Winter cross-country travel

My huband is planning on driving from San Francisco to Detroit (through Northern states) over the Christmas holiday. I want to keep the peace in our marriage by not asking too many questions about his preparation, but I am a planner, he is not, and I want him to be safe! He is planning on driving his 2013 VW Jetta TDi as is. I feel like he should take my 2005 Subaru Outback and have a maintainance check and snow tires put on before he goes. Thoughts?

Definitely take the Outback. Better traction, more reliable. But do a thorough maintenance check before leaving.

It’s Been A Really Warm Autumn, Not Many Hazardous Travel Conditions And That Trend Is Supposed To Continue Through December.

Does your husband have any mid-west, foul weather driving experience (just in case) ?
If he does, I’d take the diesel. It has better mpg, he probably feels quite comfortable driving it, and it’s newer.

Lots of people drive these roads, year-around in regular cars.


yeah, all the major highways will be well plowed. If there is a major snowstorm, he can hole up in a motel till the roads are cleared. But make sure the Jetta has good tires.

Front wheel drive,8 years newer, I would take the VW . It is not like he is going over unpaved roads .

Take an emergency kit for cold weather in case you get stuck in a snow storm. You probably won’t, but you should be prepared. You need several blankets to keep you warm if you are stuck on the road. You can run the car occasionally to warm it up, then retain the heat with the blankets wrapped around you.

Weather fronts move west to east so if he leaves in good weather, he will probably have good weather all the way. Just don’t leave the day after bad weather or he could catch it.
I think the Jetta will be OK as long as it has good tires. One good thing is that being a diesel, it will idle for a long time on just a little fuel, not like gas engine. If he gets stuck out in the open, he should be able to stay warm. I’d bring a sleeping bag just in case though. I took one on a winter road trip that saved my life when the timing belt broke out in the middle of nowhere during an ice storm.

The trip back will need a little planning. Weather fronts are usually about 8 days apart in winter so he should return just as soon as a front goes through Detroit. He should make it back before the next front hits San Francisco.

And take a cell phone.

Yeah, I’m on the road all the time in the winter. No big deal. We have plows and salt trucks and bare pavement is the norm. But you do have to have an emergency kit and warm clothes just in case. Also, if the weather cools he will need to take precautions with the diesel fuel. You can’t use the same fuel in the winter that you do in California. A 50/50 mix of #1 and #2 is common in the winter but you have to check with the stations. Also I always used a fuel conditioner in the winter to avoid gelling of the fuel-if its really cold like zero or below.

He needs to do some serious prep work. He’ll need to have very good tires (little wear), preferably winter tires, “winter mix” window washer fluid throughout the window wash system, good coolant properly mixed for cold weather, winter wipers (you haven’t known fear until your wipers ice up), be sure the car is in good shape (a good checkup by your shop is in order), a cellphone and an auto club membership. He should be carrying ice scrapers, a snow brush, and be sure the spare is properly inflated… a full size spare would be much better if he should need it in bad weather.

Assuming he’s going to take I-80 across, he has a good chance of hitting some tough weather, especially through the mountains in Wyoming and in the Great Lakes region. Snow can come unexpectedly and the “lake effect” storms can be treacherous. A source for where the hotels are located along the highway would be excellent to have too. The safest way to travel in a winter storm is to sit out the storm in a hotel. I’ve been in a “lake effect” storm in Syracuse that left me no choice but to stop at the nearest hotel.

I would take the Jetta because it’s newer but would make sure my cell phone was fully charged.

Be sure that he has an in car charger for his cell phone.