The Boxster In Winter

 
 

2 Choices – drive it or store it

If you live in Southern Florida, you have such a short cool season this web page doesn’t really apply to you. But if you live in the some-snow states or the far north, then the practicality of driving a Boxster in winter may interest you.

What I did (Storing it, Sometimes)

This was written about the first 3 years I owned a Boxster.

I’m lucky, I have had a small SUV as my second vehicle (a Honda CRV 4WD which I bought before the Porsche just so I could own a convertible) and a 2-car garage and 2 driveways so I had plenty of options.  I stored my car for around 2 months during the winter depending on the temperature in and around Northern Virginia. (Now that I'm in North Carolina, I just keep it on a battery maintainer in the garage with the top down ready for those warm winter days when I can take it out for a run.)

The rest of the personal comments here apply to the Northern Virginia experience where the temperatures are below 40 degrees F (4.5C) for weeks and sometimes months at a time.

Here is the why and how of my reasoning.

Why? The SUV has 4 wheel drive and narrow all-weather tires. The Boxster has 2-wheel drive and wide summer-only tires. The Boxster tires do not grip the road as well when the ROAD temperature dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  It has nothing to do with snow or ice, but rather the rubber compound the tire is made from and its strengths and weakness.  Every tire is a compromise and summer tires give up cold traction for heat resistance.  Summer tires acquire their great traction from actually deforming the "rubber" so that it fits into the surface irregularities in the road.  But if the rubber loses the flexibility to do that, it has to ride on top of those irregularities and that is almost like skating.  Winter tires have additional edges and smaller tread blocks and they don't use as hard a compound.

DON"T DRIVE WITH SUMMER TIRES ON ROADS WHOSE ROADS SURFACE TEMPERATURE IS BELOW 40 DEGREESI TOTALED MY FIRST BOXSTER BECAUSE I DID. 

So if I wanted to drive in the cold, I’d have to change the tires (perhaps buying another set of wheels).

The rear window isn’t glass on my ’01 Boxster so it can’t be scraped without risking shattering the flexible plastic and it can’t be defrosted until the entire cabin heats up.  All I can do is gently snow brush it.  I could get a hardtop or a glass windowed top to cure those problems but since I have a another car designed to be driven in snow, I elected to store my Boxster but in a way that I can get it out if the weather suddenly changes for the better.  Yes, I sometimes scraped 10" of snow off it to take advantage of a brief warm spell.

The Boxster has limited ground clearance and can easily get hung up on 8" snow falls. The CRV doesn't. 

I stored my Boxster in my spare driveway under a Noah-fabric car cover from California Car Covers.  It is easy enough for one person to put it on and off, stands up to sun and snow and ice and sheds water while allowing water vapor to escape.  I'm amazed how well it tolerated being scraped with a push broom to remove snow. When it suddenly warmed up, I wanted to go out and play and not wait for 8" of snow to melt off the car.

I checked the fluid level in the battery and topped it off with distilled water.  And I checked the voltage of the fully charged battery (link to how to test the battery).   If you are going to put a maintainer on the battery for weeks/months at a time, the battery needs to be in good condition to begin with and able to hold a charge.  If it can't hold a charge, it will send a signal to the maintainer/charger that its voltage is low.  Such a constant signal will tell the maintainer to charge constantly which can overcharge the battery, evaporate the battery fluid, warp the plates, short the battery and can cause a gas explosion which will ruin your trunk and the trunk lid. Don't use a simple charger as they don't shut off and will overcharge the battery.

I  used a Porsche Battery maintainer that I connected through a 100 foot extension cord that is routed through the slot in the weather-stripping underneath the passenger door to the “cigarette lighter” socket in the dash.  Get under the open door and you’ll see how the slot is perfect for the cord to pass through to the interior while allowing the door and window to shut completely.  Keeps the critters out.

I parked on the flat so I don’t have to fix the parking brake lest it rust and need to be broken lose when I want to drive the car again.

I filled the gas tank completely full to prevent condensation and rust inside the tank (though people tell me the Porsche gas tank doesn't need it).  I added some Sta-Bil brand additive which prevents the gas from changing into a form that would clog the fuel lines (varnish).  I tried to make the last few tanks of gas before storage 100% gas and not ethanol blended.

I did this through 3 winters with zero problems.

People recommend moth balls in the trunks and cabin (in containers, not on the carpet) to discourage mice and other critters.  And desiccant pails on the floorboards to keep the interior dry. I’ve never needed either (but then I park it outdoors and the critters prefer the car parked indoors because it is warmer and out of the wind).

I Gummi Pflege all the rubber weather-stripping and other rubber seals to keep it flexible and prevent the metal from sticking to the rubber.  And I polish the car and make sure that it is dust free when I put the cover on because I don’t want the dust being ground into the paint by the cover shifting in the wind.

I’d change the oil just before I put it away for the winter under the theory that the old oil contains water and absorbed gases that can rot bearings.  I'd also park it just after a long hot run that allowed the most burn off of those contaminants.

Not a bad idea to top off the windshield washer fluid and the anti-freeze too (Porsche brand only on that anti-freeze). 

Guenter in Ontario (who has to store his for multiple months of the year) suggested these additions for longer storage. 

