I am gearhead, like a lot of you reading this. I’ve lived in the mid-west all of my life (except for a short stint in Europe during college).
Being a gearhead is tough in this part of the country. One of the great things about being a gearhead (probably the best I’d argue) is actually getting to drive your pride and joy (or multiple prides and joys). By my estimations, that’s possible between the months of May and September giving a total of 5 month of “good” driving weather (and occasionally a few more, but really only 5 even remotely guaranteed.
This long winter is burdensome for many reasons.
- It’s cold.
- The roads aren’t very great to drive on.
- Your car will rust away in about 5 years.
There are a lot of people, probably a majority, that only have one car (GASP!)
This necessitates it being a daily driver making it by default a winter beater. This is fine for those who see cars as disposable tools, like a razor, or Harbor Freight wrenches, and plan to get a new one every 3-5 years.
But for us gearheads, it’s a bit different. Likely you like you car in it’s non-rusty state. You probably also plan to keep you car a lot longer than the average person. Likely until you die or at least can’t drive it anymore. My motto “Never sell any vehicles.”
Since you’ve likely spent all your money on your car (or cars) what will you drive when winter comes around what will you drive? Hopefully you’ve planned ahead and bought a beater. What does a winter beater do?
It allows you to get where you need to go while protecting your nice car from the salt and snow.
Good winter beaters are cheap and reliable, because who wants to work on stuff in the middle of winter? No one. Luckily vehicles these days are pretty dang reliable. Any FWD car built in the last 10 years should be relatively maintenance free, and most should be pretty cheap to buy. They are almost all ugly also, so you don’t have to feel bad driving one in winter. A better option, in my opinion, is a 4×4 truck.
My personal choice for a winter beater is a 2001 Silverado 1500 4×4. I bought it with 165k miles, basically brand new for those engines! I’ve put 15k miles on it in the last 2 years. Mostly in the winter. A benefit of having a 4×4 truck for a beater is that it basically transforms into a rocket ship when snow falls. Everyone else is trying to gain some traction, and you are in 4wd taking off. Of course, you need to take into account increased stopping distances as a result of snow also, but it’s nice to not get stuck every time you stop your vehicle at a stop sign.
Other great things about having a truck outside of winter.
- It can double as a great parts hauler. How awful is hauling parts in the trunk of your nice car, or any car for that matter?
- You can tow a trailer with it.
- You can tow your friend’s junk truck home when it dies. (See picture)
- You can haul your dirt bike with it.
Another option is to borrow a winter beater from a relative. I did this through college with varying results. One winter I hit a deer with the beater. Grandpa wasn’t impressed. But this allows you to continue to spend all your money on your nice car and still not have it rust away in the winter.
Here are a few picts of my friend trying to stop the current rust on his new winter beater, and maybe make sure it lasts through a few more winters. It’s definitely not pretty, but at least he’s giving ‘er the old college try.
What is your winter beater? Or are you lucky enough to live in a part of the country where things like this are not necessary? Can I come live with you?
And if you are stuck inside for the winter maybe you want to watch some of these movies to get your gearhead fix in the coming months.
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Tires: Good tires go a long way!!! Make sure you have good tires, $500 for tires is a cheap insurance policy versus totaling your car in the ditch…or worse.
Extra Weight or grip for Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) vehicles. Have some sand to give you traction on icy areas.
Fuel Level: keep at least 1/2 tank of gas in the tank, when it gets below 1/4 tank it can be more prone to freezing the fuel line.
Other Fluids: Check your fluids, make sure your coolant/antifreeze will test for -35 below.
Battery: If it’s been over 3 years since you had your battery changed, be prepared for a to stop in at Wal-Mart, Blains, or a parts store and a ~$90 swap out.
Have a safety/survival kit: Shovel, blanket, Warm clothes (Hat, scarf, mittens, extra coat, boots, etc), A metal coffee can, candle, matches/lighter, light signal, and a few protein bar snacks.
A tow Strap…yes, get a good 20′ to 30′ I have seen (and pulled out) RWD (rear wheel drive) Mustangs that have gotten stuck in the curb right outside their driveway.
Drive smart in the wintertime, and keep your car running.
Thanks mark. Those are a bunch of good thoughts!
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