Tips for Preparing and Driving your Porsche in the Winter

When most people think about winterizing their Porsche, it’s usually with the intent to store the car for some period of time and avoid driving it through cold and winter like weather. What about those of you who drive your cars through the winter? No, I’m not talking about all you lucky Porsche owners that live in temperate climates where the idea of winterizing your car is turning off the air-conditioning and making sure the windows still roll down. This is for those of you who either choose to drive your Porsche through the cold, rain, sleet, snow and salt for your perverted enjoyment and/or out of necessity as your daily driver.

Can I Drive My Porsche in the Winter

Contrary to popular belief many Porsches, especially the 911 models, makes great winter drivers if prepared and outfitted properly. Due to the rear-engine design of the 911, a considerable amount of weight sits on or behind the rear wheels. Combine this significant grip creating weight with proper winter driving tires and your Porsche will handle as well, if not better, than most family sedans. If you’re fortunate enough to have an all-wheel drive model (no, I’m not talking about the Cayenne), then the grip is nothing short of legendary.

One of the most common misconceptions about driving your Porsche in the winter, especially over salty roads, is that it will harm your finish and reduce the life-span of your car. The fact is, Porsches are fully galvanized and have been since 1976. As a result, they are resistant to salt and rust and with a little preventative maintenance it’s easy to drive your Porsche in inclement weather and still experience years and years of rust free enjoyment. For those cars built prior to rust-proofing, you’re out of luck and for sake of preservation it’s best to put them away for winter storage using the proper techniques.

Tips for Preparing and Maintaining your Porsche for Winter Driving

  • Buy Snow Tires for Your Porsche: This is probably the most important aspect of preparing your Porsche for winter. All season tires are great if you live in a temperate climate. However, if you’re going to face any snow at all I strongly recommend you get a dedicated snow tire. In fact, the best solution is to get a second set of wheels and tires specifically for winter driving. The benefit here is you don’t damage your nice Porsche wheels from big winter potholes, hidden curbs and the stress of changing tires before and after each season. In addition, it makes storage and mounting much faster, easier and cheaper in the long run. I recommend shopping for winter tires at Tire Rack. They have a long list of Porsche approved winter tires, are competitively priced and provide the easy ability to buy a combination tire and wheel set.
  • Check Your Fluids: Do you drive an air-cooled (oil-cooled) Porsche? If so, you might consider changing your oil to a thinner viscosity for the duration of your cold weather driving. Low viscosity motor oils that pour easily at low temperatures typically have a "5W" or "10W" rating. There are also 15W and 20W grade motor oils. This page offers some good basic information on oil-viscosity. If you drive one of the newer water-pumpers (996, 986, 977, etc.) be sure to check your coolant level and condition. Consideration should be given to the quality and amount of coolant currently in the system. If possible, you might want to take the opportunity to have the coolant system flushed, cleaned and refilled with fresh anti-freeze. Lastly, don’t forget that all important windshield washer fluid. There’s nothing worse then getting caught behind an SUV or big truck kicking up that “salt-mist” and trying to scrape it off the windshield with dry wipers as you listen to your washer motor pump away against an empty reservoir.
  • Don’t neglect the body: Just because your Porsche is rust proofed, doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to help provide even better protection. A good thorough cleaning for your Porsche, prior to the winter weather, is a must. Be sure to put a good quality wax on the car before the bad weather starts. This added layer of protection will make it easier to rinse the accumulated dirt, dust and salt away during and after the winter weather. If you want to take things a step further, you can even put a coat of wax on your wheels for even more protection.
  • Avoid pressure washing: I know it’s tempting to use those high-pressure washers to clean the salt and sand off your car over the winter (especially the touch free drive through) but if possible, it’s best to avoid them. Why? Simple. Instead of rinsing the salt gently from your cars finish, those high-pressure systems can actually drive the salt deep into places you don’t want it and possibly accelerate or start the corrosion problem (not to mention it will more quickly strip off your nice pre-winter wax job). A better solution (if you have the time and facilities) is to simply rinse with a garden hose or use the low pressure setting on the do it yourself type of car wash.
  • Check tire pressures monthly:Tire pressure can change by one (1) psi for every 10 degree farenheit change in temperature (use manufacturer-recommended pressure). I live in the North East which experiences huge temperature swings and I'm constantly check my tire pressure. A good Porsche tire gauge with case is a must!