  • Inflate the tires to 55PSI.  
  • Park the car on 2 inch Styrofoam blocks to prevent the tires from sitting on the cold floor and getting flat spots.
  • Park on the flat, put blocks for and aft (that's in front of and in back of for you landlubbers) the rear tires and don't set the parking brake lest it rust and lock up.
  • Unlock the front trunk and leave ajar so you'll be able to get at the battery if the battery should die. The light will go out after about a half hour.  But that lets critters in so painters masking tape off the gaps between the hood and the fenders/ bumper.
  • Tape over the side vents and exhaust pipes with painters masking tape to keep out rodents. 

 

Now I live in a climate that is just 6 degrees warmer on average.

I now live in the middle of North Carolina (Sanford, to be precise, in the sandhills about 40 miles south south-west of Raleigh).  So snow and ice aren't the issue.  We seldom get enough to worry about and it is usually gone by noon.  Being retired means I can just defer any planned trips till it melts. But I'm still faced with the problem of only having summer tires and the ROAD SURFACE temperatures going down below 40.  Summer tires lose their grip when it gets cold and the rubber (it isn't really rubber any more but we'll pretend it is) gets hard so it can't fit itself into the little nooks and crannies that are in even the smoothest road surface.  Once the tire has to ride solely on the tops of those small road surface indentations, you lose 40-60% of your traction ... traction that helps you stop and helps you go around a curve.  So I keep the Boxster in the garage without a cover on for those days when the temperature starts out below 40 but climbs above it in the afternoon and the sun shines on the blacktop.  And with a Battery Maintainer on it in case I just don't use it for a few weeks or so.  The SUV can just sit outside!

And if you don't have a garage?

Suggestions include:

1. Parking it in a garage at work with a cover on.

2. Renting a storage unit and storing it there perhaps taping into a light socket for power to the battery maintainer.

3. Removing the battery (bring it inside and use a battery maintainer there)  and just covering the car up with a good weatherproof car cover.  Remember to have the radio code handy and leave the front trunk unlocked and the gaps taped over with painters masking tape if you do this.

4. Running a long extension cord to it for the battery maintainer and just covering the car up.

5. Making friends with someone who has a barn or garage.

Any of these things should be accompanied by the things I suggested above for storage


Driving it in Winter where snow is probable.

If I were to drive it regularly (or as an only car) in winter where snow is probable, I would suggest:

1.      Get a hardtop (from ~$800-1,500 if you shop hard in the summer to $3,600 new) or one of the new glass rear window replacement tops but the hardtop would be better.  I'd use RaggTopp protectant on the canvas top.

2.      Get a set of wheels of the smallest size that would fit your car (17” since mine is an ’01 S, 16" for those who have a base with original brakes) and a set of the narrowest-that-would-fit snow/ice tires. Being cheap, I’d look to buy these from someone who had used them one winter and I’d look to buy during the heat of the summer.  AND I wouldn't be buying all weather tires, but snow/ice tires.  I'd give up handling for snow/ice effectiveness because I'd only have them on for the winter months.

3.      Make sure the battery is in great shape (see my page on batteries for testers, chargers, replacement batteries, etc)

4.      Make sure the windshield washer fluid is topped off with winter washer fluid.

5.      Make sure the anti-freeze is topped off with Porsche appropriate anti-freeze in a 50/50 mix with distilled water.  Make sure the Cap is screwed on tight.

6.      Put a windshield scraper and a snow brush behind the passenger seat.  Put some de-icer, a set of flares, and a warning triangle and something to kneel on (an old shower curtain?) in the front trunk.

7.      Check the spare tire pressure. You don’t want to be stranded in the snow.

8.      Drive gently.

            9.   Not drive it when the snow was too deep due to the limited ground clearance.

            10. Wash by hand with slightly warm water at least every thaw. Keep the salt off.

            11. Carry lock deicer in the car; have one at home and at work. 

            11a. Use lock deicer once before the winter to "oil" the lock.

            12. Rain-X the windows frequently to  help the ice and snow not stick. 

            13. Check that you had all the tire changing equipment and replace the wheel lock bolts with normal bolts.

            14. Clean and wax the wheels to protect them from the sand and salt used on the roads.

            15. And wax the car for the same reasons.

            16. Wash under the car and in the wheel wells whenever the roads have been salted and it warms. 

            17. And if you do have wheel locks, check you have the socket that unlocks/loosens them.  

Remember, any failure is much worse in winter.  Takes more time, people can't see you.  Cold make it harder to do the repair.

The Boxster has wide tires which aren't good in snow as they create too much area of snow in front of the tire that has to be pushed away.  And it has low ground clearance, which means it can get hung up on a drift or where the snowplow piled the snow.  There is a reason they make Jeeps the way they do.  I've even driven with narrow tires that were slicks in fairly deep snow (Model-A Ford).  The narrow tires cut through the snow instead of pushing  against it.

Driving it in the winter where snow is unlikely but temperatures dips below 45

The key here is tires. I'd probably go with a set of all weather tires if one set was all I could afford. But better would be the snow/ice tires on a spare set of wheels only for the winter months. Those ultra high performance summer tires (I use Michelin Pilot Sport Ribs) are so much better handling than any all weather or snow tire.  I want the UHP Summer tires on when the weather is nice and I'm playing in the twisties.  So I'd try and have two sets (UHP Summer and Snow/Ice) rather than use an all-weather tire that was not very bad but not very good.

Drive Safely. 

And interesting experience from a Canadian driver who uses his car in winter is here.