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Discussion Starter #1
Bought my Insight at the beginning of January, little knowing I would soon drive it through the coldest winter weather I've ever experienced. The morning temperatures in La Crosse, Wisconsin Monday-Thursday have been -12 to -31F ... BEFORE windchills, which have reached 64 below. Some days the thermometer hasn't even topped zero. Yikes!

Thought it might be interesting to share my experiences with extreme winter driving and see what other folks have found.

My car is a bone-stock '02 with the 5-speed, about 248,000 miles, and a tired but functional IMA battery. It has Dunlop Enasave 01 A/S tires with about 40% tread left.

The car has started every time within a second or two. Not as quick as it does in warmer temps, but there's nothing like having a monster battery pack and electric motor to roll the engine over in the cold. Many other folks are having to jump start their cars in our area.

It takes a loonnggg time for the engine to warm up - typically 3-4 miles and about 8 minutes of city driving before the gauge even comes off the bottom segment of the temperature scale. Once the engine heats up though, the heater and defroster have done a great job clearing the ice and keeping me cozy. The rear defroster, on the other hand, hasn't even started to thaw the ice on some of the coldest days!

The Insight seems to handle the icy roads like any other small, light front-wheel drive car I've owned. It slips a little, but nothing that can't be handled with careful driving. Actually, good winter driving practices are pretty similar to good mpg driving... start slow, accelerate slow, coast and carry momentum, brake slow and sparingly. So in some ways, winter has slowed other cars down to my preferred driving style!

I haven't tried driving it through snow or slush more than an inch or two deep. I doubt it would do well in deeper snow because of the low ground clearance and under-body panels. I haven't had problems with snow building up behind the rear wheel skirts and interfering with operation.

The IMA has continued to provide boost and charge in my in-town driving through the coldest weather. I haven't really discerned much difference, although I don't ever push it. Overall mileage is down to about 43mpg in town. The Insight clearly struggles with both mpg and power until it warms up, and since my commute is only nine miles it is spending about half its time at less than its best. I typically try to keep the mpg slider at or above 50mpg when at cruising speed, and that's difficult when the systems are cold - I have especially noticed that it won't hold 55mph in 5th gear unless I'm more aggressive with the throttle pedal.

The ABS seems better than systems in some other cars I've driven, doing a better job bringing the car to a stop and under control when needed.

So - it's doing fine as a winter driver. What are your experiences? Any tips?

- Park
 

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I haven't driven mine in the winter yet, but try blocking off your grille. With temps that low you can easily get away with a full grille block. Improves aerodynamics and reduces the cold air entering the engine, which makes the car warm up much faster. The tiny, efficient 1.0L doesn't burn enough gas to warm up fast. For the ambitious, a warm air intake and block heater work wonders.

Back home in Michigan with similar weather my mom is barely getting over 40 MPG in her Prius -- cold weather really does kill fuel economy. But you're still getting much better fuel economy than any car out there! ;)
 

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One quirk I forgot to mention: at the coldest, my clutch seems to lag the pedal slightly on release. Not sure if this is cold hydraulics, or the clutch itself reluctantly sliding. I have to be extra-deliberate about double-clutching down into second. No biggie.

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I was out yesterday -8 f. Cold enough that it started with the 12 volt. Kept it a gear lower to run the engine a bit higher in the rpms for the first few miles. Warms up faster that way. I don’t run any grill block. I tried it the first year but never noticed that much of a difference.

Put the heat on Econ and 69 degrees, give it a little bit, and it’s as warm as toast.

I’ve unplugged the upper rear window defroster. There are only a couple wires at the very bottom that function and I’ve always been fearful of a window break in very cold temps due to stress caused by uneven heating.

You’ll likely feel, in snow, the back end of the car “wriggle” as the narrower-set rear tires slide from one front rut to the other. It’s a little disconcerting and, if not paid attention to, can cause a loss of control at higher speeds.
 

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If you keep a night light own anyway outside. Why not leave it off. put extension cord inside car for nightlight. It will heat your car a little. I put my light under the battery box inside of car just have to remember to take it out in the morning.
 

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Rear defrosters rarely work in these cars, at least the whole thing. They corrode over time, break the lines, and the lines no longer heat up due to an incomplete circuit. No easy fix, other than laying an aftermarket defroster over your existing one, which I opted not to do. You can try the silver based repair paint technique but it doesn't last long enough to be worth the time, at least with my attempt.
 