Besides preparing your Porsche for winter, what about actually driving it in the winter? Porsche offers a number of different winter driving schools and they look like a lot of fun. The tips below are mostly common sense, but we all know not every driver is blessed with this quality. :-)

Winter Driving Tips Straight from the Porsche Camp4 Colorado Driving School

  • Cars respond more slowly on slippery surfaces. Always wait a moment after steering, braking, or accelerating to see how the car behaves before giving it more input.
  • Visibility is greatly reduced in bad weather. Make sure you can see clearly, and turn on your headlights.
  • Brake carefully and accelerate more gently.
  • Get the car pointed where you want to go before getting on the gas.
  • Be aware of reduced grip.
  • Take corners at lower speeds.
  • Brake sooner and longer than on dry surfaces.
  • Apex later.
  • Look for fresh snow - it provides more grip.
  • Avoid icy ruts.
  • Look farther ahead. So many of us keep our eyes glued to the back of the car in front of us. The car goes where you look, so get those eyes up and anticipate your next move!

Lastly, if you do happen to drive an all-wheel drive Porsche, be it a 911 or a Cayenne, please, please remember that all-wheel drive does not make you invincible. Yes, you may have slightly better grip and you might be able to accelerate faster, but you sure as hell can't stop any faster. Keep this in mind when you're on the highway driving a good 15 to 20mph faster than everyone else around you.

Do you drive your Porsche in winter conditions? If so, I would love to hear from you. Do you prepare your Porsche differently? Are there things I missed and can add to the the list?

Related Posts
4 Steps to Prepare you Porsche for Winter Storage
Tire Choices for your Porsche
Drifting a Porsche Carrera GT in the Alps


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19 Comments

  1. E. Gueft says

    Appreciate the winter driving tips. I drive an ’88 944 automatic year round. This winter we seem to be on the road during every storm. Remember to use 1st and 2d gears as appropriate on snowy/icy inclines and hills-stay slow and steady-avoid using brakes and keep a light hand on the steering wheel. I find my little car (over 155,000 miles) gets up and down better than new cars and SUVs. Of course, make sure you have a top mechanic (Rennwerke) and keep an eye on your fluids!

  2. Rathna says

    These are real useful tips.Its totally a new information for me.I’ve bookmarked the post and I am sure these tips will help anybody who reads for Driving there Porsche in the Winter.

  3. Phil says

    One thing you left out – when driving stick sometimes it’s better to start out in second gear instead of first for a slower acceleration on the ice. Other than that, great article and great tips. I recently bought a cayman S and live in colorado springs, CO. I will be using alot of your winter tips.

    • 993C4S says

      @Phil,

      Congrats on the new purchase. I haven’t spent a ton of seat time in the Cayman yet, but the time I have had I’ve enjoyed!!

      I’m glad you found the post helpful. I considered your idea for the list and the only reason I left it out is the fear of recommending something that could potentially damage the clutch with repeated use. Have you used this technique in other cars? Any clutch issues as a result?

  4. Andrew says

    One thing about snow tires that some people forget is that when you’re shopping for them, you don’t want to purchase snow tires that are the same size as your summer tires — snow tires shouldn’t be as wide as your race rubber or summer tires because the skinnier tires have more weight per square inch on the contact patch. This makes them sink through the slush and crap and gives you better grip in wet conditions. For instance, my car runs 225/50/15 racing rubber in the summer, but in the winter my Nokian snow tires are 215/65/15 — If there’s an error in my logic, someone step in and correct me, but I’ve gone through five winters now and haven’t gotten stuck or in a wreck yet – and I actually make it a point to go driving when the weather is bad!

  5. neil says

    Good article. I’ve driven my Boxster for 5 Winters and have enjoyed it every bit. I run Dunlop snow tires from Tire Rack. I thought I’d be alone on the road but in the airport parking garage I have plenty of company from other Porsche drivers who enjoy the “drifting” opportunity Winter offers.

