Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Prepping Your Porsche for Winter – Part 1: Driving

November 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Featured Content

Winter is a trying time for any enthusiast car owner.  Reduced traction, lower temperatures, the prospect of becoming stuck, salted roads and the strife that causes, as well as extreme operating conditions for your favorite car are all high priority concerns.  With this guide, we’ll attempt to provide some wisdom for the northern state Porsche drivers to heed in preparing for the long cold winter months, which are rapidly approaching.

Added Time

Whether you have an old Porsche or a newer one, physics reacts the same way.  Decreased traction means increased stopping distances, no matter what the car.  A Cayenne’s advanced four wheel drive is not going to give you any assistance in the field of braking, should things go pear shaped.  Every winter, the single most important thing you can do is to give yourself time.  Drive slower, brake earlier, and allow greater distance between yourself and any cars in your immediate vicinity.  It is much less of a concern to show up slightly early to an appointment because you departed 10 minutes earlier, than it is to not show up at all, because your car is deeply embedded in someone else’s bumper.

Winter Tires

So, how do you fight the ever worsening battle for traction in a cold and snow environment?  The safest way to do so is with the addition of winter tires.  Winter tires are specifically formulated to deal with the lower temperatures and decreased adhesion that comes with a mid-January ice storm.  Winter tires are denoted by a snowflake on the sidewalls, not to be confused with “mud and snow”, or “all-season” rated tires.  Having been a northerner for most of my life, I have come to know “all-season” tires as “all-compromise” tires; they are the jack of all trades, but master of none.  In my experience, there have been just a few tires that have risen to the top of the winter tire pile, and those are Bridgestone’s Blizzak branded tire, and Scandinavian manufacturer Nokian’s line of “Hakkapeliitta” tires.

What kind of winter tire you need is entirely dependent upon personal driving habits and locale.  For most, a studless tire like the Blizzak will do everything you need.  A very good tread pattern, excellent siping, and a great compound for deep snow and light ice, the Blizzak or other comparable winter tires will work well for the standard commuter.  For those of us in areas afflicted by what they call “lake-effect” weather systems, however, we need something just a bit more.  Studdable tires like Nokians or Pirelli’s Winter Carving Edge work wonders for extreme conditions.  About 100 little metal spikes are threaded into the tread of the tire to aid in accelerating and heavy braking, possibly helping you to stop precious feet short of a particularly masochistic tree.

Technically, winter tires can be run all year round, but being specifically formulated for cold weather (generally under 40 degrees F), they will wear extraordinarily quickly in high temperatures, and will greatly decrease useable life.  A good winter tire will last about four winters in good shape, and should be changed out in spring for a good set of warm weather tires.  Studdable tires that have had studs added are not allowed to be used in certain areas, and those areas where allowed, often have limitations.  For example, here in Ohio, studded tires are not allowed for use outside of the range between November 1st, and the following 15th of April.  Check your local laws and regulations regarding studded tires before having them installed.

Safety Kit

While it is still warm and dry, you should consider packing yourself a few items in an emergency kit to prepare for the worst.  In this day of cell phones, many of us have forgone a safety kit, but this could be a false sense of security when you are in a particularly dangerous situation.  You never know what situation you may find yourself in, or when a fellow motorist might need your help.  It is always a good idea to carry the following with you during winter: A blanket, jumper cables, a flashlight, extra batteries, tire chains (look into new textile chains as a viable replacement), a complete first aid kit, a small knife, flares, a handful of energy bars, waterproof winter gloves, a small shovel, water proof matches, an ice scraper, and a bag of kitty litter or sand for traction.  While I usually advocate driving your car as light as possible, these few additional pounds could save someones life, possibly even your own.

Car Care and Maintenance

As with any change of season, you should prepare your car by instituting a strict regimen of scheduled maintenance.  While switching out your summer tires for winter tires, it is a perfectly good time to check your braking system for wear and tear.  If pads are low on life, or rotors show deep scoring, it would be wise to have them replaced before entering winter, as there is no worse time to experience poor braking than during a “low traction event”.  Additionally, it is always a good idea to replace your windshield wiper blades before the weather turns, to prevent low visibility contributing to an incident.  Also, you should be apprised of the condition of your battery, as cold starts are a heavy draw, and a battery needs to be in good operating condition to turn over a cold engine.  Another often overlooked action of winter protection is the preservation of rubber seals and weather stripping.  To prevent your rubber from drying out and becoming brittle, you should apply a thin coating of rubber care. An additional benefit of this rubber protection, is its water repellent properties, helping to prevent gaskets from freezing your doors shut in extreme cold. Rubber care products are available at most auto parts stores, or online (my personal favorite is available in a gel stick from Wurth).  These simple and easy tasks go just one step further in the battle against the cold.


