96% of the force that I can on dry tarmac in the summer on my sticky summer tires. For those of you who haven't experienced this, you put the brakes on hard on compacted dry snow and your seatbelt will promptly lock up and most people won't be able to push the brake pedal hard enough to activate the ABS. The tires just stick that well. I drive a subcompact station wagon with AWD but relatively little ground clearance. With the real snow tires on it, the only time I've ever felt like I was driving in snow was when I accidentally moved too far to the right to get around an accident on the freeway and ended up on the grass in 14" of snow. It didn't cause any problems, it was just the first time I felt that I wasn't in perfect lock with the road. The only time I've even managed to get the car stuck when those tires were on was when I was driving in 22" of snow and misjudged the height of a snow drift. The car surfed up the snow drift until all four wheels came off the ground. I got out, sunk to my waist, and realized that I could see air under all 4 tires. Once I dug enough snow out from underneath the car to drop it back onto its wheels, I was able to then shove my way through the snow drift. Good tires.


Though I have a feeling it'll be mentioned in the OP's Part 3, the two biggest car-killers in the winter are cold and heat. Cold, because it's a real killer for your starting/charging system. Having your battery and alternator load tested about this time of year can often mean the difference between catching a bad battery or bad alternator now when it's warm, the parts are cheap, and you're not stranded vs not finding out until it craps out on you during a snowstorm, you have to wait for a tow, and then the parts store wants twice as much for the parts because it's winter. Cars often overheat in the winter as well. People will stuff them nose-first into a snowbank and pack the front grille full of snow. The snow won't get warm enough to melt away but it WILL block enough airflow to the radiator to cause the car to overheat. If you have a wee bit of an off, get out and remove the snow from the front grill before continuing. Similarly, if you are traveling a long way during snowfall, stop at regular intervals to clean the ice and snow out of the front grille. I drove from Columbus to Cleveland during a blizzard a few years ago in order to make it to a rally (us rallyists are crazy, dontcha know). I had to stop every 30 minutes (which was about 18-20mi) to clean the snow out of the grille to keep the car from overheating.

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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by Hoppy » Mon Oct 24, 2011 12:22 am

williaty wrote:As a further suggestion from having owned a manual-transfer 4WD vehicle, I STRONGLY suggest driving in 2WD mode until you can't. First, it'll handle better and staying out of trouble to begin with is always better than being fortunate enough to get yourself out of trouble on your own. The second advantage is that, if you get yourself stuck, you have a little something extra waiting in reserve to get yourself unstuck. If you're in 4WD when you get stuck, you have already exceeded your vehicle's capabilities and will immediately have to resort to something outside the vehicle to either remove obstacles (aka shovel) or add traction (aka carpet).

ABSO damn LUTELY

that should be 101 of knowing your vehicle.
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by NT2C » Mon Oct 24, 2011 9:21 am

williaty wrote: Keep in mind that there are varying degrees of winter tires, and they are not all created equal by any means. The most general designation in the US is "Mud and Snow" tires, which will be labeled as either "M&S" on the tire or have a little icon of a mountain with a snowflake. Just because they're M&S tires, don't expect them to be any good in the winter. Frequently, all it means is that they're made from a rubber compound that doesn't harden badly at temperatures below 40F. It's worth doing background research to find out what a given set of tires actually is for. For most people, a set of either "winter high performance" or "snow tires" is the best bet. Which you need depends on the climate you drive in.
Excellent first post!

I do want to make one correction/clarification though, about the mountain snowflake symbol. While all tires with the mountain/snowflake symbol are considered M&S tires, not all M&S tires can earn that symbol. That symbol indicates that the tire meets the requirements for severe/deep snow. In many areas of the country where snow chains are required during heavy snowfall, tires with that symbol may exempt you from having to chain up. Yeah, they're usually that good.

I'll also confirm that true winter tires will cost you a few mpg if used on dry pavement, but not all will suffer from accelerated tread wear. Let me give an example:

My wife has a 1997 Dodge Dakota 4X4. When I met her she had a good set of all-season tires on it, no cap/canopy and was getting 18-20mpg. In the winter she would put 10 cement blocks and a couple bags of sand in the back for traction but still got stuck a couple of times where she had to get out and spread sand to get unstuck. One of the first things I did was buy a cap for it and get rid of the cement blocks, since the cap weighed slightly more than the blocks. That allowed the bed to be fully utilized in all kinds of weather. It still got stuck now and then and the mileage was still the same.

