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Thread: Winter Driving

Forum to discuss Austin Healey Sports Cars

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    Winter Driving

    Living in Iowa I sense winter rapidly encroaching on the horizon. As I consider my BJ7 (when functional), LOL, to be my daily driver it is my intention, (as much as possible), to drive it throughout the winter months.

    I have had no experience with the effectiveness of both the heater and defrost capabilities of this car and would appreciate both personal experiences as well as tips/ suggestions that might assist in making these function more effectively.

    Thank you,

    Robert

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    Yoda HealeyRick's Avatar
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    Re: Winter Driving

    I don't drive my BJ7 in the snow, but even in cold weather it isn't anywhere near toasty warm inside. In high school my bugeye was my winter car and the heating/defrost system is pretty much the same. It was warmish at best after it had been driven a few miles to warm up and the fact I carried an ice scraper to use on the inside of the windshield should give you an idea how effective the defroster was. Frankly, I'd buy a winter beater rather than drive the Healey, to say nothing of exposing that easily rusting body to road salt. I guess if I was going to do it I'd probably use some heated seat cushions and some kind of auxiliary electric windshield defroster. Good luck:

    Rick

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    Re: Winter Driving

    My BT7 was my daily driver for four years, and my advice would be to dress very warm during the winter months. The heater is marginal at best, and defrost is best described as theoretical. And bear in mind that I had a hard top on the car during the winter. You likely don't have that luxury for your BJ7.

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    Re: Winter Driving

    When I purchased my 1959 3000 in 1971, I lived in Wichita, Kansas. The Healey was the only car I owned. Winters were no different than any other season, except for the additional clothes I wore when driving. The car went great in the snow. The defroster did make an attempt at keeping the windshield clear, but being a roadster, I guess there was plenty of air circulation to minimize frost build-up on the inside. I thought it stayed warm enough inside the car with the top up and the and side curtains on.

    Now, 46 years later, here in Kansas City , Missouri, I still drive the Healey in the winter. The difference now, is that I don’t go out if the roads are wet, or if there is salt on the roads. Oh, I no longer use the top or side curtains for winter driving.

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    Re: Winter Driving

    I too had the ambition of driving my BJ8 through the English winter of last year. Cold but no snow, it wasn't the lack of heating that changed my mind, some thick socks and clothing sorted it, no it was the amount of salt that local authorities insisted in throwing on every road almost regardless of whether a frost was anticipated or not. Even with frequent hosing off including the underside it played havoc with all the fittings, exhaust, brake lines etc.. So now I drive as much as I can until the first salt goes down and then only venture out on dry days when any residual salt has been washed away.

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    Re: Winter Driving

    Hey, that top in HealeyRick's post looks familiar! Suggest you park your Healey for the winter. You'll only end up hating it. If you park the car, you can then enjoy a new rite of spring, bringing the Healey out for another summer of open air drives. Believe me, the heater is not up to the job. Your BJ8 roll up windows are a plus, but the water leaks, salt damage and frustration with the pathetic defroster will convince you this is a bad idea. Sure you could take it to a Christmas party for fun, but you and the Healey will appreciate the hibernation.

    HealeyC.jpg
    Bill Sullivan
    Albuquerque, NM

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    Luke Skywalker RAC68's Avatar
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    Re: Winter Driving

    Hi All,

    As my (and eventually my family's) daily driver, my Healey BJ8 Phase 1 was driven across the US during a 3-month RT66 type odyssey and during many trips to see my to-be wife who lived in NE Pennsylvania. Due to its low stance (differing from the Phase 2 BJ8) I found myself plowing newly fallen snow but luckily found the road crews in the Pocono Mountains to be quite good at maintaining the back roads.

    As far as the heater and defroster is concerned, I breath harder when sleeping then the original blower could blow and recognized this could be an issue early on. To address this issue, I acquired a 61 Olds Starfire Convertible blower motor from a salvage yard and installed this motor in the original housing fitted with the original squirrel cage. Although the new blower motor provided far superior air flow for using the heater and defroster simultaneously, the defroster does whistle when used. One thing I can say about my Healey is that I have NEVER wanted for adequate heat.

    I totally agree with SteveT and although I still drive my Healey on nice dry Winter days (even with the top down), I try to stay away from any conditions where salt had been used on the roads and not been washed away by an intervening rain fall.

