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Snow Truck Parts For Winter Four Wheeling - Buyer's Guide

Posted in Product Reviews on December 1, 2002
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Photographers: The Manufacturers

When winter comes, you depend on your 4x4 in a big way. The inherent ability of the four-wheel-drive vehicle to help us easily commute in snow, sleet and freezing rain is one core reason why many of us own these vehicles. But with this comes the fact that we often push our vehicles right to the very edge of their design capabilities as we use them as tools to travel in some of the most awful winter conditions imaginable.

Fortunately, the aftermarket has provided us with a number of creative ways to help our vehicles last longer and work better in harsh winter conditions. So whether you live in an area that sees only light snow and moderate winter temperatures or whether you live in a locale that endures heavy snow and brutal below-zero temperatures, here are a few items that may make life for your truck, and you, a little easier.

Unfair Advantage
What it is: Winter Dueler tire
Who makes it: Bridgestone/Firestone
What it does: If you know anything about the Blizzak line of winter tires, you know that they work very, very well on snow and ice. What Bridgestone/Firestone did was take the technology from that successful tire and incorporate it into the new Winter Dueler light truck and Sport Utility tire. The manufacturer says that the Winter Dueler features the same performance characteristics as a studded tire, but without the studs. A multicell compound in the outer-most layer of tread contains millions of microscopic pores that provide a suction-cup-like effect, giving the tire an enhanced grip on icy surfaces. Edges of the pores bite the snow and ice surface, creating greater driving and braking forces. In addition, the Winter Dueler contains a new version of the multicell compound known as Link Multicell, which contains microscopic links that work with the pores to displace the thin layer of water on top of the ice. The Winter Dueler has two layers of tread. When the first layer of tread containing the multicell compound wears away at approximately 55 percent of the tread's useful life, a base layer composed of firmer winter compound is exposed, thus giving the consumer winter-tire performance for the life of the tire.
Info: Bridgestone/Firestone Tire Sales Co., Dept. FW, One Bridgestone Park, Nashville, TN 37214-0991, 615/391-0088, www.bridgestonetire.com.

Silicone Magic
What it is: Silicone Wiper Blade
Who makes it: PIAA Corp.
What it does: This new silicone wiper blade features rubber that is impregnated with silicone. With each sweep of the blade, the windshield is coated with silicone, causing water to bead up and be blown away. What few beads remain are more easily swept away by the blade. Originally designed for rain, the blade has been found to work exceptionally well to quickly remove snow from your windshield.
Info: PIAA Corporation, Dept. FW, 15370 SW Millikan Way, Beaverton, OR 97006, 800/525-7422, www.piaa.com.

Let Your Love Flow

What they are: Synthetic lubricants
Who makes them: Amsoil
What they do: When it's really cold outside, the conventional oils in your truck thicken. When you turn the key to start your engine, bad things are happening because the thickness of said oil is restricting the lubricant's flow to critical engine parts. This lack of lubrication increases the wear on bearings and rings, and this decreases engine life and increases the burden on an already overtaxed starting system. Amsoil says that for really cold weather, only synthetic motor oils offer the kind of performance that allows trucks to start with greater ease and lubricate faster. In fact, Amsoil says that many synthetic oils can flow or pump at temperatures as low as 70 degrees below zero. If you live where it gets colder than that, we suggest you move. Amsoil also offers scores of other lubricants, including free-flowing synthetic gear oil and synthetic grease.
Info: Amsoil, Dept. FW, Amsoil Building, Superior, WI 54880, 715/392-7101, www.amsoil.com.