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Rear defrosters rarely work in these cars, at least the whole thing. They corrode over time, break the lines, and the lines no longer heat up due to an incomplete circuit. No easy fix, other than laying an aftermarket defroster over your existing one, which I opted not to do. You can try the silver based repair paint technique but it doesn't last long enough to be worth the time, at least with my attempt.
I tried the repair route with a couple of different products and then muttered some obscene variation of "the heck with this" and abandoned ship.

I Rain-X my rear window because I think the ice comes off 'way easier with it on there. If it doesn't, and you have proof, I don't care. Please don't ruin my thinks with facts! ;]
 

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What works for me in Tennessee probably would not help you guys in the far frozen north. But the extension cord light works for me on the rare event of ice .
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I haven't driven mine in the winter yet, but try blocking off your grille.
I've thought about the grille block. Looks like some people just tuck foam pipe insulation in the slots. But then again the temperature is supposed to hit 40F Sunday... weather whiplash!

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I was out yesterday -8 f. Cold enough that it started with the 12 volt. Kept it a gear lower to run the engine a bit higher in the rpms for the first few miles. Warms up faster that way. ...

Put the heat on Econ and 69 degrees, give it a little bit, and it’s as warm as toast.
Good tips, thanks!

You’ll likely feel, in snow, the back end of the car “wriggle” as the narrower-set rear tires slide from one front rut to the other. It’s a little disconcerting and, if not paid attention to, can cause a loss of control at higher speeds.
Hmm... haven't notice that, but will pay attention. I'm taking the car on its first long road trip Saturday.

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Discussion Starter #14
Rear defrosters rarely work in these cars, at least the whole thing. They corrode over time, break the lines, and the lines no longer heat up due to an incomplete circuit. No easy fix, other than laying an aftermarket defroster over your existing one, which I opted not to do. You can try the silver based repair paint technique but it doesn't last long enough to be worth the time, at least with my attempt.
My rear defroster seems to be almost 100% functional. It just couldn't cope with the extreme cold.

The previous owner worked for a car stereo & window tint shop. The shop used my car as a practice vehicle, so it has nice tinting applied to the rear window which may have protected the defroster wires. (They also installed a $250 Kenwood bluetooth stereo, which is a significant upgrade on a $500 car.)

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I've thought about the grille block. Looks like some people just tuck foam pipe insulation in the slots. But then again the temperature is supposed to hit 40F Sunday... weather whiplash!

- Park
I've driven with my entire lower grille blocked at temps up to 50 F, and the cooling fan never came even while climbing hills.
 

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it has nice tinting applied to the rear window which may have protected the defroster wires.
The window tinting procedure can actually have the opposite affect on defroster wires. They don't degrade from sunlight, but they do from the cleaning process done before applying window tint.
 

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I'm averaging around 55mpg. It's very normal in Vermont for many days not to get above 0F during the day between late January and early February, though our typical nights are not as cold as your polar vortex.

Some thoughts:

In extreme cold, there is no substitute for winter tires. The rubber compounds are different and they stay pliant and grippy at lower temperatures, where all season tires get hard and have a near-zero coefficient of friction. Even in bone-dry conditions in extreme cold, winter tires have huge advantages. Add to that the tread patterns are typically much better for displacing snow and slush and it's a no-brainer for me.

I have 25mm rear wheel spacers on mine. They were not very expensive from eBay and seem to help a lot with tramlining when there are ruts in the road or standing slush. I'm certain they increase rear bearing wear, but luckily those bearings are both inexpensive and easy to replace. I consider them a good safety related mod.

I definitely notice hydraulic fluids getting thicker when it's below 10F outside. The shifter gets stiff and the clutch pedal feels like the lines are full of molasses. Pre-warming the engine is not a bad idea (e.g. block or oil pan heaters).

I block my grille 100% starting in ~November and don't take it off until ~April. It really helps warmup times and my car has no issues with overheating.

Make sure you have a strong 12v battery, since these cars use the backup starter below zero! I presently have my IMA system disabled (sold my battery, going the K-swap route) and so I rely on my 12v starter every day.

Some pictures for fun:





 

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I would say for the clutch look into switching to synthetic fluid when you do your bleeding next. The synthetic will stay closer to its set viscosity in the cold verses the conventional the car probably came with that likes to turn to molasas. Mine I don't notice until it gets into the negatives, but I also don't double clutch since my HCH transmission has perfect synchros and just a bad ISB lol
 

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I've thought about the grille block. Looks like some people just tuck foam pipe insulation in the slots. But then again the temperature is supposed to hit 40F Sunday... weather whiplash!

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I'm in Texas and I run a lower grill block year round. I would block the upper grill in temps under about 40 too.

I still have the under engine tray and I don't have any cooling problems. I monitor temps with Torque Pro. These cars have a very efficient cooling system.
 
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