    Ray(64BJ8P1)

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    Jedi Warrior roscoe's Avatar
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    Re: Winter Driving

    I can't imagine driving my BN2 in a New England or mid west US winter. Mostly because of the windshield wipers but other reasons are also obvious to all of us. I have lived in New Hampshire and Massachusetts so I know where of I speak. I have a good friend who went to college in Providence, RI and would drive home to New York for holidays. On a nasty, nasty slushy drive in freezing rain he was having trouble in his 2 seater, what ever it was ( which he bought for 500 bucks in 1970 and wishes he had now). A semi truck nearly ran him off the road without signaling and as payback he pulled ahead with the intention of flipping him the bird while passing (way risky at best but we were all bullet proof). Of course his top was up and it is dubious that the trucker would have seen the middle finger through the age yellowed window. Be that as it was, he did it anyway and in his enthusiasm proceeded to put his whole hand and forearm through the brittle plastic and out over the rear shroud. I suspect the trucker got the message.

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    Re: Winter Driving

    My Healey was purchased new in the midwest on March 22, 1966 and was driven year round. On August 4, 1970, the owner spent $218.33 to repair rust on the front fenders and quarter panels. So the rusting on a Healey does not take long.

    Like those above, I would discourage driving in winter in Iowa. My wife is from Minnesota and I think there must be some sort of Minnesota-Iowa rivalry, but she is always joking about the bad drivers in Iowa. Some of my scariest drives ever were on the icy interstates of Iowa and Nebraska. Maybe as a local, the conditions don't seem as bad. But for a California boy driving a mid-sized sedan with perfect tires, wipers, and heater, it was still incredibly dangerous. Good luck.

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    Yoda Michael Oritt's Avatar
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    Re: Winter Driving

    Putting considerations such as salty roads and corrosion aside, keep in mind that for many of us our Healeys are driven but occasionally and then only in dry weather with most driving taking place in cars with active traction-control systems and anti-lock brakes. Some have IRS or FWD, some all-time AWD. Different animals indeed. While it is of course possible to safely drive a beam-axled car with an open differential in snow it takes a bit of technique, and these modern innovations have, I believe, desensitized us to what is called seat-of-the-pants driving, a very helpful if not necessary skill in operating a Healey in a safe and enjoyable manner.

    It's a great feeling to go for a drive--top up or down/off or on--on a brisk winter day and we get to wear our scarves, gloves and driving caps without feeling too foolish. Here in Southern Maryland we have lots of those with relatively little frozen precip but when the white stuff comes down and the roads are salted I leave the Healey in the garage.

    Best--Michael Oritt
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    Re: Winter Driving

    Like many of you I had the pleasure of driving old British cars year round when they were not so old, in my case in Nebraska, pretty much the same as Iowa as far as Winters are concerned.

    If you are really dead set on doing it make sure you battery, starter and charging system are in good shape, your choke is working effectively, and everything is pretty much spot on or it won't want to crank much let alone start, as they are not at all like modern cars with fuel injection that will generally start quickly when cold and run fine with no warm up.

    We used to enrichen the mixture a flat or two and run thinner oil to aid starting and warm up, and when it got really cold around Christmas or New year's or so would strategically place an appropriately carved pizza box in front of the radiator to cut airflow by about half. You can also fit a 190 degree thermostat.

    As others have mentioned heater air is reasonably warm, but the flow is abysmal. Warming up the car before driving helps give the heater and defogger a fighting chance.

    When I was in my teens, my cheap Sprite which I couldn't afford a battery for wouldn't start if it got below 20 degrees or so. I learned by experience it wasn't a good idea to have a positive ground car with a chrome bumper in proximity to a negative ground car with same when you are jumping them.

    Fast forward a few years and my TR4a that I could afford to maintain with a new battery, rebuilt carbs, etc, would start even when well below zero.

    It was all great fun and adventure on a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow, but my lovely 4A, all restored and shiny and ready to serve me faithfully on the worst of days rusted out after a couple Winters.

    Buy a winter beater.

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    Jedi Knight nevets's Avatar
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    Re: Winter Driving

    Ha ha ha ha...I hope you aren't serious!?

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    Yoda Randy Forbes's Avatar
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    Re: Winter Driving

    Oh, it's doable; living in Detroit, the winters of '73-'74 and '74-'75 were spent driving a '73 MGB Tourer__still on showroom tires! I too did the 190* thermostat, but I had the entire oil cooler wrapped in cardboard, and all but the top 3" of the radiator covered too.

    If there was one (1) thing I'd say to be careful of, it's watch your right foot! Especially true when you're forced to solo pushing the car by the steering wheel and A-pillar; I bet I ran over my foot at least three (>3) maybe four (!) times! Fortunately, I was still immortal back then, made of rubber, and I never let the car get away from me (albeit, there were a couple of close ones).

    MGBs are probably only marginally less rust-prone than a Healey, so all the same caveat's apply__not that I was worried about the car's longevity forty-four (>44) years ago (I wonder where it is today__if it survived...).

    This picture was from 1996__different MGB(GT) altogether, and just visiting "home" from Louisiana__at Halloween-time, so minimal exposure to those unsavory elements!