Then, about five years ago, we were planning a trip to Northern Idaho in the fall/winter, towing a 1,500lb trailer and 1,500lbs of gear in the bed. The truck was due for tires and she left the choice up to me. I went with General Grabber AT2's, (with the mountain/snowflake symbol) a tire I highly recommend, and off we went. Fuel economy dropped to 16-18mpg, but the truck has never gotten stuck since then. Ever.

Yes, we use them year round, and yes, they handle a little different than all seasons, and are a little noisier, but the traction they supply is worth it IMHO. I left Northern Idaho on New Year's eve, right into the teeth of the snow/ice storms we had across the northern states that year, and the only time I had to chain up was at the Montana border (Lolo Pass), and even then it was only because the highway patrol insisted, not because I actually needed to. To date the tires have about 50,000 miles on them, and still have excellent tread left on them. More than adequate to get us through another hard winter. I very rarely need to shift into 4x4 with these (usually only in very heavy snow - like the 40+ inches we got year before last, and then only for climbing my 30 degree slope unplowed driveway) and I have complete confidence in them. Braking on packed snow is, as mentioned above, only slightly less effective than on dry pavement, handling and acceleration are also excellent. The bottom line? Putting a good quality set of true snow tires on the truck, while it cost us a bit in fuel economy, turned it from "winter marginal" into "winter capable" and we have zero regrets about the choice. In fact, next year when these get replaced at 60,000 miles we'll be putting the exact same tires back on it.

Second example:

My truck is a GMC C3500 dually in a utility configuration. It weighs about 8,000lbs and came with a decent set of Goodyear Wrangler HT's when I bought it used down in Florida. Given the weight, the fact it is a dually, and the fact the tires were "all season" I didn't expect any real problems in a little bit of snow. I knew it wouldn't be great, especially in heavy snow, but I didn't think it would be quite as abysmal as it turned out to be. Picture this... I was still doing general construction at the time, and this was my work truck. The day before I'd taken it and loaded up with 6,000lbs of granite tile for a floor I was doing, came home and parked it at the top of my 30 degree slope, 60' long paved driveway. Overnight we got a very lite dusting of snow only about 1/4". The next morning I went out, started up the truck, and tried to go to work. As soon as those tires hit the snow I found myself inside a 14,000lb. toboggan, with about the same amount of directional control and braking ability. How I didn't end up sideways in the ditch, or worse yet, sliding down my driveway, across the road, then down my neighbor's driveway and smashing through his garage I'll never know. I stopped it at the foot of my driveway, got out (shaking) and proceeded to spread 150lbs of salt on my driveway to melt it clear and get the truck back up and parked. And there it sat, parked in my driveway, for the next six weeks, through several snow flurries and storms, still with the granite tile in the back, until every trace of snow and ice was off the roads. Only then did I dare drive it again, and it went straight from my house to the tire shop, where I had a full set of commercial traction tires installed on it. They made a huge improvement in how it handles on snow, and in dirt/mud/gravel. The only problem I've had since is that the tread pattern is a little too aggressive on the front wheels, and the tires tend to "cup" after a few thousand miles. Proper balance and rotation helps with that though, and I expect to get about 40,000 miles out of them.
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by eugene » Mon Oct 24, 2011 6:02 pm

Most dually usually suck in the snow. There is a fine balance between too much and too little contact patch and duallys seem to almost always be on the side of too much.
My first vehicle was a 1988 Chevy S10 truck. A rare 4 cylinder with 5 speed manual and 4x4. The original owner must have mud raced it, when we got it from the repo action I had to unbolt the seat and hose the cab out, it was just full of mud. they had put on some wide rims and a body lift. We stuck n decent tires and the wide tires and lightweight truck was unstoppable. All the guys in the big lifted trucks that would laugh at me I would plow through the snow right past them.

