Road Noise: The Calm Before the Snowstorm
It’s technically the tail end of autumn here at VehicleVoice World Internet Headquarters and Haberdashery for Distinguished Gentlemen, but the weather’s all screwed up. The postman and the UPS guy have been wearing their natty uniform shorts all week, and the Canada geese down at the park are looking around saying, “Eh, it’s nice here. Screw flying south.”
Obviously, now is the time to talk about winterizing your car, because there is no way weather like this won’t be followed up by an ungodly snowstorm. It’s going to be like The Day After Tomorrow out there by next week.
That’s it. I’m calling in sick.
My parents never seemed to do much to winterize their cars when I was a kid, and they got through the snow and ice just fine. I got to thinking, and I don’t actually know anyone who does a major winterizing routine. (Well, Steph puts snow tires on her Miata, but that’s just because you can’t buy skis for the thing.)
So I did what anyone would do when faced with a burning gap of knowledge: I turned to the people who live inside my computer. I posted a survey about winterization practices and turned my friends loose on it. The highly scientific results follow.
Eighteen respondents – about 65 percent – say they never do anything to get their cars ready for winter. Of those 18, 10 were people who live in places where it never snows who were taking the survey to rub in their good fortune, despite the fact that I specified the poll was only for people who drive in the cold. Conculsion: My friends are jerks.
Screw you guys. Seriously.
The other eight “no winterization” people gave answers ranging from “My employer only covers oil changes and gas on my company car,” to “I’m lazy,” to “It’s an 11-year-old Saturn. Winterization cannot save us.”
While I certainly identify with the lazy person – my personal winterization equipment consists of a long-handled ice scraper that stays in my backseat year-round – none of these are exactly stellar excuses for not winterizing. It turns out that a good chunk of winterization involves stuff you should be doing to your car anyway – keeping fuel in the gas tank, maintaining proper fluid levels and keeping the engine tuned. And older cars, which lack tire pressure warning lights and may have older batteries and other less-than-pristine parts, need a pre-winter checkup most of all. My Saturn-driving friend runs the risk of freezing to death waiting for AAA to show up unless she does a little preventative maintenance.
When I was a kid, I thought snow chains were something you hooked between your wheels like bulldozer treads. Turns out they’re just S&M gear for your tires.
The rest of the people who answered my poll have wildly varying definitions of winterization, ranging from “Fill the windshield juice,” to “Bag of sand and a shovel in the trunk,” to “Put the top up.” Sounds like they could use a refresher course in getting ready for winter. I like the winterization checklist at Car Talk, and the people at DIY Network have video tutorials and tons of checklists on their winter driving page.
I’ll close with a word from my friend Karen, who turned my simple winterization survey into an exploration of her fragile psyche:
One night, lying in bed about to fall asleep, I’ll have sudden, horrified vision of me getting stuck in my car in some deep snowdrift so I’ll lie there and fret in the dark about how long I’d last awaiting rescue. All kinds of grim scenarios abound….frostbite and hypothermia….thirst because I am unable to melt snow….hunger and starvation…peeing into a discarded fast-food fountain drink cup…. Never mind that I almost never drive more than five miles from home and am generally close to civilization at all times, I still think about it. So several days after the paranoia, I will resolve to stock my car with an emergency blanket, candles, some granola bars, etc. I will dig through my trunk and find the stash of supplies from last year when I suffered the same paranoia. I will tell myself to replace to stale outdated granola, but then forget and the whole issue doesn’t come up again until the next year. Occasionally I will see some kind of good “winter emergency supply” thing on clearance and will buy it with the intention of adding it to the emergency kit, but it doesn’t always make it in. Like the handwarmers that are still in my laundry room after I bought them three years ago.
That’s how much ‘winterizing” I do.
Good luck out there, Karen. You’ll need it.