Canadians are obsessed with the weather. For good reason. Here in Western Canada, we recently endured an extended period of Polar Vortex Arctic Cold Straight From Goddamn Siberia consisting of endless -40ºC windchill temperatures (equal to -40ºF) until we all just wanted to scream.
We've been getting lots of snow too. Together, cold and snow produce the joy of winter driving.
I have nearly 50 years of winter driving experience. I've driven in blizzards I should not have been out in. I've taken foolish risks I should never have attempted. (Thanks, Guardian Angel, for keeping me alive!) But I'm pleased to say that (so far, touch wood), I've only gone in the ditch once, driving too fast on an icy highway while passing another car. He stopped to rescue me. Thanks, buddy!
It's never a good idea to get too cocky about winter driving. It can be hazardous and, indeed, deadly.
Like all Canadians should, I have a winter survival kit in my trunk with blankets, candles, matches, protein bars, extra socks and mitts, plus a small snow shovel to dig out the exhaust pipe if I am stranded somewhere in a snow-filled ditch (so I can periodically run the car to stay warm, without asphyxiation if snow is blocking the exhaust). That blessed life-saving warmth is why Canadians are advised to keep a full tank of gas at all times in the winter months.
Good tires are important too, but not even winter snow tires will stop you skidding out and losing control on ice. But snow tires are a necessity if you're regularly driving on snow-choked highways or rural roads. In the city where roads are quickly cleared of snow, winter tires are not as critical. The biggest snow annoyance for city drivers is road boogers in our vehicle's wheel wells.
Another joy of winter driving is the necessity of keeping your car engine from freezing solid in the extreme cold. For this purpose, Canadian vehicles all have a device under the hood called a block heater. When plugged into an outdoor electrical outlet, the block heater generates enough basic warmth to protect the car battery and other engine components. Then you'll be able to start your car in the morning!
The block heater plug sticks out of the car's front grill. Then you plug it into the electrical outlet provided in all parking stalls by using a block heater extension cord. In the morning, remember to unplug your car before driving away -- or, oops, you'll pull off the block heater plug and then you'll need to get it fixed pronto! I learned that the hard way. But only once!
In our recent frigid cold snap, some asshole unplugged my car one night in the parkade and stole my block heater extension cord to use on his own car. There is no circle of hell deep enough for such a criminal! But hey, it happens. Luckily, my car still started the next morning (Toyotas are tough!) Of course, I then had to shell out for a new extension cord. On the bright side, this is only the second time in 20 years that my cord has been stolen, so I can't really complain too much. OR CAN I?
Okay, enough bitching. I'll end this long post on a positive note.
Behold God's Gift to Canadians --
Yes, the remote control car starter, also known as a "command start." I've had one installed in my last two vehicles and it is worth every single penny. From inside my home, I can simply point my command device out the window and start my car so its interior can warm up for 5 or 10 minutes before I venture outside and get in. There's nothing better than getting into a warm car in winter instead of an ice cold one. Bliss!
(Just FYI because I know someone will ask in the comments -- no, no one can steal your car while it's running unattended because the command device automatically locks all the doors and will stop the engine if anyone gets in and puts their foot on the gas pedal without first putting in the ignition key. Is that genius or what?)