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Vehicle preparedness for extreme cold weather

Cold snow winter vehicle extreme driving preparedness

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#1 ARM_Alaska

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Posted 09 October 2013 - 02:24 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 CENTCOMSurvivor

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Posted 09 October 2013 - 02:58 PM

Good stuff! I stopped reading at -40* though haha.

Thanks for sharing those tips, great advice all around. How often do you see people frozen to death up there from not being prepared?
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#3 DeathwatchDoc

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Posted 09 October 2013 - 03:25 PM

Well written!

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#4 ARM_Alaska

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Posted 09 October 2013 - 04:09 PM

Good stuff! I stopped reading at -40* though haha.

Thanks for sharing those tips, great advice all around. How often do you see people frozen to death up there from not being prepared?


I have only been up here for 3 years and in that time I have heard of 7 deaths attributed to cold weather. 3 of them I recall were homeless but the rest were either single vehicle accidents or hikers going way outside of their skillset with minimal resources.

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#5 mangeface

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Posted 09 October 2013 - 06:24 PM

Good info. I keep a lot of stuff in my truck. A poncho, tarp, blanket, 2 quarts of oil, road flares and otyer emergency equipment.

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