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Cold weather reliability

Discussion in 'Gen II Prius Main Forum' started by Ron C, Apr 29, 2008.

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  1. Ron C

    Ron C New Member

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    Location:
    Fairbanks, Alaska
    Your Vehicle Year:
    2008 Prius
    I was wondering if anyone has experience with the Prius in extreme cold. I live in Fairbanks Alaska and it gets -45 to -60 in the winter.

    I just bought ours today so a little late now but was wondering if I might need the extended warranty package. I also saw it cheap here on another thread. The dealer is wanting me to pay $1,895. I haven't bought it yet but was wondering if the Prius has more problems in extreme cold?

    Thanks
    Ron C
  2. Bill Lumbergh

    Bill Lumbergh USAF Aircraft Maintainer

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    Hey Ron!

    I spent 3 years in Anchorage with my '05 Prius. It sounds like you bought your car in AK, so it should already have the block heater. I would leave it plugged in all winter. the hot coolant storage bottle will become pretty ineffective below 0 F.

    I know Anchorage isn't as cold as Fairbanks, but I had issues right off the bat with a noisy coolant storage pump. Once it warms up it quiets down, but it's really noisy when cold. My pump is probably bad. Your's should be very quiet.

    I strongly recommend you go ahead and block the entire front grill once it start staying below 40 F. The Prius won't ever overheat at those temps, but if you don't totally block it you'll never get heat. The heater is pretty weak, so give it warm-up time. You should never need any kind of battery heater.

    During the summer you should get close to 45-50 MPG. During the winter be happy if you get 35. The gas engine will run much more and you'll get lower mileage as a consequence.

    I had issues with my windows sticking to the rubber moldings at the base of each window. I routinely had to peel the rubber away starting at the rear of the glass and work forward toward the driver's mirror. A little silicone spray may have remedied this issue.

    The rear defroster is excellent.

    Expect routine traction control and ABS activity during the winter. Obviously you MUST get good snow tires. I've still got mine (Blizzaks) and they lasted 3 seasons with almost no wear. I'd get something with studs (Nokians). I only got stuck once and it was my fault for trying to bomb over a big pile of plowed snow.

    Get the OEM rubber floor mats. Seriously.

    Try to rack up a few thousand miles before winter so you can switch to synthetic oil. It makes things easier when it's pitifully cold.

    PM me if you have further questions. I did just fine with a Prius and I'm sure you will as well.

    Lastly, DO NOT buy an extended warranty from your dealer! He's making nearly a grand by selling it to you. You have until you reach 3 years / 36K miles to make up your mind. If you decide you want it, order it here from Troy. He will sell a 7 year / 100K plan for $990. It's the exact same Platinum coverage your dealer is probably offering.
  3. Ron C

    Ron C New Member

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    Thanks, I am concerned about the cold from what I have been reading. How bad is the heater that it won't warm up if it's cold outside? Do I need to install a separate heater to keep it warm?

    Did you have problems with acceleration in the cold, I was reading another thread that talked about having a hard time accelerating when it was cold out?

    A little concerned now :confused:

    Ron
  4. rpiereck

    rpiereck Regenerator

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    I'm not sure about how the heater works on Alaskan winter temperatures, but today we were driving in high altitudes in the Rocky Mountains on the way to Denver, outside temperatures were from 19 to 27 degrees, and the heater worked fine without blocking the grill. I had the a/c temperature set at 78 degrees and we were comfortably toasty the whole way. Speeds were from 25 to 65 mph.
  5. Grunthos

    Grunthos Senior Azgoth Poetmaster

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    It can take a while for the car to heat up when it's -20 here in Minneapolis, but I don't think it's any worse than any other car I've ever had. I am, however, thinking about getting an engine block heater for next winter.
  6. finman

    finman Active Member

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    Acceleration in the cold (and this is a relative term, since Alaska cold and California cold are REALLY different!) is sluggish, but not anything to fret over. The gas engine revs a bit higher since the cold battery is not helping as much. soon as the cab is warm, the battery is warm. That's because the vent for the battery is on the upper right rear seat (look for a "grill" of sorts). this is where air is drawn from to either cool or heat the battery pack. Thus, if you're happy, the battery is happy (as far as temps are concerned).

    Never had any probs in 0 to -10 F temps in S. Dakota. the Prius accelerates differently when cold in that the gas engine works harder.

    Same in hot weather (again, a relative term). The battery will not give up electrons if it's not "safe". the computers see to that. The gas engine then works harder to compensate for a heavy right foot.

