Arctic Adventures: Volume 1 – Vehicles

Arctic Adventures: Volume 1 – Vehicles

I said I would do some posts about life in Alaska. We’ve spent plenty of summers in Alaska, but winter in Alaska is a whole new experience with a huge learning curve. We only had a small taste during our first month, which was early winter. But when we return on December 26, it will be REAL winter. 

Oct. 16th

I think the first fascinating difference is evident in the cars. Sure, you’re probably thinking that AWD and 4WD are important features to have with all the snow, but have you heard of a battery warmer, oil pan heater and engine block heater? 

In frigid climates, cars get cranky, so they need to be “winterized” to be kept alive. Vehicles are equipped with these heating accessories and a plug sticking out the front. Then owners plug the car into outlets (usually with an extension cord) for several hours to help the car thaw, so that they start.

So if you’ve ever seen a plug hanging out the front grill of a car, now you know what it’s for! Ours even has covers for extra protection.
Courtesy of Terragalleria: Cars with block engine heaters connected to plugs. Fairbanks, AK

Knowing all this, we had a mission on Oct. 15, the day after we flew into Alaska. Buy a car that is already winterized. I feel like we are experts at buying cars—we’ve bought and sold 9 cars/vans in the 13 years we’ve been married (not to mention all the 5 different sponsored vehicles we’ve used). So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that we purchased the second car we looked at! (To be fair, Justin did his research beforehand). 

Car #10 for us!!!

Our 2008 Subaru Outback with 71,000 miles is under a foot of snow waiting for us to return. We were happy it not only had the “winterization package,” but came with 11 tires! Four regular tires and a full spare. Four snow tires and a full snow tire spare. Plus the dummy tire.

The vehicle also came with chains. We’re hoping never to be in the situation where we need them. Even though we swore we wouldn’t drive the Parks Highway during snowstorms, wouldn’t you know there were storms the TWO times we drove to Fairbanks in Oct/Nov. We took the tried and true Alaskan advice and stocked the car with all sorts of winter emergency supplies, as well as extra warm clothing. 

Believe it or not, there is a road within the pea soup. Taken during our drive Nov. 14.

This may be a luxury to some, but also pretty standard in Alaska: heated seats and a remote starter. The first car we looked at did not have either and I said an astounding no to Justin, even though it was a 4WD truck (Justin’s dream).

Nov. 22 with just a little snow

FYI, normal winter temperatures—we’ve been told—can plummet down to -40 degrees. That’s the “real” winter that’s awaiting us! Did I mention the extreme cold can also make the tires freeze flat to the ground when they sit for awhile. Apparently you can still drive on them, although the flat side will make for a weird, rocky ride until it normalizes. Guess we shall see!!

7 responses to “Arctic Adventures: Volume 1 – Vehicles”

  1. Misti says:

    So exciting to see what y’all come back to! And how long did it take to drive in that weather? I’m glad you are filling us warmer climate folks into life in the north!

  2. Patricia Stevens says:

    Hope you guys have a snowblower!

  3. Jamie says:

    Do they make heated toilet seats!? You might need one!

  4. Michael Coyle says:

    Good job guys!!! Stay warm!

  5. Jill says:

    In 2017 Beat and I spent a week with friends in Denali Village (that’s when I fat biked the Yanert River.) Temps were in the -30s for much of week, and just as we were leaving it was -41. Our rental truck from Anchorage (no engine block heater) was *very* angry as we tried to start it, but we did get it started.

    In Fairbanks we used to borrow a friend’s weed burner, propane tank, and mental pipe in the event our car wouldn’t start at a remote trailhead. But you read stories about people who catch their cars on fire this way, and we’ve not been stranded yet, even at -30. Knock on wood! At least we always have all of our winter camping gear with us on these trips.

    Speaking of, we’re heading to Fairbanks in just a few days as well. Our first trip to Chena Recreation Area starts Saturday. The high that day is forecast to be -22F!! Eep, I’m not ready.

  6. Mary says:

    I guess I’m a wimp because my first thought was no thanks!!

  7. […] is compromised. Car parts need warming to allow the motor oil and pistons to move (remember from this post? We plug in our car to run the engine block, oil pan and battery heater). Even the arctic air gets bottled […]

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