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Prius in cold climates

Discussion in 'Gen II Prius Main Forum' started by ethanhunt, Jan 6, 2008.

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  1. ethanhunt

    ethanhunt Feline Enthusiast

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    Hey this question is more for people who have a Prius in the New England / Canada / COLD regions of the world:

    I recently got a new Prius that works great. But, I am a college student in South Carolina who will be graduation within a year and quite possibly moving up North (Boston or Maine area). My question is, How does the Prius handle in very cold climates? What complications have you found? Driving in snow, efficiency, starting on VERY cold mornings, etc.

    I'm trying to figure out if it will be ok to use there becuase I would like to take it with me up North. It doesn't get below 20 degrees Fahrenheit here ever so I have no idea what to expect. Thanks.
  2. hyo silver

    hyo silver Awaaaaay

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    I don't live in a very cold part of Canada, but from what I've read, you'll need snow tires for sure. Blocking the grille for the winter and installing an engine block heater will help you get better mileage in the cold weather. An ice scraper will come in handy, too.
  3. diversified

    diversified Junior Member

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    Get rid of the Goodyear tires that came from the manufacturer and buy good snow or all weather tires. I live in central Pennsylvania and with the original tires I felt like I was driving a sled on our first snowfall. Other Prius owners in my area bought differant tires and have no problem with the winter conditions.
  4. Ozzyprv

    Ozzyprv New Member

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    I live in a relatively cold part of Canada and I have no complains about my Prius. The cold weather does affect the car, I would say to a greater extend that other non-hybrid cars.
    So far, I am averaging a bit more than 6 L/100 km. No bad to me at all.
    I am using winter tires and I use a block heater. I haven't block my grill but I am seriously thinking about it.

    O.
  5. ethanhunt

    ethanhunt Feline Enthusiast

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    So thats about 39.2 MPG. Hum, how new is your car? I mean thats good, but for a hybrid it should get better, I guess the cold messes with the efficiency quite a bit.
  6. Earthling

    Earthling New Member

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    I get by without snow tires on my Prius. Where I live is reasonably flat, at least the roads are. If it's really bad, I walk to work.

    I use synthetic oil for a slight increase in hp and mpg's. It's also superior for starting a very cold car in the morning. I have no problems starting the Prius. You actually "boot up" a Prius, and let the car worry about starting the ICE. It's got a humongous battery and MG for that, so no worries starting it.

    My fuel economy in the winter is mid-40's. On a recent trip in a snowstorm, I got 47 mpg.

    Harry
  7. HappyPig

    HappyPig New Member

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    I live along the VT border in New Hampshire and my 2004 Prius has performed very well in the snow. And we've had lots of it this year. I have snow tires, of course, but the handling is great. MPG ranges from 38 to 42 in the coldest parts of winter (sub-zero F), while if I'm driving in above freezing temperatures, I typically see 45-48 mpg ranges. In terms of starting, on cold days, I'll warm it up enough to scrape the windshield, but on normal winter days, I start it and go. No issues at all.

    The one thing I will caution you on is its clearance though. City Prius folks will deny that there's any problem, but is true nonetheless, especially if you end up living in Maine. With your car on the ubitiquous New England rutted dirt roads in winter and especially spring, you will have a greater chance of damaging something important underneath (I crushed an expensive but warrantied exhaust tube on a road heavily rutted by schoolbuses in Warner, NH).

    So bring the car up to the Northeast. It's great up here!
  8. ethanhunt

    ethanhunt Feline Enthusiast

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    By clearence what do you mean? Like the bottom of the car scraps on the snow?
  9. qbee42

    qbee42 My other car is a boat

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    Cold weather hurts the mileage for all cars. We have a van that gets about 24 mpg in ideal conditions. In the winter, it gets about 17, so the winter mileage is about 70% of the summer mileage. Our summer mileage in the Prius in good conditions averages around 54 mpg. Take that down to 70% and you have 38 mpg, which is worse than the 44 mpg we average in the cold and snow of northern Michigan. The high mileage numbers of the Prius make the absolute changes look large, even if the percentages are normal.



    The Prius sits low compared to a Jeep or truck. You won't be able to wade through deep snow. Other than that, our Prius is the best winter driving vehicle I've ever owned, which includes a Jeep C-J5, a Subaru 4wd, and an AWD van. They could go through deeper snow, but the Prius is safer and easier to drive in winter conditions.

    Tom
  10. David Beale

    David Beale Senior Member

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    I live north of Red Deer :). I'm currently averaging 6.5 l/100 km. This is less of a decrease in mileage than I've seen with other small cars, such as the Suzuki rental I had last winter, which burned 12 l/100 km in similar conditions! Now -that- was a "gas guzzling" small car!

    I put on Nokian WR tires (true all-season tires). Pearl has no problem in the winter, but you have to be driving to warm it up. If you just let it idle, the coolant will only get to 40C, which isn't warm enough to turn on the heater fan. If you're driving the car is blowing nice hot air in just a few blocks, and it will warm up the cabin nicely, even at 0F. So far we've only seen -25C, so I can't comment on what will happen when our temps get to -40C/F.

    The Prius has low ground clearance, so it will scrape chunks of snow shed by vehicles (wheelwell iceburgs). It hasn't been a real problem for me though.
  11. nerfer

    nerfer A young senior member

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    Stock car should work fine I would think. Snow tires would help in those occasional Nor'easters New England gets (I used to live in central CT), but it always causes a mpg reduction. Some people report a lot more problems in accelerating in slippery conditions than others, so you might want to try it in your car first.