I true 4x4 (locking transfer case) can help with braking traction, though much easier to control with a manual transmission because of the solid connection between axles, one axle will keep the other turning if it loose traction, sort of a poor mans ABS.
I worked late and left work late one night in a blizzard and came up to the top of the overpass and watched the police stopping traffic on the cross road at the the intersection because everyone on the downhill I was one would just slide through, all those fancy ABS and traction controlled vehicles were no help on the sheet of frozen snow/ice. I pulled the level into 4x4 and engine braked down through the gears and stopped exactly at the stop bar and was waved on through by the policeman half laughing, they were waving me on as I was coming but then was me slowing down so he paused fora second probably to see if I actually could stop. Every time I get a newer vehicle I go find an empty parking lot and do test stops and I can still out brake modern ABS (I'll do a few runs, some with the fuse pulled to disable it).

Years later after getting married we made the mistake of buying an AWD minivan. Front wheel drive based with an overrunning clutch to engage the rear wheels if the front slipped. Testing it out you can get the front wheels to slip then the back kicks in and pushes and since the front already broke traction it slides sideways and you have to steer sharply to control it, pretty much was worse than just 2wd. I went back to a pull the level 4x4 system.
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by NT2C » Mon Oct 24, 2011 7:30 pm

You make a good point about front wheels losing traction and the rear drive pushing you into a slide. It's something I meant to bring up earlier and forgot to.

Most folks with RWD will put snow tires on only the rear, and leave the regular tires on the front, thinking that where they need the winter lugs and traction is on the driving wheels alone. That's not true, as you found with your AWD. If the front wheels slide but the rear's are still pushing you're gonna slide, and probably spin. For that reason I usually put the same tires all the way around. True snow tires don't just have deep lugs for traction, they also have sharp shoulders, and side lugs. In the rear (with RWD) the side lugs help by pulling against the trough your wheels make (especially in mud or sand, but also in packed snow) but in the front they also help with directional control in snow. The downside is that heavy lugs on the front tend to round off, due to cornering on dry pavement, and will also tend to suffer from tread cupping, even with proper balancing and a tight front end. Proper tire rotation is critical then, if you want to get good mileage out of your tires. An alternative is to go with a good all-season on the fronts, something with a fair to good snow rating. You won't have the same grip, but it's better than summer tires or "highway rib" types, and you won't get cupping. Of course, if you do that, and ever get a flat your spare might be different. That's another reason why I like having the same tires on all four corners, and the spare.

Speaking of spares, any time you buy tires, or swap out summer for winter or vice versa, is a good time to check your spare for proper inflation, cracking, or other damage, especially if the spare is mounted outside the vehicle. And, be sure to check the date code imprinted in the side of the tire near the bead. Never trust a tire that's ten or more years old! In fact, I won't trust one that's more than seven years old, even if it's brand new and never been mounted. Tires start to deteriorate from the day they're manufactured, and the NHTSA recommends not using one that's more than ten years old, no matter what it looks like, because it could have deteriorated internally to the point that it's dangerous. Yeah, it might cost you a couple hundred bucks to buy five tires instead of four, or seven instead of six, but replacing the spare at the same time you replace the others, and including it in your tire rotation plan, will increase your expected tread life by 20-25%, and give you that added measure of safety in knowing that the spare is good, not dry rotted. And really, isn't your safety worth the slight extra cost?
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by A.C.E. » Tue Oct 25, 2011 3:32 pm

Bumped because I edited the OP quite a lot and I want feedback.

Excellent info/discussion on tires. I like the idea of having two spares with chains already mounted on them.
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by NT2C » Tue Oct 25, 2011 4:03 pm

A.C.E. wrote:Bumped because I edited the OP quite a lot and I want feedback.

Excellent info/discussion on tires. I like the idea of having two spares with chains already mounted on them.
Thanks for starting the thread in the first place. It will provide a lot of good information over time.

One more thing I want to address in your original post, about adding 20% heating oil to diesel... That might be fine in Sweden, but here in the USA it's a really big no-no. The reason being, there's no Federal highway use taxes paid on heating oil, but there is on diesel, and it's illegal to use heating oil for fuel in motor vehicles on public roads. Heating oil usually has a dye added to it so that it's easy to spot if it's in your tank, and you really don't want to get caught with dyed fuel in your tank. The fines can get pretty steep. It's much better to use a fuel conditioner that has an anti-gel component to it, or keep a bottle of it on hand for such emergencies. I know one company makes a product called "Diesel 9-1-1" that will quickly un-gel the system.
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by aa1pr » Thu Oct 27, 2011 3:38 am

KJ4VOV wrote:
A.C.E. wrote:Bumped because I edited the OP quite a lot and I want feedback.

