Will a slightly modified 2002 Prius survive a Chicago winter?

I live in Los Angeles and I have a 2002 Prius, about which I need a bit of advice. I’m applying to graduate schools in Chicago and Toronto and want to know if my car will do ok in a mid-west winter.

Needless to say, living in Southern California, this car has never really heard of the word winter, so to understand my question here’s a bit of background. The car has been in the cold a couple of times and the first time it freaked out. A few years ago I took it to the mountains over Christmas vacation. It sat undriven in 30 degree weather for 10 days, and I had a heck of a time getting it started when I was ready to leave. I took it to the dealer when I got it home and they replaced the battery in the trunk. They said the problem was that Toyota had made the 2002 Prius trunk battery too small, and the draw from all the electronics drained it. They put in a standard size and they also put in a “shut down” mechanism, so that if I didn’t drive the car for awhile and the battery started getting too low that it would just shut itself off and not drain down completely. There’s now a button in the trunk, and they told me that if the battery shuts itself off, all I need to do is push the button to turn it on again to start the car. I’ve never had to use it but they claim it works.

I’ve been back in that same kind of cold a couple of times since and haven’t had any problems, but now I’m worried about taking my little lightweight, two-battery powered car into the mid-west winter. Will the Prius manage, given it’s modifications? Or do the changes with the battery not matter, since it’s just the trunk battery and not the main battery? The car is paid off and as a student I can’t really afford to get a new car and start car payments again, so I’d love to keep the Prius if it would do OK. That said, I don’t want to be stranded in 10 below weather, either. What should I do? If I should get another car (it would have to be used), what kind does well in the cold?

Many thanks!

I don’t know much about you “modifications,” but I live in the Cleveland and there are Priuses… Priie… more than one Prius on the road here (What is the plural of Prius?). In fact they are all over. I think you will be fine and if you have a problem I’m sure the local dealer would be happy to help you.

You’re Worried About The Wrong Thing ! Getting It Started Isn’t Going To Be Your Problem, But Steering, Accelerating, And Stopping Will Be. Welcome To The Winter Wonderland !


There are three modifications you need to do:

  1. Be certain that the coolant protection is good. Protection down to 25 below or better should take care of it.

  2. If you will be doing a lot of driving in the winter months, buy a set of 4 winter tires preferably mounted on separate rims.

  3. Affix a Chicago Bears decal to a rear side window.

Also make sure there’s winter washer fluid in it, not summer washer fluid.

Good point. I forgot that this Prius may have summer washer fluid. Also, if the OP is going to Northwestern, the OP should display a Chicago Cubs decal on the window. On the other hand, if the OP is going to the University of Chicago, a White Sox decal is needed.

If you are going to Toronto ('Tranna") find out what “eh” means for us.

To state it clearly, that modification should not affect at all cold weather starting in a negative way. The bigger battery should in fact help it.

However, not saying how long ago that was, you might need a new battery, just from age and use.

Also, tune up issues will be relevant. If the motor parts are in good shape, things like plugs and so forth, should be no problem in that weather.

Almost any standard car, properly maintained, should do well in Chicago. International Falls might be a different matter. But, I think standard tune up and a good battery should do fine. As one poster said, they have Priuses there with no problems.