  6. Jane says

    you mention .. “reduce your insurance coverages. Specifically, remove all the liability coverage (as you won’t be driving) and reduce your other coverages to the state required minimums. Depending no where you live and the type of coverage you have on your Porsche this could save you anywhere from $50 to $500 a year in insurance costs. ”

    i have my ’44 insured to the hilt.. full glass, full collision, full liability, property damage.. you name it… it costs me $875. every six months.. this is a weekend car.. the cost is the same as my daily driver honda accord.. i just dont get that.

    i hear some folks say i can get collectors insurance on the (1988) ’44… any suggestions on who offers this? and in the case i keep my current policy (allstate), what option should i drop? i will semi-hybernate the car, as i may be doning some upgrades to it and will need to get it to the shop…. i hate paying thru the nose for insurance and i dont think the highschool kids in the office know what the heck they are talking about.. they are simply ‘order takers’…

  7. 993C4S says

    @Jane,

    Each state is different as to what is considered a “classic” and what isn’t. Hagerty also offers I use Hagerty Classic Car insurance (they are one of the biggest http://www.hagerty.com). Your rates sound similar to what we pay here in MA. If you qualify, you should see considerable savings. If you don’t yet qualify (your car may need to be 25 years old) as a classic, they also offer a class called “exotics and special interests”. Your 944 may qualify for this. Check out their web-site or give ’em a call, you might just save a few $$$$

    As for what you should drop, that’s tough if you’re still going to have the car on the road. I’m not an insurance agent, so I can’t say for sure. However, my agency is quite responsive. As a result, what I’ve done in the past is to call them and have them drop 100% of the liability (NEVER DRIVE THE CAR WITHOUT THIS INSURANCE IN PLACE) and lower the remaining coverages to the minimum. We call this the “winter policy”. Then, whenever I wanted to drive the car I would simply call them and tell them to bring it back to the “summer state” of full coverage. The only thing I ask for is an email confirming our discussion and that the insurance is in place. This approach might take a little extra work on your part (turning the insurance on and off), but given your insurance costs the savings could be substantial if you’re only going to drive it to the shop a few times!!!

  8. Gary says

    I drive my porsche year round since my first 1984 928 to my current 2008 C4S. My last two have been all wheel drive, because I drive more and I am older (wiser?). Less prone to adventure on the roadways. All wheel drive is more fun in the winter (I live in Minnesota), less likely to bring the rear end around. I think you covered everything very well. Two suggestions: get the best set of snow tires and turn off the PSM when on ice. Maybe one more item: get away from idiots “FAST”.

  9. Bruce says

    Coming up on my sixth winter with my Cayman S.
    Just go a little easier in everything… Accelerating, steering, braking.

    And watch out for the guys in 4×4 pick-ups who feel they just have to beat you on the slippery roads to make a point. Almost got taken out by one on a freshly-bladed multi-lane highway bridge near home. He went sideways and almost over the edge into the river (a 100-foot drop). I just kept steady throttle to inch away from him as he spun.

    If you’re a motorcycle rider you know what “space cushion” means. I make mine a lot larger when winter driving my Porsche.

  10. 993C4S says

    @Bruce,

    We were curious how the mid-engine cars did. Do you put winter tires on? What about wheels?

    I love the guys in the 4x4s. Just because you have slightly better traction at speed and in turns doesn’t mean you can stop any faster… :-)

  11. Bruce says

    Yes – Michelin Pilot Alpins. I put them on the OEM Cayman S rims (18 inch) that car came with. Bought a different set of rims + tires for summer.

    There is lots of traction in snow, after adjusting for wheel spin and a little slip to the right in first gear. PSM kicks in and the car gets going.

    I started winter driving the Cayman S because my leased X3 wouldn’t start below -20 Celsius! A little nervous at first, and my co-workers thought I was crazy. Some of them now drive 996 C4’s as winter beaters.

  12. Ray Vanderhulst says

    Your tips are all good, but the most important one is definitely snow tires. I once tried to drive my car (’07 Carrera coupe) in snow on the standard tires, just to see how bad is was. Belive me, it is downright dangerous. The oem tires (Michelin PS2) might as well have been coated with grease as that is about the amount of traction they provided. If you value your Porsche, don’t even think about driving in the snow without proper tires.

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