Excellent info/discussion on tires. I like the idea of having two spares with chains already mounted on them.
Thanks for starting the thread in the first place. It will provide a lot of good information over time.

One more thing I want to address in your original post, about adding 20% heating oil to diesel... That might be fine in Sweden, but here in the USA it's a really big no-no. The reason being, there's no Federal highway use taxes paid on heating oil, but there is on diesel, and it's illegal to use heating oil for fuel in motor vehicles on public roads. Heating oil usually has a dye added to it so that it's easy to spot if it's in your tank, and you really don't want to get caught with dyed fuel in your tank. The fines can get pretty steep. It's much better to use a fuel conditioner that has an anti-gel component to it, or keep a bottle of it on hand for such emergencies. I know one company makes a product called "Diesel 9-1-1" that will quickly un-gel the system.
I thought when you buy deisel fuel up here in the northern states it was cut with kerosene, which is a form of heating oil or for those folks w/outside tanks, so what is the difference then?

with all the debate about winter versus summer tires versus all seasons. Now I see why I keep pulling you out of state visitors out of the ditches in our VT winters...

I would also recommend a wool blanket, water, energy bars, shovel & tow strap and/or chain as part of your vehicle winter gear, its late & forgot what I read here...so if you do get stuck you can last long enough for help to arrive

last winter I was on one of our states many class 4 roads & came across a family in a town car stuck on a hill w/summer tires, Oh yeah the made it across the flat parts but were stuck in a small depression at the pedmont, the tires would not bite/grab to move the vehicle, so I pulled them free & advised they go back the way they came since this way had more hills. they proceeded anyway, I watched & followed :) in another 1/2 mile they were stuck again, so my neighbor pushed them over the hill with his plow truck, that was what they wanted regardless of our advice. heres the photo...you can not take a car w/summer tires & expect it tto perform outside its limits

Image

not blowing my own horn here, but folks who have never really encountered snow & winter driving have no idea, just hypothesis. I used to drive for a living, I know heed my caution

I am not touching the 4x4 versus awd or whatever, use common sense by all means

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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by NT2C » Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:52 am

aa1pr wrote:
KJ4VOV wrote:
A.C.E. wrote:Bumped because I edited the OP quite a lot and I want feedback.

Excellent info/discussion on tires. I like the idea of having two spares with chains already mounted on them.
Thanks for starting the thread in the first place. It will provide a lot of good information over time.

One more thing I want to address in your original post, about adding 20% heating oil to diesel... That might be fine in Sweden, but here in the USA it's a really big no-no. The reason being, there's no Federal highway use taxes paid on heating oil, but there is on diesel, and it's illegal to use heating oil for fuel in motor vehicles on public roads. Heating oil usually has a dye added to it so that it's easy to spot if it's in your tank, and you really don't want to get caught with dyed fuel in your tank. The fines can get pretty steep. It's much better to use a fuel conditioner that has an anti-gel component to it, or keep a bottle of it on hand for such emergencies. I know one company makes a product called "Diesel 9-1-1" that will quickly un-gel the system.
I thought when you buy deisel fuel up here in the northern states it was cut with kerosene, which is a form of heating oil or for those folks w/outside tanks, so what is the difference then?
The difference is that the highway tax has been paid on the fuel. "Fuel" being defined as the blended liquid delivered from the tank farm to the station, and then sold as "diesel".
aa1pr wrote: with all the debate about winter versus summer tires versus all seasons. Now I see why I keep pulling you out of state visitors out of the ditches in our VT winters...
Not me you haven't. And probably never will. :D

I learned to drive in Manitoba, and in Wisconsin, on the two farms that belonged to our family (dad's side in Wisconsin, mom's side in Canada). The only time I've ever been stuck in a ditch was as a kid, still learning to drive in snow, when I lost traction a little going up a hill and gunned it a little too hard to make the sharp left turn (that I didn't know was there) right at the crest of the hill.