Oil is, quite literally, the lifeblood of your Porsche engine.  Proper lubrication is especially important when the temperatures turn south.  An oil’s viscosity rating is especially important in the winter.  The viscosity of an oil is determined by its “SAE rating”, generally portrayed as a number.  We’ve all seen 5W-30, SAE30, and 10W-40, but what do they all mean?  In general, the higher the number is, the higher viscosity (thickness) it is, meaning that an SAE20 oil would be thinner than an SAE30 oil.  In a multi-viscosity oil, the “W number” in the equation stands for “Winter”, and the second number is the oil’s standard SAE rating.  As SAE viscosity is measured at 210 degrees F, or the standard operating temperature of a passenger car engine, the Winter number is the equivalent of the oil’s viscosity level at 0 degrees F.  Therefore, the lower the W number is, the thinner the oil is at low temperatures, creating a better lubricated cold start condition for your engine.  During warm temperatures, Porsche recommends quality Mobil 1 in ratings as high as 5W-50 down to a 0W-40 oil for use in modern water-cooled engines.  Obviously, during cold weather periods, it would be wise to use the 0W-40 option.  As a general rule, older aircooled engines run hotter, and demand a higher viscosity oil. Most owners use non-synthetic or semi-synthetic oils in ratings around 20W-50. Most of these engines should not be run with anything lower than a 15W-50, unless regularly cold started below 20 degrees F.  Cold started air-cooled motors should not be run on anything with a Winter rating below 10.  If in doubt, consult a local Porsche shop on which oil is best for your needs.


Obviously not needed for air cooled Porsches, coolant is doubly important in the Porsches that do need them.  All Porsche systems need to first be properly bled.  A system with air bubbles in the coolant will simply not work to the highest efficiency, and can cause overheating conditions in even the coldest weather.  Once that is taken care of, make sure that your coolant system has the proper mixture for your temperature needs.  As a general rule, coolant should be mixed with distilled water at a rate of 1:1 until full.  If temperatures often dip below 0 degrees F, you should consider increasing the mixture to around 70% coolant to 30% water.  Porsche coolant is produced by Pentosin, and is approximately equivalent to their G12 or G12+ coolant ratings, and either can be used as a replacement.  When replacing coolant, it is always best to complete a full flush to rid your system of any old coolant, as well as any contaminants. A properly maintained engine coolant system will also aid in your interior’s heating system, so don’t overlook it.

Rust Prevention

When driving your Porsche in northern climates, be it a vintage car or a modern one, it is always a good idea to work some rust prevention into your maintenance schedule before winter comes.  While time consuming and often a very dirty job, it is a good idea to complete the following task before winter starts, at least one time in the middle of winter, and again once winter has ended in your area.  First, get your car into a safe position elevated off of the ground, be it on a lift, or on safely positioned and sturdy jackstands (never work under a car supported by a jack alone).  Once elevated, remove the wheels, any and all wheel liners, as well as all belly pans and rocker covers from your car.  Now that the complete underbody of the car is exposed, give the bottom quarter of the car a thorough and complete scrubbing.  The underside of a car is often the most neglected piece of the puzzle, and when it is out of sight, it is often out of mind.  We, as Porsche owners, probably spend 20 weekends a year washing our cars and making them clean enough to eat off of. Spending three weekends per year making sure rust won’t eat through the underside of your gleaming beauty is worth it, right?  Once the car is scrubbed clean from the rockers down, make sure to coat each and every bolt, nut, and square inch of floor pan in some form of sprayable rust inhibitor (The WD40 company makes a good one called “Specialist Long-Term Corrosion Inhibitor” that can generally be found for about 14 dollars per can).


In the next installment, we will cover the steps for putting your car under cover.  Be on the lookout for “Prepping your Porsche for winter – Part 2: Storage”


Photos: Google Images