Friday, 14 January 2022

The Joy of Winter Driving


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?)

56 comments:

G. B. Miller said...

Never reached that level of insanity here in CT, only the insanity of poor planning for snowstorms/snow bombs/nor'easters which result in very bad/barely plowed streets reduced to the width of one car because people who parked didn't bother moving their cars when parking bans went into effect and knowing they weren't going to get punished by the city for it.

My personal snow heck involved going back to work after picking up my car (I worked in the city at the time), and because of traffic jams due to poorly plowed roads, I had to keep making left turns for about twenty-five minutes and ultimate wound up near the border of another town before I was able to find properly plowed streets (near the state assembly...hmmm) and go back to work.

Kay G. said...

We are due to have a snow/ice event here in Georgia on Sunday but it should be gone by Monday. That's enough snow for me! That remote control car starter does sound like a very good idea!

Travel said...

And why are there so many people from Canada in Arizona and Florida in January and February?

jaz@octoberfarm said...

hhahaha.....we have a storm heading straight towards us so i hope to use some of these! so you have had all of my winter weather. i wondered where it was.

Boud said...

We lived in Wisconsin for two or maybe twenty two winters. At that time we didn't have a car and used buses everywhere, nor did we drive. When we did learn, and got our Rambler American, green, we noticed the electrical outlet! Amazed, had it explained to us. We had had 20 below periods, nothing colder though. That was cold enough for us temperate clime critters.

Our local version of Arctic cold in NJ doesn't get much below zero f. with windchills below that, st the coldest. No need to use snow tires nor plug in. I'm happy to say!

Rommy said...

I suddenly have the urge to kiss the earth of the Philly 'burbs. I don't hate winter, but I can't say I'm amused when the highs are lower than my children's ages. -40 sounds... unpleasant. I did drive through a couple of snowstorms in my youth (did a 180 on a major highway once too) but I keep my little brown butt away from cars during snowstorms now. Also, yay for modern technology!

Marie Smith said...

Canadian winter! Gotta love it. How we’ve adapted to the climate!

Mistress Maddie said...

These are all true buy funny!!!! I too don't mind driving in snow and got used it...buy our storms are not like they used to be. But friends still laugh at me for keeping a survival kit in my trunk.

Nothing like seeing a big wiener in the snow!!!!!!!

Frank said...

I will admit that you Canadians have colder winters than we do in the US...but I can relate to many of your experiences, having lived in New England. When I went to college in Vermont we had one January when the AVERAGE HIGH temperature for the month was 1 degree (F). We were used to driving in snow in New England and were not intimidated...I once drove 100 miles through a white out blizzard, after work one Friday night, to be in Vermont to ski as early as possible in the morning. And we used to spend hours snowblowing our 250 foot driveway and hubby would shovel the roof....one of the reasons why we moved to New Mexico, (where, contrary to popular belief, snow is not unheard of). Hang in there...spring is around the next four corners.

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

Oh you Westerners and your block heaters! Ha ha. I remember many years ago, kids getting a snow day because the diesel in the buses had gelled due to the extreme cold and they couldn't get them started. Yup, I've driven through some scary situations (thank goodness for hydro poles, so you know if you're on the road or not). I don't have an automatic starter, but there have been times when one would have been a delight! -Jenn

pam nash said...

All of that sounds - well - terrible! The only good side I can see is that you must be next door neighbors to Santa.

One of those remote starters would be nice here too though for a different season. Leave your car in 100+ deg heat for several hours and then get in. The other side of hell.

Martha said...

I LOVE the remote starter. I can't imagine being without it. And when we got a new car n 2018, we also got those fancy heated seats, which we never realized how much we needed. LOL This post is totally Canadian! I've driven on icy streets, in snowstorms and through blizzards. And lived to tell the tale...thank goodness! We keep a tank full of gas throughout the winter. So important!

mxtodis123 said...

That's amazing. Must show my hubby this. His car was sitting in the lot for almost two weeks while he battled Covid and still it started despite some frigid weather during that period. Yes, those Toyotas are great. I agree.

Cop Car said...

"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!" I had a similar experience at age 23, having received my license with the past 8 months, driving on a slick road. Why are we so amazed that people who have the right to be pissed at us are so kind? He reaffirmed what my parents had told me - that we all had to take care of one another.

Cop Car said...