Since then I've driven all kinds of vehicles in all kinds of weather, and I've never been stuck for any reason other than mechanical breakdown.
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by Red_Snow » Thu Oct 27, 2011 10:53 am

KJ4VOV wrote:I know one company makes a product called "Diesel 9-1-1" that will quickly un-gel the system.
It might quickly un-gel the tank, but to get the whole system un-gelled you must get whatever additive you are running through the fuel lines and into the engine. This can take some serious work once you are gelled up. We had our duramax towed into a dealership, put two kerosene heaters going full bore under the truck, tarped it in as best we could and it still took almost four hours before we could squeeze even a drop of fuel from the bleeder at the fuel filter.

If you are worried about fuel gelling the best way to take care of it is to not let it happen in the first place. If you are caught unaware as we were, better settle in for a -long- wait, especially if out in the sticks.

Another trick, but doesn't work that good on pickups; you can extend the fuel return lines, wrap them around the exhaust close to the headers, and then tie them back into the tank. This way as the fuel circulates you keep the tank above the fuels "cloud point." That trick was (and possibly still is) used extensively in the drilling industry during winter months.

Or you just do the old stand-by, start the truck ever hour and let idle for 15 minutes to circulate the fuel. Or just leave the bastard running and accept the fact that you aren't going to get shit for fuel economy.
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by NT2C » Thu Oct 27, 2011 11:09 am

Red_Snow wrote:
KJ4VOV wrote:I know one company makes a product called "Diesel 9-1-1" that will quickly un-gel the system.
It might quickly un-gel the tank, but to get the whole system un-gelled you must get whatever additive you are running through the fuel lines and into the engine. This can take some serious work once you are gelled up. We had our duramax towed into a dealership, put two kerosene heaters going full bore under the truck, tarped it in as best we could and it still took almost four hours before we could squeeze even a drop of fuel from the bleeder at the fuel filter.

If you are worried about fuel gelling the best way to take care of it is to not let it happen in the first place. If you are caught unaware as we were, better settle in for a -long- wait, especially if out in the sticks.

Another trick, but doesn't work that good on pickups; you can extend the fuel return lines, wrap them around the exhaust close to the headers, and then tie them back into the tank. This way as the fuel circulates you keep the tank above the fuels "cloud point." That trick was (and possibly still is) used extensively in the drilling industry during winter months.

Or you just do the old stand-by, start the truck ever hour and let idle for 15 minutes to circulate the fuel. Or just leave the bastard running and accept the fact that you aren't going to get shit for fuel economy.
You're right about it taking time to get the whole system un-gelled, and the best time to use anti-gel additives is before the fuel gels. Oh, and that trick with the return lines is sometimes used on WVO systems too.
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by aa1pr » Thu Oct 27, 2011 10:10 pm

OK we had our 1st snow of the season today. So I attemtped to make a short video of the issue of headlights on high beam versus low beams while driving in snowy conditions...the GoPro really lack low light capabilites, so I will attempt again later but, anyhow here is my short video:

http://youtu.be/PxbSacmARq8" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by NT2C » Thu Oct 27, 2011 10:19 pm

I see what you mean about the camera... But still, kudos to you for at least attempting it and attempting to educate folks about this. :)
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by williaty » Thu Oct 27, 2011 10:29 pm

Snow/rain/fog with respect to high beams or not is a VERY personal decision. It'll vary from person to person and even with the same driver in different cars. Took me a long time to figure out why. Water in the air preferentially reflects incident light back where it came from. In other words, most of the light that comes out of your headlights shoots out, hits the water in the air, and is reflected right back into the headlight. The closer (in terms of angle) your eyes are to the headlights, the more backscatter you're going to get in your face. The farther apart you and the light are (again, in degrees), the less backscatter and glare you get. To reduce perceived backscatter, you either move your eyes up or the lights down. Since steering wheels are not commonly equipped on roofs, this is why fog lights are mounted low.

Where am I going with this?

