Are you ready for all the Snowpocalypse news coverage this year? It’s becoming an annual event for the whole family! Gather ’round the fire, everyone snuggled up in blankets, sipping hot cocoa, and watching drivers all over the nation lose their minds at any hint of serious snowfall. But you and I? We won’t be one of them. We got this.
Snow. Snow never changes.
In this guide we’re going to go over what you need to do, have, and know to make it out of this not only unscathed, but looking like a pro in the process. I might even give you some cool catch phrases to try out after you jump a snowbank or rip a sweet drift around a stuck minivan or something. For example my catchphrase is “boom goes the dynamite” and then I throw on my shades (Note: Do not steal my catchphrase).
Let’s cover some of the essentials and then we’ll get into some high tech ways to conquer the great white north with ease.
Getting Your Vehicle Ready for Winter
First thing’s first. Let’s get your machine winterized and in top snow-fighting condition. I know a lot of this won’t be news to you if you’re been living in place with harsh winters for a while, but we’ve got some new recruits in our ranks, so consider this part a refresher course for you veterans out there.
#1: Prepping Your Battlewagon
The key here is to keep everything running and on the road. Duh, right? Well there are a few common recommendations that I see thrown around all the time, but not much actual info on why that may be, or leaving any room for nuance. Not everything is the one size fits all solution that most of these winter guides seem to suggest, and in a lot of cases, no one can really make up their minds. The big offender there is…
Some people say to pump up your tires over the recommended spec, some places say you should air down, others just say to leave it alone, so what gives? Well just like your relationship status on Facebook, it’s complicated. It depends on a bunch of different factors, like what kind of tires you’re running, how much snow you’re dealing with, and how consistent that snow will be throughout the day.
When to under inflate:
If there is massive snowfall and a lot of ice on the road, then airing your tires down a bit can help widen your tire’s contact patch for better grip on ice, and for more surface area to distribute your vehicle’s weight over on snow. The downside here is once you get to dry, flat pavement, you’ll be dealing with worse mileage, uneven tire wear, and the hassle of having to go fill your tires back up. 5-10 lbs under will make a big difference in traction, but should only really be done when things get bad.
When to over inflate:
When you have actual, legit winter tires. Many snow tire manufacturers recommend running your tires 3-5 PSI over your car’s factory recommended amount due to the soft tread compounds and deep, aggressive sipes that the tires are designed with to handle low temperatures and loose surfaces. What this translates to in practice is less precise and responsive steering input as the tread of your tires “squish around.” Adding a few PSI of pressure helps to normalize that.
When to leave them alone:
Basically most of the time. Airing down can help in situations where things are really bad, but in most situations careful driving with fluid, deliberate inputs are all you need, assuming you have decent all season tires.
Get your fluids dialed in:
It’s not a bad idea to get an oil change when the temperatures start really dropping. When the temperatures drop down below freezing, your engine needs oil of the right viscosity to flow everywhere it needs to. So how do you know what’s what? Let’s break down what those oil ratings mean:
Let’s say your owner’s manual recommends you use 5w30 weight oil. Contrary to popular belief, that “w” in there stands for “winter” and not “weight.” The higher the number in oil weight, the more viscous (syrup-y the fluid is. 5w30 indicates that the oil’s weight at it’s lowest temperature is 5 (free flowing), and at hit engine temperatures of around 210F, the oil weight is much thicker at 30. This means that when you start your engine on a cold winter morning, the oil can get around to everywhere it needs to in order to lubricate all the moving parts — and then at peak temperatures the oil will be thick enough to provide enough protection for your engine working hard.
Always go by your owner’s manual for what oil weight to use! Many manufacturers recommend two different weights depending on the time of year and climate.
Then we need to get into antifreeze. Standard recommendation is a 50/50 split between antifreeze and water (and most premixed bottles sit around there), which should prevent freezing down to around -34F. That’s pretty standard knowledge, but people often forget their windshield washer fluid! Using proper windshield washing fluid is important for one (versus just water), not only because you won’t be able to use it, but because the fluid freezing can damage the pump and crack the lines and storage reservoir.
#2: Put Together a Winter Supply Box
You never know what you’re going to run into out there, soldier, that’s why we always come prepared. Get yourself a plastic tote box and pack it with some supplies. “Better to have it and not need it than to need it an not have it.” -Everyone’s dad ever.
- First aid kit (and look through it once, so you know what’s in there)
- Warm gloves + winter coat and/or blanket
- Emergency cell phone (cell phones don’t need a sim card to make emergency calls)
- Battery jump start box (modern ones will charge your phone too)
- Ice scraper
- Tire chains
- Spare engine fluids (oil, antifreeze, etc)
- Basic hand tools
- Backup cool-guy sunglasses (you never know when you’ll need to look awesome in an emergency)
#3: Snowpocalypse Conquering Gear (and other neat, high tech stuff)
Whew, OK now that we got the boring stuff out of the way, let’s get into the fun stuff. Let’s get high tech!
See through fog, darkness, and glare with the Speedir Night Owl Infrared camera:
Heavy snow and ice can make for the absolute worst conditions for actually being able to see where you’re going. The glare is intense, and with so much fine powder-y snow being kicked up by everyone else on the road, seeing at night becomes a stressful strain. All that is optional, though. Falling short of straight up strapping night vision goggles to your head, the Speedir Night Owl system is the next best way to be able to see and drive through conditions that might otherwise end up with you in a ditch. These systems are popular especially with long haul truckers who work north of the ice wall. How else are you going to see when a deer or white walker pops out in front of you?
Get a step up and let your truck roll out the red carpet for you with AMP Research Power Retractable Steps:
These side steps give you the best of both worlds; ground clearance when you need it, while still giving you a step up when you open the door. It’s completely seamless, and represents the epitome of “working smarter, not harder” to me. The way they work is by tying into your truck/SUV’s OBDII port to be able to tell when your door is open so that the steps can extend automatically. And don’t worry, if you need your OBDII port for other things, they make a passthrough system so you can run both the steps and whatever other system you need to have plugged in.
Speaking of working smarter, the Pace Edwards Ultra Groove Electric Retractable Tonneau Cover is next on the tech list:
Power doors, automatically lowering side steps, remote start, all this is starting to feel like we have some sort of magical command over our machines. But what about your tonneau cover? Modern cars can pop their trunks at the push of a button, so what about the truck guys? Here’s where Pace Edwards comes in.
With how tall and huge pickup trucks have become, it’s getting more and more difficult to reach anywhere in the bed that isn’t right at the tailgate. Plus, usually if you’re trying to get into the back of the truck, it’s because you’ve got your hands full of the stuff you’re trying to load into it in the first place. Now you can have full bed access at the push of a button, and close it up just as easily. Plus you’ve got the tough security of the heavy-gauge aluminum panels, and the ability to mount just about any roof rack accessory with the T-slot rails built into the sides. What more could you ask for?
Light up the way with the first (and so far far only) DOT approved LED headlight bulbs from Oracle:
LED lighting conversions used to be a pain in the ass. It wasn’t just the bulb, you also had to wire up a ballast try and fit these massive heat sinks in already tight spaces just to get them to work correctly. Now, however, Oracle has done all the heavy lifting and built everything into a package that will fit basically anywhere the OEM equivalent bulbs will, and it’s all just plug and play.
The bulbs are rated for 1,600 lumens each (very bright), and sit at a color temperature of 6000k, which is like a cool white. The best part about these bulbs, however, is that they work with the factory cutoff, meaning you get the benefit of the bright light for your own vision, but won’t be blinding everyone else on the road in the process like a lot of cheaper LED conversion kits have done historically.