    I will say the Prius started MUCH easier than any gas-only car I've owned...even after overnight outside at -10 F. 200 volts and a electric motor spinning an instant 1000 RPM with no spark or fuel is SO much easier than the crank, crank, crank of a dinosaur car.

    enjoy!
  7. ewhanley

    ewhanley New Member

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    I don't think you will have any problems. I moved from Montana to Anchorage last year. Of course the weather in Anchorage is not nearly as cold as Fairbanks, but I never had any problems here. I moved from Butte, MT which is one of the most miserably cold places in the lower 48. I drove my Prius in temperatures as cold as -38 F, and I never had any issues. The fuel economy isn't as good in the winter, but still much better than any other vehicle on the road. Also, I second the recommendation to block the grill in the winter. I did this more for the sake of fuel economy rather than anything else. Lastly, Anchorage - again not as cold as Fairbanks - is full of Prii. Mine is one of four I see parked at my work.
  8. mingoglia

    mingoglia Member

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    I apologize for taking this off topic but I just CAN'T imagine what -60F feels like.
    :jaw:
  9. ewhanley

    ewhanley New Member

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    It's glorious. My first trip to the north slope saw -48 F ambient with a -68 F windchill. I remember reading in the paper this winter about an ambient of
    -68 F in Tok, AK this winter. I can't imagine living in that.
  10. mingoglia

    mingoglia Member

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    It's amazing. Well, I guess I live in a temperature extreme as well here in AZ. We'll get to the 118-120 range in the summer. :target:
  11. jayman

    jayman Senior Member

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    As far as issues, about all I can think of is the 12 vdc battery may become discharged in winter with constant headlights, electric defrost, etc. If you have a garage to park in, get a battery tender like the VDC Battery Minder and wire it directly to the 12 vdc battery

    If you search this forum I posted results of using my VDC, including pix

    Absolutely switch to a synthetic for winter. The temps you'll be encountering, a conventional 5W-30 will freeze solid. Mobil 1 0W-20 is a good bet

    Blocking the grille - a "winter front" - is also strongly recommended. I'd be surprised if folks up there ran vehicles without a winter front
  12. pjberry

    pjberry New Member

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    Location:
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    I had solicited for advice on the Prius' extreme cold-weather performance before buying it as well. We've only had our car for about 3-weeks (for the first weekend it was around -15F), so I can't really speak from personal experience until this winter. But here is the info that I got from some very helpful individuals:

    ----
    Warming up the car is really not a problem at all. The engine is ready to go as soon as the start button is pushed. In fact the manual recommends driving it right away rather than waiting to warm it because it won't warm very fast if idling.

    Cabin heat is readily available once the gas engine warms up which is quick since it is a small engine. Using cabin heat a lot does have a serious impact on the mileage though. The cabin heat is only supplied by blowing air over the gas engine and the gas engine likes to keep itself at its operating temperature all the time so the more you cool it by warming yourself the more it runs. This means the car is a lot more efficient in summer than in winter. Still, our mileage at the end of our first year was 44.4 mpg(US) (aka 5.3 L/100km). We were using cabin heat pretty liberally that year because our previous car had almost no heat. Since then we have been keeping it more minimal except on longer trips when it is worthwhile to warm up the inside a bit. I don't mind driving with mitts on if I'm only going to be driving a short distance.

    I expect the mileage at the end of the second year to improve because we drove around for part of our first winter before figuring out that we could and should shut off the air conditioner when it is cold. By default the car wants to keep the ac compressor on to use as an air dryer but we haven't had the windows to fog up enough to need that. The shut down of the compressor takes one more load off the battery (the air conditioner is electricly driven) and that is just that much less voltage that has to be charged by regeneration (braking) and gasoline use. Also we have learned to drive with more emphasis on regeneration which makes a big difference.

    I did have one day where it took two tries to start because it was cold soaked without being plugged in (block heater, not a plug-in hybrid mod). That was some extreme minus 50 type of weather. You can't do the usual hold the gas pedal down a bit trick with this car for cold starts because the gas pedal doesn't deliver gas to the engine. The computer delivers gas to the engine. The pedal is really an accelerator pedal and nowt else. The second start was fine and it didn't happen again after that even when the block heater was not plugged in. I think it was just a combination of windchill & temperature & parking duration.

    Handling on slippery streets takes getting used to because of the heavy rear end. The big battery is back there. Also different from other cars is the traction control. Wheel spin is not permitted to prevent electric motor damage and slipping. This means the habit I had of gunning it on the way up slippery hills does not produce the result it used to. In fact the wheels will stop if they don't sense traction. Then when the traction returns the car will crawl up the hill. This requires some awareness of just what is tailgating you when you approach a hill. If they do the gun it trick they might get a surprise.
    ----
  13. Ron C

    Ron C New Member

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    Thanks everyone for some great advice!

    And as far as -40 to -60, I've always felt that once it gets down below 30- it all feels the same just plan cold. I have actually been in wind chills of -90 when I lived in Kotzebue AK. Now that's cold!
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