    Now some years later, I did get serious about driving a sportscar all winter in NW Ohio, but it was outfitted with dedicated snowtires, traction control (which you actually had to disengage in deep snow to make any progress) plus a hardtop, heated seats and a real honest to goodness heater/defroster! This lil' babe has been through twelve (12) years worth of snow, ice, salt & brine, and is still living__now a leisurely life in SW Florida__to belie any evidence of such abuse! Oh sure, the bare aluminum castings are a little fuzzy, and the cad-plated hdwr is now brown, but the galvanized sheetmetal and plastic-coated undercarriage is absolutely corrosion free (I've had the bolt-on rockers off and was SHOCKED, expecting to find at least a little bit of rust, but there was none).

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    Yoda glemon's Avatar
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    Re: Winter Driving

    Solo pushing-yes, I discovered with my Sprite if you left the car running in first there wasn't a drift you couldn't push your way out of. It only almost got away from me once that I remember, but I was able to catch up, hop in, and resume control.

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    Yoda Randy Forbes's Avatar
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    Re: Winter Driving

    Quote Originally Posted by glemon View Post
    Solo pushing-yes, I discovered with my Sprite if you left the car running in first there wasn't a drift you couldn't push your way out of. It only almost got away from me once that I remember, but I was able to catch up, hop in, and resume control.
    Doors are a lot bigger on the B, so yes, you'd have to be pretty agile to jump into a moving Sprite__especially challenging with a top and sidescreens/windows in place!

    But clearly, YOU KNOW what I'm talking about, lol!
    http://www.britishcarforum.com/bcf/image.php
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    Yoda HealeyRick's Avatar
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    Re: Winter Driving

    One more added to the list of solo-pushers thankful of never losing the bugeye. Surprised the ad guys never touted its easy traction aid device.
    Rick

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    Re: Winter Driving

    You could always buy a plug in auxillery heater running off the battery, just wire in a simple cigarette lighter socket.

    I run one on my Willys Jeep when I have doors and sidescreens fitted and it makes a huge difference.

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    Yoda Michael Oritt's Avatar
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    Re: Winter Driving

    We're not into winter yet here in Southern Maryland but it was a nice Fall day yesterday, cold enough (50 or so) to open the hot water tap on the engine before Brenda and I went for a day's ride down Tidewater Virginia's Upper Neck to Irvington for lunch at the Tides Lodge. No side curtains were necessary until we turned around and rain threatened. See pic.

    BTW this was my first long ride since doing some work on the engine's lower end--new oil pump and rod bearings--and my frequent glances at the safety gauge were all for naught: Oil pressure remain 50-55 while at speed and 35-40 at idle all day long with engine temps of 170-180. We averaged 22 mpg on mostly 50-60 mph two-lane roads.

    Many questions answered: "Is that an MG?", "How fast will it go?", "Can you get parts?", etc. I always respond, perhaps embellishing a bit, feeling this is part of the Healey experience
    Attached Images Attached Images

    Best--Michael Oritt
    1954 Austin-Healey 100 Le Mans
    1958 Elva Courier (FOR SALE)
    1959 Elva MK IV Sports Racer
    1961 Ginetta G4

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    Yoda Randy Forbes's Avatar
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    Re: Winter Driving

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Oritt View Post
    We're not into winter yet here in Southern Maryland but it was a nice Fall day yesterday, cold enough (50 or so) to open the hot water tap on the engine before Brenda and I went for a day's ride down Tidewater Virginia's Upper Neck to Irvington for lunch at the Tides Lodge. No side curtains were necessary until we turned around and rain threatened. See pic.

    BTW this was my first long ride since doing some work on the engine's lower end--new oil pump and rod bearings--and my frequent glances at the safety gauge were all for naught: Oil pressure remain 50-55 while at speed and 35-40 at idle all day long with engine temps of 170-180. We averaged 22 mpg on mostly 50-60 mph two-lane roads.

    Many questions answered: "Is that an MG?", "How fast will it go?", "Can you get parts?", etc. I always respond, perhaps embellishing a bit, feeling this is part of the Healey experience
    If that was a right-hooker (RHD!) she looks right at home.

    Glad the oil pressure woes are behind you now, and yes, the Healey does give one poetic license



    That's a great looking duo Michael, good job.
    http://www.britishcarforum.com/bcf/image.php
    57 Healey BN6L-942 Wine Red/Honey Tan
    99 BMW M Rdstr Cosmos Black Eurosport Twinscrew Supercharger
    01 BMW M Rdstr Steel Gray Performance Center (factory) Delivery
    11 X5 35i Sport Deep Sea Blue Metallic Wife's Turbo Hauler

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    Jedi Knight nevets's Avatar
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    Re: Winter Driving

    enjoyed your post and just noticed the 3-ear knock-offs, which work well on your Healey.

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