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Moving from California to North Dakota

Hello - I drive a Chevy Volt. We are moving from California to North Dakota. I had bought the car in CA. I am planning to take the car to ND. Do I need to prepare my car in some fashion, e.g., install oil heater, etc? Will the factory-standard tires work, or should I buy special set of tires? Should I sell the Volt and buy some other car e.g., 4WD)?

I have no experience driving or maintaining a car in cold weather. Any tips are welcome.

Thank you.

Hybrid cars do not perform as well in very cold temperatures as battery efficiency goes down. You may want to sell the Volt in California where it is better suited and buy something else, but the Volt will still work up there, it just wont get the mileage you are used to in winter, but it probably won’t get worse mileage than any other conventional car of its size, and you will benefit in the summer.

North Dakota is a pretty good sized state so the temperature extremes vary around the state. Buying a set of winter tires mounted on separate rims is a good idea no matter what car you have. If the area you are going to settle in has winter temperature lows below -34°F, then you should have the coolant changed to a 2:1 ratio instead of the usual 50/50. If you have recently had your coolant changed, you can have a predetermined amount drained out of your system and replace it with full strength.

For every 4 quart capacity of your cooling system, drain 1.2 qts of coolant from the system and replace with full strength antifreeze. That will get you close enough. You can have that done up there. In fact drain 1 /4 th of the coolant and replace with full strength will get you to 62.5% which should be good enough for just about anyplace in the lower 48.

A block heater or oil pan heater might be a good idea as well. At the very least, use a synthetic oil for winter. You can use it year round.

It’s new. It needs nothing extra for cold weather. Except a garage. With a heater.

The cold weather in the winter would most likely have an effect on the batteries, Not to mention the question of how well it does in snow and ice on the stock tires. I have 2 friends that have moved out to North Dakota for work and the reports from previous winters is that subzero temps isn’t that unusual. A set of winter tires might be worth the money.

@RajaC - how will it be stored? how will it be used?

If it’ll be in a garage, I would keep it, and get a set of winter tires on rims. If outside 100% of the time, I’d be inclined to sell it.

According to this owner, the Volt does well in winter conditions:

He says to be sure to keep the traction control turned on. And I would definitely invest in a set of good winter tires.

And a garage. And a heater. :wink:

You will probably not be parking in a garage during working hours. A block heater is the best option, wait till you get there, many places do them on a regular basis, in CA 9 out of 10 they will probably go say what? and the 10th will probably be at least double the price. Many parking lots provide outlets for block heaters. Dipstick heaters are accused of frying oil on top of not being very effective. Magnetic oil pan heaters not very effective either

Don’t drive in blizzard conditions, on the air base you had to let them know when you are going to arrive, and if you were not there within 10 minutes of expected arrival they would send out a search party, yes it is that dangerous. Snow drifts as whiteout conditions.

Get a winter kit together including snacks, water, and a candle.

The roads typically are driveable with good all season radials, most of the time it does not get warm enough for the snow to turn to ice. Recalling highs of 12 below while watching news for bitter cold in new york, getting down to 12 degrees.

Don’t let it scare ya too much. Where abouts in ND and what year car? you may want to have a battery check done and buy a new one with the most cca available (cold cranking amps. Remembering 46 below with -92 wind chill factor, walked to the bar with wify 4 blocks away just to say we did it, tires you out pretty fast that cold does, EH? Ya hey dere you have a whopping good time. Uff Da scarin de california guy I tink.

I’d keep the Volt, but double check that the engine coolant and windshield wiper fluid have adequate freeze protection before making the move. Ask folks there for further car advice once you arrive. I expect you’ll find they’ll be happy to offer some practical suggestions.

Something I learned from a desert rat, if you drive outside the town or city in winter, always have a warm sleeping bag for each person in the car. It can save your life.

Having lived in North Dakota, I can tell you that the entire state drops way below zero in the winter and stays there for long stretches.

Regarding your preparation for winter, you definitely want either a block heater or a lower radiator hose heater (I preferred the hose heater). Either will warm the water jacket and the coolant will circulate via convection. Oil pan heaters do not work well, because the heat doesn’t circulate through the engine. Nobody who lived there used oil heaters.

And even though it’s a new car, I strongly urge you to get a heater installed. Talk to anyone who’s lived there and they’ll wonder why you’re even asking… the need for a plug in engine heater is a “given” in North Dakota. If you’re renting an apartment, you’ll even have a 115VAC socket on a post in your assigned parking spot with a switch in the apartment to turn it on and off. NoDaks don’t consider this unusual. They consider it perfectly normal, a perfectly reasonable expectation for a renter.

You’ll also want to read the back of your antifreeze bottle and put a fresh mix in of the lowest temperature ration indicated on the bottle. It’ll probably be 50/50, but don’t guess. And I’d suggest that you spend the extra bucks to get the correct coolant directly from the dealer. North Dakota is very intolerant of incorrect fluids.

Be sure you drain your washer fluid system and put “winter mix” in there as well. The “summer mix” you probably have in it will freeze faster than you can say “oh sh&%” in -40F.

And make sure you have good winter tires on all four. You’ll often be driving on packed ice up there.

One more suggestion: watch the movie “Fargo” if you can find it. It’s well, well worth it. It’ll give you a real good idea what you’re in for. You’ll enjoy the movie… if it doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you.

Hah. And stay away from wood chippers.

Yah, you betcha.
LOL, thanks for the chuckle.

Most people in ND drive 4WD trucks…A Volt might have serious problems after it gets cold-soaked at -10 degrees…People from California also have problems adapting to ND winters. Yeah, the money is good in the oil patch but the living and working conditions are terrible… Now if you are going up there to teach school or something, that’s different. But I think the Volt will have problems when it really gets cold…You might check a forum specific to Volts or check your owners manual …

Looks like the Volt automatically starts the ICE when the temperature is below 26 degrees F. to provide heat. So most of the plug-in electric features are lost below that temperature…

yeah get something appropriate for the weather. you ll get good money for the volt in california

I wonder if the OP is moving to ND because of the oil and gas boom and those can be feast or famine things.

It’s going on pretty big here at the current time but things can go south pretty quickly in the oil and gas business.

All I can say is bring warm clothes. Hope you have a place to stay already. They are hard to come by. Its like the gold rush days depending on where you are going. Have a healthy respect for the weather for sure. Yeah sleeping bag is nice but back in college in South Dakota, a friend of my SIL got caught in a blizzard on the freeway. They found him frozen to death in his sleeping bag.

I just can’t get my head around moving to North Dakota from California. I know it’s done…but why?

elbow room…, or money


I think that the most likely explanation–which somebody already mentioned–is to take advantage of the economic boom in that state that has resulted from mining for shale oil.

However, every positive factor tends to come with some negatives, and in the case of North Dakota, there is that incredibly bad and long winter, and there is also the new reality of a housing shortage as a result of…people flooding into that state.

Or, perhaps the OP is a member of The USAF.

I spent a few days on a business trip to Walhalla in January (early 80’s). Drove up I-29 in a rented Chevy Lumina (FWD) on packed snow at 55-60 mph, but at 0 degrees, traction on straight, flat roads, was “adequate.” Visited an ethanol plant under construction and those guys were putting up steel like it was summer. Coming back to the airport, it was fun to see the B-52’s out of Grand Forks AFB coming in over the highway.