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Vehicle preparedness for extreme cold weather regions

Cold arctic winter weather car vehicle driving travel snow

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#1 ARM_Alaska

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Posted 09 October 2013 - 02:21 PM

I'd like to take some time to bring up what should be a recurring topic this time of the year and that is preparing your vehicle for harsh winter climates.

Here in interior Alaska we regularly face winter conditions that can easily kill those who are not prepared for situations that could leave them out in the elements. Winter temperatures often times stay around -40F for weeks at a time even dipping to as low as -60F. This, combined with winter winds, ice fog, extremely poor road conditions and constant darkness creates a very dangerous environment even for those that do nothing more than travel to and from work. Vehicles are not made to function at these temperatures, there is the ever-present danger of driving 55MPH into an 8ft tall moose on the highway, ice fog limits visibility to near 0 at times, drivers not used to this environment are not nearly cautious enough, blowing snow creates complete whiteout conditions, and to top it all off sometimes the nearest rescue personnel can be hours away. All of these things combined means preparing your vehicle and it's contents for worst-case scenarios isn't just smart, but absolutely necessary for survival.

Let's start with the vehicle itself.

(1.) CHECK YOUR FLUIDS. Get your oil changed before winter hits. I recommend 5w-** for severe cold weather climates. Use all synthetic fluids and ensure that they are up to par with their recommended lifecycle replacement standards.
(2.) Have your car winterized. Here in Alaska this is a must! Pretty much every shop in town winterizes vehicles. This includes installing an engine block heater, battery heater, and transmission heater.
(3.) This goes along with #1 but is very important... Replace your wiper fluid with the lowest temp rating fluid available. It is extremely dangerous to attempt to spray your windshield and have the fluid freeze immediately, blocking your view and having no way to clear it up.
(4.) Change your tires. Depending on where you live a set of all-season tires may get you through the winter just fine. Up here it is almost required that you have either studs, blizzacks, or hybrid winter tires installed on your car before each winter season. At the very least do a pressure check and make sure all tires are the same.. A variation in just 5psi can make a dramatic difference in handling.
(5.) Consider a battery with a higher CCA for those extremely cold days.
(6.) Run a bottle of HEET through your fuel tank to rid it of moisture and prevent lines from freezing.

Now let's discuss what you should have INSIDE your vehicle.

(1.) This one is obvious but I see too many people screwing it up.. Throw an ice scraper into your car and leave it there. Don't settle for the cheap ass gas station ones with a 3 inch handle and 2 inch blade.. Go to the damn store and spend the $10 to get one that extends, has a brush, a wide scraper blade and a comfortable grip. When you scrape your windshield, also scrape your side and back windows. Use the brush to get snow off of your headlights, tail lights, mirrors, hood, license plate etc.. CLEAN OFF YOUR CAR PEOPLE.
(2.) Extra clothing is essential. Don't just throw a cheap walmart coat in the trunk and call it good. You should have a decent coat, an extra baselayer (both top and bottom) a midweight (hoodie or sweater), extra warm socks, extra gloves, a full head cover (I recommend a balaclava AND a beanie) and a pair of boots made for serious shitstorm type stuff. If you vacuum seal this all together, minus the boots, it shouldnt take up too much space and you will be thanking yourself when the time comes that you need it. I also carry a pair of winter coveralls in my clothing kit.. has come in handy more than once. Oh and keep this stuff IN THE CABIN OF YOUR VEHICLE. It will do you no good in your trunk if you crash into a snow bank and can't get out to retrieve it!
(3.) Lighting - as with every prep-kit, you should have a decent flashlight in your car and ready to go. You will also want to throw in a pack of road flares. I keep a rescue stobe in my kit as well (http://www.amazon.co...s/dp/B000VS970K)
(4.) Basic first aid kit - you all should know what these are by now.. throw one in your winter kit if you don't have one in the car already.
(5.) Candle / matches - http://www.bestglide...val_candle.html; just one of these candles, lit inside your car can provide enough heat to keep you alive long enough for rescue even at -50F.
(6.) Whistle - Snow is great at snuffing out noise. If you have crashed into a snowbank and can't get out, chances are noone will hear you yelling. A good whistle can really come in handy here. I recommend Fox40 http://www.fox40shop...tegory.15976/.f
(7.) Carry a decent set of tow straps. Just because a passerby has a big truck doesn't mean they carry the accessories to use it! Having your own tow straps can speed up the rescue/recovery process considerably.


That's it for now. I may touch up on this a little more as I get some more free time. Any other suggestions?
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#2 Davis

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Posted 09 October 2013 - 09:25 PM

Being a born and raised Alaskan I agree with you post, you make some good points. I also like to highlight that you should always carry water with you in the extreme cold as you are just as susceptible to dehydration as in the high heat. A small collapsable backpacking type snow shovel is another really good idea.
I also like to note that in the in the really cold areas, such as the Fairbanks area, some of your survival items that you keep in your vehicle can be damaged by the cold so if you are not able to keep your vehicle inside a garage then you should have those items that are deteriorated by the cold stored in a separate bag that you are able to take inside with you if you are going to have your rig turned off for more then a couple hours.
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#3 Harps

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 11:47 AM

Great topic!

some of your survival items that you keep in your vehicle can be damaged by the cold

Like a metal container with water...
Half fill a flexible plastic container and you'll avoid having a slow melting mess.