Unstoppable
What it is: Track drive system
Who makes them: Mattracks Inc.
What it does: If you've drooled over the go-anywhere capability of a Snocat, or for that matter, an Abrams battle tank, Mattracks has just what you're looking for. The company's track-drive system bolts onto your vehicle in as little as 30 minutes and offers you the ability to travel up to 40 mph with an unbelievable traction advantage over rubber tires. They feature 16-inch-wide self-cleaning rubber tracks that remain flexible in the coldest temperatures and provide about 6 feet of surface contact each. With more than 22 square feet of total surface contact, you have a footprint that provides your vehicle with flotation over deep snow, as well as soft terrain. Because of the gear reduction that this product provides, the vehicle's top-end speed is reduced, and although Mattracks are capable of achieving high rates of speed, the company recommends adhering to the aforementioned top speed of 40 mph. Mattracks feature what the company calls its patented rubber torsion anti-torque system and a welded steel frame. They're constructed out of industrial-grade steel, and the frame parts are fabricated at close tolerances using state-of-the-art fabrication equipment. The track road wheels are constructed of UHMW plastic, said to be six times more abrasion-resistant than steel. It also is said to resist chips, cracking and breakage. The road wheels are mounted on steel axles, with 12 seals per wheel to protect the bearings from moisture. An optional Track-Steer Assist accessory kit (hydraulic steering) is an added feature that gives you the ability to steer your tracks when the vehicle is not in motion.
Info: Mattracks Inc., Dept. FW, 202 Cleveland Ave., East Karlstad, MN 56732, 218/436-7000, www.mattracks.com.

Packin' Heat
What it is: Super Heat Magnet
Who makes it: Zerostart
What it does: The Heat Magnet allows you to put heat right where you need it. A heating element is cast into the aluminum plate, and when you plug the unit in, the plate transfers heat to whatever the unit is magnetized to. This method of heat transfer is referred to as thermal conduction. Bear in mind that a heat magnet will not perform as well in some applications as heaters that are specifically designed for those applications. We used one of these during a particularly cold Illinois winter, by sticking it onto our International Scout's oil pan and letting it heat all night as the vehicle sat outside. Even at 10 degrees below zero, it kept the oil warm enough to create much easier starts on the cold winter mornings.
Info: Phillips & Temro Ind., Dept. FW, 9700 W. 74th St., Eden Prairie, MN 55347, 952/941-9700, www.phillipsandtemro.com.

Immersed in Warmth
What it is: Engine block heater
Who makes it: Phillips & Temro Industries
What it does: Immersion heaters, or electric engine-block heaters-as they are commonly known-are standard equipment on new cars sold in The Great White North of Canada, and for good reason. They keep the engine's coolant warm, even in the coldest temperatures. This takes a huge load off the starting system, decreases the wear and tear of cold-weather start-ups, and helps to generate almost instant heat for the passengers. The product operates on the principle of thermal convection. This is the principle in which heat rises and cold descends. Because of this, engine-block heaters are always mounted as low as possible in the car's cooling system, usually in the lower radiator hose or a lowest freeze-plug hole. Immersion heaters are very application-specific, so you have to purchase the model designed for your application. Phillips & Temro offers heaters for hundreds of vehicles. Immersion heaters work remarkably well, but be forewarned, the average wattage of these types of heaters is 400-600, so the current draw is the same as operating six to eight 75-watt lights.
Info: Phillips & Temro Ind., Dept. FW, 9700 W. 74th St., Eden Prairie, MN 55347, 952/941-9700, www.phillipsandtemro.com.

Chain Gang
What it is: Tire chain
Who makes it: Tirechains.com
What it does: Tirechains.com says that installing a set of quality tire chains onto your vehicle can substantially increase traction in snow and ice. They offer several different types, including regular and reinforced diamond chain, alloy square straight link, V-bar, round twisted-link and cable types. While you should call for your specific application, the reinforced-diamond truck chains are the most popular choice for light trucks, and their pattern ensures a smooth drive with less vibration and noise, and maximum traction insures minimal braking distance and skidding. They're available in both a heavy-duty 4.5mm cross-chain for on- and off-highway use (shown) and a type SAE Class "S" for restricted clearance requirements.
Info: Tirechain.com, Dept. FW, 313 Main St., South Fork, PA 15956, 800/417-1314, www.tirechain.com.

