What to expect from Wisconsin winters?

2014 Subaru Outback. Has anyone had any problems starting in Wisconsin winters? Moving there in July.

You shouldn’t have a problem. They’re pretty ubiquitous in snow country both in the east and west.

Probably best to ask around once you’re there to get advice from locals. If you’re asking about starting the car after a cold night, much will probably depend on whether or not your car is in a garage.

Minnesota is like Wisconsin. Since I got rid of my diesel, I’ve never had a car fail to start, but they are usually in the garage. Still it sat out for a couple weeks in below zero weather at the hotel and still started no problem. With modern fuel injection, if you keep your car in good condition, and a good battery, you should not have a problem.

More important though is that you be careful on the roads and have supplies and so on if you get stuck in a snow storm. After a day or two though most main roads are pretty clear. I always planned on keeping a week vacation time in reserve just to use for snow days. If schools are closed, I stay home. And don’t let anyone tell you that everyone likes cheese. Just not true but don’t go wearing any purple Vikings stuff. Oh yeah, and take up hunting and fishing. You can even fish in the winter, on the ice, on the lake. You can even drive on the lake. You can’t do that in Florida.

And don’t assume your all-wheel-drive is going to fix all the traction problems you’ll face. If the tires are worn, if they are not at least M&S (mud and snow - sometimes called all-season) rated then it is time to buy new tires. Or maybe even a set of Winter (snow tires) tires on cheap steel wheels making your AWD Subie a virtual “mountain goat” of traction.

Residents of cold weather states make their battery and tire buying decisions in September. How old is the battery? How much tread do the tires have left? And buy accordingly to avoid getting stuck.

Now that we are well-past the era of carburetors and automatic chokes, any vehicle that is well-maintained and that has a strong battery can be expected to start reliably in the winter.

And if you want your car to last, every October or so you should take the rear wheels off and use a bright light to inspect the paint on the rear fender lip. Paint tends to chip off there from grit kicked up by the tire, and then the exposed metal rusts. If you catch it early you can sand off the surface rust, if any, and then apply touchup paint. If you don’t, you’ll have holes in your car.

Oh, and if you’re moving to eastern Wisconsin, and someone tells you they need to use the time machine, it’s an ATM, not a DeLorean. :wink:

Where I live we have severe winters and Subarus are a favored form of transportation. Our hiking and ski club has at least 8 members with various model Subarus.

I am in the SE portion of Wisconsin and even though our three cars are kept outside, we have not had a starting problem for years. Even if we leave one sit for 4-5 days without being started, we still have no problems.

I think most starting problems in this area are either due to a poorly maintained car, or a battery that is over 4 years old, or an electrical drain problem.

I suggest that you have the battery replaced if it is over 4 years old, an oil change, new spark plugs, new air filter, and be sure that the antifreeze mix is good for -20 degrees. Do all this and your car should not have a problem starting.


**I can say with certainty that someone in Wisconsin has had a problem starting their car in winter, just as I can say with certainty that there are cars in Wisconsin that aren’t properly maintained. If your car is properly maintained, you’ll be fine. **

The bigger concern for you will be prepping the car for winter. That’ll include a list of things such as
filling the window wash system with winter mix,
having wiper blades that won’t ice up,
Making sure the car is well maintained,
having good winter tires or at least all season tires,*
having ice scrapers in the car,
and few other things that I’m forgetting.

  • Failure to start can ruin your day.
  • Failure to stop or loss of control can ruin your life.

For the record, I was trying to embolden and asterisk the line item about the tires and the two related comments at the end, but the software isn’t working right. It’s screwing the emphasis options all up.

I would use full synthetic engine oil of the appropriate grade to improve cold weather starting.


I hear from people I know that still live there and are about my age that the severity of winters in the past few decades is not as bad as it had been in the past. When I was younger, it would be normal to have a few weeks in winter with lows in the -25F over night and then not get above -10F in the day. You might get a week straight like that and then it would moderate. Even with a good battery, cranking speeds were marginal at best. Many people resorted to engine heaters during those periods. Fuel injection certainly helps. Another huge factor is oil viscosity. Back then, 10-30 was common in winter. But it seems it just doesn’t get that cold there anymore so I wouldn’t take any exceptional precautions beyond what has been mentioned.

I can tell you that in NH this past winter was brutal. I’m very, very glad that it’s finally over.

Amen brother. But still better then the Syracuse area where I grew up. I moved here to get away from that type of winter…it’s coming back to haunt me.

Three days ago the last snow melted from our lawn. It had accumulated to a depth of close to 3 feet. Unfortunately there is flooding in many areas now due to the rapid melt.

Our mountain hiking trail are still all snow bound. We’re about 4 weeks behind in the spring thaw. Even the bears are late in getting out of hibernation.

It was a brutal winter??? Sorry to hear that. I remember those…

Back when I did winters in the frozen north temperatures could stay below zero F for a week at a time and we’d get several days in the -20F to -30F or so range.

As others have indicated modern cars will start in those temperatures, no problem. I did it for decades and was never late getting to work.

I second that! Synthetic flows better in cold temperatures at start-up. It’s in my Owner Manuals.

My son drives an Outback and loves it for driving in adverse winter weather.
CSA :palm_tree::sunglasses::palm_tree:

Keep the car’s battery to 5 years and then call it good and replace it with a battery of the highest CCA (cold cranking amps) and best warranty coverage in the correct group/size battery for your car. It’s cheap insurance and you don’t want to look for a battery on the coldest day of the winter when you are far from home, late at night (when all batteries die, of course).

I got a pretty big bang for my buck and had good results with Ever-Start Maxx batteries at Wal-Mart. They have never failed me prematurely.

Others here buy batteries at Costco and like them.

It takes guts to move to the north for the winter. I’m pulling for you. Who knows, you might actually like it. Some people claim they do.
CSA :palm_tree::sunglasses::palm_tree:

One thing not yet discussed is the need for windshield washer fluid that does not freeze - here in Duluth I usually draw down the summer stuff in October and refill with winter stuff until sometime in April.

I’ve heard people buying the summer stuff…but I haven’t seen it in years. Even in middle of July - Walmart only sells the winter solution here in NH.

Here in FL they only stock/sell the summer stuff @ Wal-Mart. I’ve not seen any winter stuff.

Reminds me, I have to stop calling those things furnace filters when I go to Lowes or Home Depot. Folks look at me like I’m from outer space. They’re called Air Conditioner filters.

CSA :palm_tree::sunglasses::palm_tree:

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