The news cycle has been rife with stories about delayed travel and upended plans thanks to the wild weather being experienced across much of the U.S. and Canada. One harried traveler in Canada chose to rent a car and drive the 2,000 miles (plus a seven-hour ferry ride) to his home rather than wait three or four days in uncertainty for his rescheduled flight.
Here's our question to you: How far would you drive if an airline left you stranded?
We don’t know about the rest of you lot, but the vast majority of us who toil at this august publication reside well within the snow belt. Starting around this time of year, shovelling, bundling up, and generally cursing at cold weather is a daily occurrence for most of the masthead.
Modern cars are virtually maintenance-free these days — save for vital fluids, of course — especially compared to the Bad Old Days when one had to gap plugs and set points in order to get to church on time. Despite this, are there any particular ways in which you prepare your car for winter?
Subaru landed on these shores with a raft of cars and totally-not-trucks (thanks, Chicken Tax) that were certainly capable when shown a rough road but were, in a word, quirky. Since then, the Pleiades brand has filtered out some of its weirdness in an attempt to capture more customers but – as we will learn – still marches to the beat of its own drummer … or at least to the beat of a flat-four.
What’s changed since our first drive of the Ascent eight and a half months ago? Anything? Did the big Subie acquit itself well during the Polar Vortex? Does our Associate Editor wear army boots?
Last week’s ball-shattering polar vortex flash froze much of the U.S. and Canada, sending Netflix viewership soaring and no doubt spurring a mini baby boom in nine months’ time. While it may have been toasty in your home (sorry, Michigan gas customers), your car’s engine block found itself in a climate POW camp.
Hailing from the Great White North, I know all too well the prayers muttered while twisting the ignition key, knowing all too well your oil’s as thick as fudge and hoping with all your might that good wishes can be converted into cranking amps. Now, let’s say you succeed in firing up that ice-cold engine. What next?
If you’re living at low altitudes in the Southeastern U.S. or a partial day’s drive from the Gulf Coast, this Question of the Day is not for you. Barring exceptionally wacko weather, denizens of these temperate climes needn’t worry about traction loss caused by the solidification of moisture below 32F. In other words, snow, slush, and ice of both the regular and insurance-hiking black variety.
For those of who who do live in regions where Mother Nature delivers an annual cold shoulder, we’re getting close to decision time. What’s your style: turn your beautiful, meticulously upkept vehicle into a cheap-looking rig for the duration of winter with a set of bare steelies and meaty donuts, or keep style and handling alive with a snazzy set of low-profile winter tires wrapped around sporty aluminum hoops?
TTAC Commentator Arthur Dailey writes:
As I look outside a the terrible weather, I felt it was opportune to ask you (and the B&B) a relatively simple yet timely question about preventing car door freezing: door handles, windows, etc, during the freeze and thaw cycles that we are increasingly experiencing.
On Sunday our temperature reached a record low of – 22C but on Thursday we had driving rain and a record high of + 10C melting all the snow. Friday we are dropping to – 13C with high winds and freezing rain/sleet/snow. All of these freeze thaw cycles play havoc with our autos.
The high temperatures combined with the salt used to keep the roads less icy results in rusting. Perhaps less serious but just as frustrating are the freezing of windows, doors, door locks and door handles.
As I type this, the first flakes of this winter’s first real dumping of snow are falling lazily outside my window. By morning, the landscape should resemble the countertop in a Studio 54 bathroom. Then the real fun begins.
Carefully gauging your braking distance and leaving more room between your car and the car ahead, wondering all the while if that Rogue you can’t see around is hugging the back bumper of the car in front. Wondering what’s going to break loose first on a highway off-ramp — the front end or the rear. Trying to coax frozen wiper blades off the windshield without leaving the rubber strip behind. Downshifting at the top of hills. Trying to clear freezing rain off your windows without turning into William H. Macy in Fargo.
Never mind what happens in the ritzy ski lodges of Sweden and the Alps. Winter sucks. The only perk is it’s a lot easier to make a U-turn, assuming there’s no cops around and your vehicle’s e-brake isn’t of the electronic kind.
Depending on where you call home, you’ve probably switched your seasonal rubber by now. Or have you?
Alert readers will have noted by this time that I have lived my entire life in the refrigerator that is Eastern Canada. Snow appears early, sticks around like an unwelcome houseguest, only to begrudgingly depart sometime after Cinco de Mayo. My father often says his retirement plan consists of loading a snowblower into the bed of a pickup truck and heading south. The first place he stops where someone asks “What’s that?” is where he makes his new home.
On Friday, I regaled you with my tale of finally paying off a car (thanks for the kind words in the comments, readers). Since I’ll be keeping the Charger, and live well into the snow belt, I will soon need to get it ready for winter.
Maybe it’s the cold, the dodgy economy, or lingering memories of decades spent lining up for milk. Whatever the motivation, Russians don’t seem to need the latest and greatest high-tech gadget to help them pass the time. Nope, just grab a few friends, spend a few rubles amassing a collection of ancient hatchbacks, and hit the ice.
The winter of 2017 has brought an inventive new sport to the frozen wastes of the Motherland, and locals can thank a plethora of worthless, Soviet-era crapwagons for the entertainment. Apparently, there are automobiles worth less than stones.
Weather forecasters deserve our scorn, and Northerners know why. They call for one to two inches of snow, update the forecast to four to six inches later in the day, and you wake up the next morning to find eight to twelve inches of fresh powder blanketing your driveway, your car, your life, your fragile psyche.
It happens every winter, but a good insurance policy against aorta-popping fits of rage (and exertion) is to get yourself a good winter vehicle. Something that eats snow and ice for breakfast and comes back for more. Ideally, it’s a low-cost, no-commitment “beater” that throws itself in front of winter’s bullet to spare your pampered summer ride, but not always.
For the time being, we can still call it “Indian Summer.” Maybe not for much longer — my alma mater, Miami University, bent the knee to social-justice pressure on this issue a few years ago. We had been the Miami Redskins, but after a prolonged siege by the forces of manufactured outrage the university agreed to change us to the Miami Redhawks. It is worth noting that the Chief of the Miami Tribe in no way objected to the old logo or name; he thought it was used in a reasonable and dignified manner. But when faced between the choice of respecting the opinion of an actual Native American or listening to the incoherent babble of their own privileged white-girl hearts, Miami’s students of course chose the latter.
I kind of like the bird they chose — it looks angry, although to my mind it is not distinct enough from the Bowling Green Falcon, and that’s a shame because BG is an emphatically third-rate university and Miami is only second-rate. Angry is good. It’s easy to picture such a red hawk flying above the muted palette of the Ohio late fall forest, two-lane roads with orange and red leaves disconnected from stems by a killing morning frost then resurrected in impromptu whirling whorls set to spinning above the tarmac by the Vettes and ‘vertibles of all sorts, the lumbering Harleys and white-trash sportbikes and adventure-cuck bikes taking brief but permitted nonsense trips to nowhere. We can get these magical weekends every once in awhile, right at the end of the season, and this past Saturday was the perfect example — 76 degrees and a panoply parade of pleasure vehicles out for the last sorties of the year.
Now it’s 28 and I’m the only bike on the road to work this morning, flash-frozen on the freeway, every joint hurting and the tires chilled to a sort of bitter truce with the road surface, chittering at the hint of a lean.
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