Chemical Dependency
What they are: Heater Blows Hotter, Trans Cool, Nitro Power
Who makes them: Pro Blend Motorsports
What they do: Pro Blend offers three products that offer benefits to vehicles used in cold weather. We probably don't have to tell you what Heater Blows Hotter does, but we do feel the need to elaborate. Pro Blend says this cold-climate product is designed to provide a quicker blast of warm air from your vehicle's heater by slowing down the thermal-exchange rate of the cooling system. This forces the coolant to warm up more quickly, thus providing passengers with a welcome surge of warm air. Obviously, you would not want to run this product in your rig's cooling system during warm weather. Trans Cool was originally designed for drag-racing automatic transmissions. It improves shifting and eliminates ATF burning in high-stall-speed converter applications. It may seem odd to add a cooling product to your tranny in winter, but Pro Blend says that folks in northern climates have found that even in the coldest weather, Trans Cool allows automatic transmissions to shift properly and promptly. Nitro Power is a fuel additive designed to help regain the power your engine loses when it gets very cold. Pro Blend says it restores up to 25 hp, improves throttle response and gives tremendous mid-range torque.
Info: Pro Blend Motorsports, Dept. FW, P.O. Box 5854, Winston Salem, NC 27113, 336/723-9404.

Toasty Battery
What it is: Battery warmer
Who makes it: Phillips & Temro Ind.
What it does: Most batteries function best at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. As the temperature drops, so does the battery's output. It is estimated that approximately 30 percent of all batteries recycled yearly are perfectly good. Their owners concluded that they were dead, but they were just too cold to work to expectations. The key to not letting this happen is to install a battery warmer. Phillips & Temro offers three different lengths of blanket-type battery warmers (72-, 36- and 28-inch), and each has a different wattage rating. They are comprised of a layer of fiberglass, or Thinsulate material, to insulate the battery against the surrounding air. On the inside of this insulation layer is a resistance wire, attached to a flexible backing that serpentines around the entire width and length of the blanket. The blanket is covered in a wrapping made of fiberglass reinforced plastic for flexibility and acid resistance.
Info: Phillips & Temro Ind., Dept. FW, 9700 W. 74th St., Eden Prairie, MN 55347, 952/941-9700, www.phillipsandtemro.com.

Hot-Oil Treatment
What it is: Heavy Duty Immersion Style Heaters
Who makes it: Phillips & Temro
What it does: The oil in your transmission and differentials gets very thick when the temps get cold, and this creates flow problems until the oil is warmed up. This translates to wear and tear on internal components. There are several types of immersion-style heaters designed for use in oil or other petroleum-based products, but they are not application-specific like engine-block heaters. Key factors in choosing the right heater for your application include never exceeding 10 watts of power for every quart of oil capacity you wish to keep warm, and using a heater that is the proper length so it is immersed at all times and not contacting any part of the unit you're trying to heat. These types of heaters are designed to be operated when the oil is still hot, never as a heater for cold oil. Doing this results in carbonized or "coked" oil, and this will cause severe damage to the transmission or differential.
Info: Phillips & Temro Ind., Dept. FW, 9700 W. 74th St., Eden Prairie, MN 55347, 952/941-9700, www.phillipsandtemro.com.

Blocked Out
What they are: Cold Front winter grille inserts
Who makes them: Lund Industries
What they do: When it gets really, really cold, many engines can't generate enough heat to reach normal operating temperature. This also means they don't generate much heater output. This is when drivers get creative with cardboard in an attempt to decrease airflow to the radiator and engine compartment. A more effective and better looking way to accomplish this goal is to install either the stainless steel or plastic Lund Cold Front winter grille insert. The stainless insert (shown) is made of 304 stainless steel, and it has black plastic edging to protect the grille from scratches, while the plastic insert offers the popular blackout look. Both styles offer easy no-drill installation and are custom-designed for each model of vehicle.
Info: Lund Ind., Dept. FW, 911 Lund Blvd., Anoka, MN 55303, 800/328-5863, www.lundinternational.com.

Greenhouse Effect
What it is: Interior warmer
Who makes it: Phillips & Temro
What it does: There's nothing worse than getting into an ice-cold car on a frigid morning. With the Interior Warmer you don't have to. This heater operates on 120-volt AC power and generates heat, which is circulated by an integral fan. The heater will operate continuously until power is removed, and depending on the size of the vehicle, outside temperature, wind velocity and amount of time the heater was activated, will keep the interior warm enough to keep snow, frost and ice off the windows. As a bonus, it keeps the vehicles interior drier and reduces cold weather damage to fabrics, plastics and vinyls.
Info: Phillips & Temro Ind., Dept. FW, 9700 W. 74th St., Eden Prairie, MN 55347, 952/941-9700, www.phillipsandtemro.com.

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