Your preference for highs or not will depend heavily on the location of your headlights and the height of your eyes within the cabin. We race in my Impreza. I usually kick the high beams on even in snow. My navigator (also known as my wife) will then proceed to bitch about me about how she can't tell me where to go if she can't see. I'll counter with the idea that it's necessary to see a tree approaching at high speed before one can avoid wrapping the car around it. This dispute went unresolved for a couple of years. Then, one night, I slumped down to her eye level. I couldn't see shit with the high beams on. All I got was a bright wall of snow. Straighten back up to my normal race position and I had bright snow but I could see through it to the treeline beyond. In cars where the headlights are higher relative to the cabin or with shorter drivers, it's likely you'll prefer to keep the highs off if there's water in the air. In cars with headlights well below the cabin level or with tall drivers who's eyes are right at the top of the windshield, you may very well prefer the highs on.
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by williaty » Thu Oct 27, 2011 10:32 pm

Regarding the video, I'm not sure you can do this with a GoPro (I have one, so I know what its limitations are). If we get snow at night this year (won't be until late December through mid-Feb), I've got a camera that I can set and lock the exposure on. I'll try to remember to shoot a video of all the different combination of light on my car (lows, highs, driving lights, low-mounted fogs) as well as move the camera up and down a couple of feet so you can see the impact of angular separation on bounceback.

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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by NT2C » Thu Oct 27, 2011 10:37 pm

There's another reason why fogs are mounted low... There's usually a layer of clear air between the road and the fog and putting the fogs down low allows them to penetrate through that layer.

BTW, if you really want to see blocked vision in snow, try driving an emergency vehicle through heavy snowfall with the emergency lights on. They're usually right over the top of your head. Total blindness.
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by williaty » Thu Oct 27, 2011 10:40 pm

KJ4VOV wrote:There's another reason why fogs are mounted low... There's usually a layer of clear air between the road and the fog and putting the fogs down low allows them to penetrate through that layer.
We definitely don't get that clear layer in fog around here. It's either a clear night or solid from the ground up to about 25'.

If you want to prove to yourself that it's due to angular separation, put a fog light on a stick and hold it 10' above your head.

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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by NT2C » Thu Oct 27, 2011 11:04 pm

williaty wrote:
KJ4VOV wrote:There's another reason why fogs are mounted low... There's usually a layer of clear air between the road and the fog and putting the fogs down low allows them to penetrate through that layer.
We definitely don't get that clear layer in fog around here. It's either a clear night or solid from the ground up to about 25'.

If you want to prove to yourself that it's due to angular separation, put a fog light on a stick and hold it 10' above your head.
Oh, I don't disagree with you regarding the angle causing more of a reflection. Same principle as a car reflector actually. I just wanted to mention that a secondary consideration for mounting them low is that gap between the pavement and the fog. It may look like it's solid from the ground up, and under the right conditions it can actually be that way, but most of the time there will either be a clear layer, or at least a thinner layer close to the ground. Get down close to the ground next time you have fog and see for yourself.
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Re: Cold weather and you: Part 2, Vehicles.

Post by williaty » Thu Oct 27, 2011 11:24 pm

KJ4VOV wrote:
williaty wrote:
KJ4VOV wrote:There's another reason why fogs are mounted low... There's usually a layer of clear air between the road and the fog and putting the fogs down low allows them to penetrate through that layer.
We definitely don't get that clear layer in fog around here. It's either a clear night or solid from the ground up to about 25'.

If you want to prove to yourself that it's due to angular separation, put a fog light on a stick and hold it 10' above your head.
Oh, I don't disagree with you regarding the angle causing more of a reflection. Same principle as a car reflector actually. I just wanted to mention that a secondary consideration for mounting them low is that gap between the pavement and the fog. It may look like it's solid from the ground up, and under the right conditions it can actually be that way, but most of the time there will either be a clear layer, or at least a thinner layer close to the ground. Get down close to the ground next time you have fog and see for yourself.
Already have done. Came home in such thick fog last year that I was creeping along at idle, windows open, one wheel deliberately off in the soft shoulder so that I could hear and feel when I got to a driveway. Each driveway, I'd get out, get down on the ground, and inspect the pavement to see if it was the weird kind of pavement our driveway is done with. I was within 300yds of my house for probably 30 minutes before I "found" my house. Before I thought up the "inspect the driveways" trick, I was just creeping up and down the road trying to find it. Missed it a bunch of times, overshot, and eventually realized that I'd gone too far and turned around. Crazy thing was that you could look out a second story window and it was clear out.

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