P.S. I should have made it clear that in succeeding years I became an expert at driving in snow and ice and taught our daughters to be great at it. (Their dad was a great bad weather driver, too. Unfortunately, his dementia is to the point where were he to have the opportunity to practice, he wouldn't get to take it.) Now, age 84, I rarely have the opportunity to update those skills. Global warming may take credit for some of the paucity of opportunity.

Bob said...

We get some cold weather here, though nothing like you experience, and I, too, prefer a warmed up car first thing in the morning.

Forsythia said...

Used to be a cartoon in paper about Canadian orthodontist and his family. One day she took off in the car dragging along the heating block. I didn't understand it at the time.

BootsandBraids said...

Wow! Makes me ashamed of complaining about not wanting to drive in heavy winds.

Moving with Mitchell said...

Yes, that’s genius. And so are you. Your narrative is as good as your memes and images. The first time I ever saw a block heater was while stranded in Sioux Falls, South Dakota one Christmas. I thought it was a joke. Minus -81F windchill that day. We had our share of road boogers in the northeast, but rarely the extremes you experience (and never temps that low).

Parnassus said...

Hello Debra, I might be able to feel more pity for you, but what do you do with all that cold and snow after you're finished with it? Send it to Ohio and other innocent northern border states, that's what! Also, when your weather travels over the Great Lakes, it picks up a renewed supply of water to insure spectacular snowfalls when it reaches land again. Those engine warmers seem like a good idea. Your story about the cord thief reconfirms my assertion that the most despicable people are the inconsiderate, selfish ones.
--Jim

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

OMG
I so feel you. I was just in Alaska and we enjoyed -40 F degree weather, heating pads and thermal underwear.
I believe EVERYTHING you posted here to be true.

XOXO

JM said...

Oh my goodness. I fear driving in the snow. I live in Ohio and while we don't get the amount of snow Canada does, I still hate driving in even a little bit. What I fear most is the way other dorks drive in it--as if it doesn't affect them.
Once this truck went barreling down the highway, passing a bunch of us, going break neck speeds. I guess the driver felt like since he was in a truck, he could.
As I pulled off the ramp to my workplace, I saw the guy's truck in a ditch. He was outside on his cell phone jumping up and down and cursing. I saw the guy in front of me literally laugh out loud as he was one of the people he barreled by.
I had to drive about 25 miles an hour that day. It was that bad for us.
I have babbled way too much.

Tundra Bunny said...

Bitch, bitch, bitch... try the -60 windchills and 2 feet of snow that Manitoba and Saskatchewan had during that same polar vortex! I forgot to plug in my Subaru, but it still started no problem the other day. Command Start does sound like a great idea, I'll grant you that.

Rosemary said...

I had no idea that people had to use a block heater during the winter on their cars before being able to drive away in the morning, but I can imagine how annoyed you felt when your extension cable was stolen.
I now realise and appreciate just why my Canadian SiL is a Snowbird, and heads off to Florida every February for at least two months.

Adam said...

I have remote start but we never get even close to that cold 🥶🧊❄️

Lady M said...

Holy Guacamole - I don't know how you kids do it.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

My goodness, Debra. All I can say is that you're the goddess of all goddesses. I'll be a pathetic, crying clump all winter long. Bless you!

miruspeg said...

I take my hat off to you Canadians Debra, super humans to live in those conditions each year. I am a woosie Australian who thinks 10 degrees Celsius is cold. Take care my friend, warm hugs Peggy xxxx

Guillaume said...

I miss a proper winter day here.

Martha said...

All so funny but I can only imagine so true too. I'm glad I live in Florida!

Joanne Noragon said...

Living in a primary snow bel, then a secondary snow belt for fifty years, I can only say Amen, and isn't that remote starter a lovely little device.

NanaDiana said...

Wisconsin is bad enough but you are even colder than we are here. I also keep a candle in a tin can (will keep you from freezing if you can't run your heater) and chocolate bars in my "kit".
I, too, have driven when I should not have. The worst was driving over a bridge in a driving snow storm and fog. OMG- How I made it I still don't know.

Happy weekend, Debra- xo Diana

Bea said...

As the Germans would say, that is 'arsch kalt', Debra. Brrrrr!

Mike said...

I had a block heater in an old van. I used it a few times but not very much. And with global warming, we may not have but one or two months of mild winter here anyway.

River said...