Always, always bring some comfort food.
Just knowing that you have a snack (M&Ms, energy bars, Epic bars (these look great), etc) or a meal (MRE or dehydrated food + stove) will boost your moral in a situation where you are stuck with your vehicle. Avoiding hunger might also encourage you to stay near your vehicle, which is a safer bet if somebody is looking for you. I keep a small kit with Coast Guard supplies- food, water, plus signals (glowsticks, flare, whistle).
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#4 leosavage

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Posted 17 March 2014 - 09:16 AM

Being born and raised in Michigan where it gets cold.. Not Alaska cold but still deadly cold one thong I've always kept in the car kit and hunting pack for those bitter days is a themocare heat pack. The kind you strap to your lower back with a velcro strap. Keep it over your kidneys and you will keep warm since your blood filters through the kidneys. That little trick has more than once kept me out in the woods on sub zero days.
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#5 SteveSOS

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Posted 31 March 2014 - 03:30 PM

Great topic.

 

Where was everyone in alaska from?

 

I grew up in Cordova from 81-94


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#6 Davis

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Posted 31 March 2014 - 03:52 PM

Great topic.

 

Where was everyone in alaska from?

 

I grew up in Cordova from 81-94

 

Haines (were I was born) from 82-86

Yakutat (about a 20 min flight south on the Italio River, as well as in the town) from 86 - 92

Between Cordova and Yakutat on the coast near Kayak Island at the Kiklukh (pronounced "kick luck") River from 92 - 97

Back to Haines from 98 - 2002

Juneau from 02 - 08

Fairbanks from 08 - 11

And that is when I finally finished my Alaska sentence and moved down here to the good old lower 48. 

 

I'm sure you and I have some fairly common connections if you were in CDV until 94. 


Edited by Davis, 31 March 2014 - 03:53 PM.

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#7 LongHaul

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Posted 31 March 2014 - 05:00 PM

I travel all over Alaska for work and recreation, but I've been in Anchorage since '92. Gotta say I'm a little jealous of your Southeast time Davis and SteveSOS. Beautiful area down that way.


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#8 SteveSOS

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Posted 31 March 2014 - 05:44 PM

My dad was assitant harbor master there, Steve Graves

 

Dads best friend is Dave "op" Obrien

 

Ed Weibl was the Chief of police down there at the time

 

bunch of other people im sure. its a small town everyone knows everyone... i was thinking on moving back there due to the lack of cops issue... or at least lack of cops that will do anything about stuff.

 

I have some old aquaintances there that need locked up and forgot about moving heroin through town.


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#9 SteveSOS

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Posted 31 March 2014 - 05:45 PM

Anchorage is a dangerous town. the only town ive been mugged in... twice.


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#10 Davis

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Posted 01 April 2014 - 12:18 PM

My dad was assitant harbor master there, Steve Graves

 

Dads best friend is Dave "op" Obrien

 

Ed Weibl was the Chief of police down there at the time

 

bunch of other people im sure. its a small town everyone knows everyone... i was thinking on moving back there due to the lack of cops issue... or at least lack of cops that will do anything about stuff.

 

I have some old aquaintances there that need locked up and forgot about moving heroin through town.

 

It's a sad deal how so many small AK towns have really big drug problems and unfortunately the cops seldom are able to really reign it in. AST does what they can but small towns are known for running off cops that cause too many "problems". 

 

I never spent too much time in CVD, but that is the airport where all of our clients flew in and out off. My family had a lodge out on the Kiklukh River so CDV was the nearest town, so most of our interaction was around the airport... we worked with the Ranney family (Gayle and Steve) quite a bit. 

 

 

I travel all over Alaska for work and recreation, but I've been in Anchorage since '92. Gotta say I'm a little jealous of your Southeast time Davis and SteveSOS. Beautiful area down that way.

 

Yes, out of everyplace in AK I've been SE in general takes the cake for me when it comes to beautiful places. 


Edited by Davis, 01 April 2014 - 12:21 PM.

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#11 ARM_Alaska

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 06:52 PM

It's a sad deal how so many small AK towns have really big drug problems and unfortunately the cops seldom are able to really reign it in. AST does what they can but small towns are known for running off cops that cause too many "problems". 

 

I've been in the Fairbanks area for 3 years now and love it here. I've traveled all over the state and have seen the reality of what drug and alcohol abuse can do a community. Fairbanks PD along with local AST has been fighting an uphill battle against heroin and, sadly, they are still losing. Instances of theft and burglary continue to rise and violent crime seems to be gaining momentum as well. I moved here after living in Atlanta for a year and I am more inclined to carry my sidearm EVERYWHERE I go here in AK than I was there. 

 

 

On a happier note; Alaska is the most beautiful and motivating place I have ever been.. So far living here is almost like an addiction. No matter the cost of living, the harsh weather or the constant challenges, I have no desire to leave this place. 


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