Winter brings with it a specific set of driving woes. Aside from the potential safety risks associated with driving on wet, icy, or snow-covered roads, there are also challenges to comfort that can make for a very unpleasant experience.
Even the simplest tasks, such as unlocking your car’s door or starting its engine, can feel like a punishment, especially when the temperature drops below freezing and your car is covered in snow and ice. What’s worse is that inside your car may feel just as cold as outside, making each trip, no matter how short it is, feel like a sojourn to the Arctic.
Fortunately, there are all sorts of after-market products available nowadays that can make for a more comfortable winter ride, helping you to stay warm during the entire trip. Here’s a rundown of some of the technologies on the market today. Each item has been given a rating from 1 to 5 stars, with 1 being not necessary to 5 being absolutely essential.
If your car didn’t come equipped with a heated windshield, then installing one could be a wise investment. This is because they help to melt ice and snow off the windshield, which can improve visibility and increase safety when driving in adverse weather conditions. They also eliminate the need to turn on the car’s defroster, which helps to reduce gas consumption and could result in savings.
The technology behind heated windshields is relatively simple. A thin layer of small and virtually invisible tungsten wires is embedded in the windshield glass. When the windshield is turned on, the wires begin to warm, increasing the surface temperature of the glass. This warming helps to defrost the ice and melt the snow that has accumulated on the windshield.
Heated Steering Wheel Cover
As any driver in the Northeast can attest, starting a car and steering it on a winter morning is a feat in its own right. Trying to keep a firm grip on a practically freezing steering wheel can be a torment and a cold steering wheel can make it difficult to maneuver the vehicle, creating potential safety issues.
An easy and affordable fix to this problem is to install a heated steering wheel cover. It completely covers a steering wheel to keep your hands warm, allowing you to maneuver your car with ease, without having to wear gloves, which can be uncomfortable.
Heated covers are installed easily, come multiple temperature settings, and stay warm for up to 35 minutes. Usually, you can recharge the battery by plugging it into the car’s 12-volt adapter. There are various types of heated steering wheel covers, but the best and most popular ones are made of rubber, and fit all standard steering wheels. The most affordable steering wheel covers can be purchased for as little as $15.
Heated Seat Cushion
A car’s cabin can become very cold during the winter, and sitting inside a cold car is not only uncomfortable, but also distracting. One great solution to warm your body and to make those cold winter drives more enjoyable is to install a heated seat cushion.
Heated seat cushions are very easy to install and use. A typical cushion comes with a DC cord that you plug into the car’s 12-volt outlet, providing heat within seconds and keeping you warm during your entire trip. To attach it to your car seat, you simply have to fasten the elastic straps to the back of the seat itself.
Heated seat cushions usually feature a switch that allows you to choose between several different heat settings so that you can control the temperature. What’s more, some are designed to provide lumbar support and reduce stress on your lower back muscles, on top of keeping your body warm. Prices range from $20 to $35.
Heated seat cushions and steering wheel covers help to keep your body warm during your trip, but there is one great piece of technology that can make your car’s interior downright cozy even before you get in.
Remote starters can warm up your car before you enter it, by turning the engine on and automatically starting the car’s AC. This allows the temperature within the cabin to reach the desired level before you even leave your home or office, which leads to a more enjoyable ride from the minute you take a seat behind the wheel.
What’s more, a remote starter can help make your commute safer by helping to melt the ice on the windshield and windows before you hit the road, which means greater visibility from the start of your trip. Since it helps defrost the windshield, windows, headlights and brake lights, a remote starter can reduce the effort required to scrape ice or snow from your car, keeping your fingers safe and saving you some precious time.
Some remote starters work from distances of up to 1 mile. The more sophisticated ones come with keyless entry functionality, allowing the car owner to lock and unlock their car’s doors remotely using a key fob or a smartphone app.
There are even remote starters that send alerts to the car owner when someone else is driving the car, such as a friend or family member. They can let the car owner know at what speed the car is traveling and they can track the car’s location, alerting the car owner if the car enters an area that is off limits—such as if your child takes an unplanned detour to the mall on their way to the library.
Remote starters range in price from $10 to $200, depending on the features they come with.
For those living in the coldest areas of the country, where temperatures often drop well below zero and stay that way for prolonged periods of time, a block heater can be of great use. A block heater can help ease the stress off a car’s engine when starting it on a cold winter morning. It also helps warm up the car’s cabin much quicker, making it more comfortable for the driver and other vehicle occupants.
The block heater’s electric heating element is installed in the cylinder block and connected to an electric outlet via its power cord that runs through the car’s grille. It usually takes about four hours for a block heater to warm up the engine, which can easily be done overnight using a typical household outlet. Once it’s plugged in, the block heater starts warming up the engine coolant, helping the engine start more easily and quickly in the morning.
Once winter comes, bringing with it freezing temperatures, along with snow and ice, driving can become a nuisance, and can be dangerous, as well. Luckily, the availability of the features above can make driving in cold weather much more bearable, and even enjoyable. This car tech can improve your winter driving experience and help keep you safe while driving in rough weather conditions.
Disclaimer: This article is meant for information purposes only. The Hartford does not endorse or have any association with the products and/or services referenced. You can learn more about The Hartford’s insurance coverages online.