After looking at all that snow, suddenly I'm not too bothered about all the summer heat coming my way here in Australia.

Kirk said...

I guess that tops a Cleveland winter (and that takes a lot of topping) but just two years ago I wake up to see my apartment complex's parking lot completely plowed. I thought, great, I won't have to shovel my car out--except there was still what you call the road boogers between my tires and the sidewall. The car wouldn't budge! I had to shovel anyway.

yellowdoggranny said...

holyshit. makes me appreciate our 50F here in West, by Goddess, Texas. Which is why last winter resulted in over 200 deaths. Fucking Abbott.
I did live in Portland, Oregon in the late 60's and we got snowed in a couple of times. I sorta miss it...until it dips below 30F..ha

This N That said...

We have been getting a lot of your cold lately..I'm not going to thank you..In the teens today...I wouldn't care if it weren't for Mollie.Lord knows,I don't have to go anywhere...I feel so bad for her..SHe has lost her ability to skate and is having a bad time..More snow and freezing rain Sun PM..Here we go again..Block heaters..great idea...We used to use blankets and heat lamps..Seemed to work!!Have a happy weekend..

Susan Kane said...

Crazy. Just when I think I know what snow and cold are like, I am humbled.

Richard said...

I hope you are safe! It is not a contest,if it is going to be be dangerous , stay home. There is a reason why some creatures do this. We don't it for fun. The plan is make a snug nest where you can wait for winter to end.
Then we go out and rub noses.

DVArtist said...

Yep, I lived in weather like that and won't do it again.

Magaly Guerrero said...

I remember the first time I got a remote starter--when I lived in the Midwest--it was a gift from the gods, indeed.

Stay warm, Debra. Under the covers, whenever possible.

Sandy said...

Glad you've faired well through the years, but I have been on count down mode for Spring. With each passing year, I hate winter more and more and more. Smart that you keep things at the ready in your car...just in case. For me, at this age...if it's bad I'm not going out. Used to carry snow pants and shovels etc when I was younger.

Hena Tayeb said...

We get our share of cold but thankfully not that cold.
My husband has asked me about get a remote start.. my car didn't come with one and I wan considering it..

Busy Bee Suz said...

This is exactly why our area is flooded with Canadians in the winter. Goodness. -40? THAT IS INSANE.

Coach used to travel for work and he told me stories of being in Canada and having to plug in the car; I thought he was making it up!

I'm gonna have to guess that it wasn't a Canadian who stole your cord; aren't Canadians supposed to be nice?

Liz Hinds said...

Wow! I want one of those magic starters! Even though we get nowhere like the weather you get I still hate getting into a cold car.
How on earth do you cope with those temperatures? Oh, yes, you go back to bed.

e said...

Back in the dark ages, when we lived off the grid, we would use a frying pan full of burning embers to warm the car engine before it would start. How we managed to live to this day is a mystery. Stay warm, friend!

The Blog Fodder said...

Been there, done that. Always carried "walking out" clothes in a duffle bag as sometimes you can go off the road when it isn't blizzarding. I took the same foolish chances before I finally smartened up. Used to drive a full size van which meant I could see over the drifting snow. I'd get a line up of cars behind me as they would follow my tail lights.
Don't miss it at all.

Linda said...

I can't even imagine how all this must be like! We never have temperatures so low here, and I'm thankful for that. Love the memes. :)

LL Cool Joe said...

Wow, I'm glad we don't get snow that often in the UK, there's enough drama in my life at the moment without getting stuck in snow too.

Good luck and stay warm.

Cederq said...

Ya sold me on getting a remote starter for my truck Debra, living in South Dakota can be as bone-assed chilling and miserable as Alberta...

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ Cederq -- It's money well spent, you won't regret it!

Pixie said...

I love this post. It's so accurate and I love kicking that built up snow and ice off the wheel wells. It's so theraputic.

I especially love that game, Am I on the road?

Fundy Blue said...

OMG ~ LOL! I still carry a winter survivor kit in my car, and I arrived in the US a long, long time ago. I still take great delight in kicking the snow packing behind the tires. Thanks for the memories, Debra!

Barbara said...

Man, I learned a lot. Did not know about these engine starters. And I didn't want to drive in the icy 40 degree weather, not -40, just 40. What a fuss I am.

Magic Love Crow said...

I hate road boogers! LOL! Big Hugs!