Researchers recently measured a new record low temperature in East Antarctica: minus 93.2 Celsius. But we’re betting your car feels almost that “ultra-brrrrr” when you start it up on a winter morning. Luckily, we have some tips for staying warm.
Get your motor running
Head out on the highway
Circulate air over and over
Plug it in
Wear lots of layers
Keep those digits warm
Warm that wheel
Turn up the heat
Wear a hat
Use winter floor mats
Carry “emergency warmth”
Get warm from the inside
Start your vehicle and put your defrosters on the highest setting before you start scraping the ice off your windshield. It should make the job easier, and it’ll clear the fog before you start to drive. [If your car comes equipped with a remote starter, you can even do this before you walk out the door! And if it doesn’t, you can always install an aftermarket remote starter. —Ed.]
Today’s cars don’t need the long warm-up time that was necessary in the past. Even when it’s really cold, a couple of minutes should do it. Then drive gently until the engine temperature starts to rise—don’t accelerate hard, and avoid hard braking if you can. Driving will get the engine speed up, and everything will warm up faster.
Turn the heater fan up to its highest speed once the engine warms up a bit, and set the system to recirculation. This way, you’re heating air that’s already slightly warm, instead of drawing in that arctic air from outside. If your defrosters aren’t clearing your windshield quickly enough, pull down the sun visor, which will help deflect more warm air toward the glass.
A block heater won’t make your interior toasty, but it does warm the engine, which in turn will have hot air blowing out of your vents that much faster. If your vehicle didn’t come with one, you can install an aftermarket version. You can also buy easy-to-use heaters that attach to the engine with adhesive or magnets.
Okay, enough about the car—let’s get you warm. It’s better to wear layers of thinner clothing than a single bulky item. Not only does it keep you warmer, but on a longer trip, you can stop and shed some of the outer layers when the temperature rises. Bulky clothes restrict your movement, and that can be a serious problem if you have to make a quick steering manoeuvre to get out of a slippery situation.
If gloves and socks aren’t enough, grab a couple of packs of hand or foot warmers. These little packs get hot when you knead them to start a chemical reaction inside. If you find them awkward, you can get gloves with special pockets that hold the packs in place. And yes, you can actually buy battery-powered heated socks
Heated steering wheels are the new “gotta-have-it” option for Canadian winters, but if you don’t have one, a steering wheel cover will help protect your hands. Just make sure it attaches firmly to the wheel and can’t slip when you’re turning.
If you have heated seats, turn them up. If you don’t, consider an aftermarket seat heating pad or cover. (Opt for the pad if you have seat side airbags, which shouldn’t be covered up.) When your butt is warm, you tend to feel toasty all over, and you don’t need to have the cabin temperature as high.
It isn’t true that you lose most of your body heat through your head, but you will feel warmer if you wear a hat, especially one that covers your ears. Just make sure it doesn’t interfere with your peripheral vision.
Okay, this one sounds odd, but bear with us. If you don’t have winter mats, and your carpets get wet, that moisture sticks around. Now your car isn’t just cold—it’s cold and damp. Your windows are more likely to fog up because of that dampness, too, while moisture trapped under the carpets can cause rust on the floor and seat brackets.
If it’s cold enough, getting stranded in a winter storm can be deadly. Pack an emergency kit, including extra socks and gloves, hat, a blanket or sleeping bag, and an emergency candle with lighter.
If nothing’s working, stop and grab a coffee to help you warm up. Don’t bother with the drive-thru. Instead, park at the far end of the lot and walk briskly back and forth to the store. Yes, it’s cold, but walking will warm up your muscles a bit. And besides, you’re a tough Canadian—trudging through the snow for your double-double is simply what we do!