    For handling, remember that the Prius has traction control which helps you get up to speed, but even with ABS you won't be able to stop nearly as quickly in wet snow or ice, so the biggest factor in safety, by far, is still driver knowledge.

    Starting on cold mornings isn't a problem. No reason to let it idle much or at all, but it does take a little while to get heat. Blocking the grill helps. You'll get better mileage than in SC the rest of the year because you won't be using A/C as much.

    I did buy an old 1987 Nissan in Texas one time that I drove back to MN for a couple Christmas visits. Apparently it had a thicker transmission fluid for the TX climate because it didn't handle shifting very well (stick shift) until it had warmed up. One time at about -40' (F or C) it took nearly a mile before I could get it out of first gear, and that was with some muscle.
    I also had to add some antifreeze to the radiator. I don't know if that's a consideration anymore, if cars are filled with local variations in oil & fluids.
  12. qbee42

    qbee42 My other car is a boat

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    I want to second the comment about good tires. If you are going to drive in snow, get rid of the junk OEM tires and put on some good ones. I run all-season tires and have good luck in the snow, but snow tires will work even better.

    As for the poster who mentioned slow shifting in cold weather, my old Jeep C-J5 used to do that. Keeping in mind that this was really cold sub-zero weather for weeks on end; I used to keep the transmission in reverse so I could back out of the drive without shifting. Once I got to the road, the transmission would have loosened up enough to shift into first. The tires used to freeze to the ground, and I would have to break them loose. I remember one morning when moisture had popped the bead on one tire, so I had to fix a flat tire. I snapped off a big "T" shaped tire iron in my gloved hands with nothing more than arm power. Steel can get very brittle in cold weather.

    Tom
  13. jayman

    jayman Senior Member

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    Before my Prius, I had a 2000 GMC Sierra with the Vortec 5.3 V8. In city driving at -40, I got 7 mpg out of the Sierra, and that's an Imperial gallon.

    Before I started blocking the Prius grille the first winter, I "only" got around 28 mpg. Afterwards, high 30's.

    Around here, folks regard the estimated city mpg as a joke anyway. Nobody I know has anywhere near the rated city mpg, Prius included.
  14. ethanhunt

    ethanhunt Feline Enthusiast

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    -40 degrees? Don't think I'll be living anywhere quite that cold.
  15. jayman

    jayman Senior Member

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    Hmmm. You did ask:

    "My question is, How does the Prius handle in very cold climates? What complications have you found? Driving in snow, efficiency, starting on VERY cold mornings, etc."

    My definition of a VERY cold climate is ... where I live. Winter lows can dip to -40. Like any car, the Prius takes a fuel economy hit in cold weather.

    Going back to the not-missed-at-all-glad-I-ditched-that-s***box GMC Sierra, in summer I would get around 12 mpg city driving, usually 18-20 on the highway. Prius in summer is low 50's city, upper 50's mpg highway
  16. jpmorgan49

    jpmorgan49 Junior Member

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    I purchased my Prius at the end of September. I live south of Chicago and we have had some cold weather this winter season. I usually make short trips to work, 12 miles one way during the week with some longer jaunts (25-30 miles one way) on the weekend. I don't use a plug-in heater because I couldn't use it while the car sits at work. The car has started without any problems (I use Mobil1), we've had some snow and the Prius drives better than my Matrix did in the snow. I have no complaints about the winter and the Prius except for the mileage. I have been keeping it above 40 so far this winter, which I think is good. I think you'll be fine with your "Stock" Prius up north.
    jp
  17. hyo silver

    hyo silver Awaaaaay

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    You're right, he asked, but it's all relative. 'North', to the OP, meant Boston, not Inuvik. I happen to think it's cold when there's snow on the flower petals, but what do I know? ;)
  18. qbee42

    qbee42 My other car is a boat

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    I haven't seen snow on the ground here later than June 19th. Recently it's been warmer.

    Tom
  19. mabelair

    mabelair New Member

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    I echo the sentiments of previous posters with respect to snow tires if you're going to be in an area which gets a decent amount of snow. Performance over the stock Bridgestone Turanzas that I got on the delivery of my vehicle is subpar in snowy conditions. I put on Toyo Observe G02's and it's a world of difference.

    You might also want to consider upgrading the windshield wipers for the winter as the stock ones are terrible in snow/ice/salt conditions. Consider Bosch IKONs or PIAA all-weather wipers.

    Other than that, standard cold-weather equipment (blankets, first aid kit, etc.) and maybe an engine block heater to mitigate the effects of cold weather on mileage and you should be off to the races.

    MAB
  20. smithBYU85

    smithBYU85 New Member

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    I don't have snow tires, just the Michelin HydroEdge tires and they handle very well in the snow. We had about 8 inches fall in Provo, Ut yesterday, a very wet snow. I did slide but the tires and VSC kept me from sliding a lot, I never had to make steering corrections.

    My Prius is getting MPGs in the 38 - 42 range in below freezing temps, and high 40s in the 32-50 range. During the summer I get low 50s. I drive no more than half a mile to school and back, so my trips are very short and the car never gets to warm up, so I'm quite happy to have MPG as high as it is.

    The car starts just fine on cold days. I have the upper portion of the grill blocked, I can't say that I notice a difference. I don't have a scangauge so I won't block all of the grill completely.

    Basically, everything said so far is valid in my experience.
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