11 Car Features To Help Keep You Warm During Winter
When your car is your last bastion of warmth, which features are best to have?by Andrei Nedelea, on
Winter is a season some find magical and quite whimsical, but the fact of the matter is low temperatures are not comfortable for anybody, even those who declare themselves wholehearted lovers of this time of year. And cars nowadays are adding more and more temperature comfort features to keep as many parts of your body as warm as possible - this is definitely a positive development in the industry.
On top of this, while in the past such features were the reserve of high-end luxury cars, today you can get quite fancy features on a regular city car not designed to be anything special. These features are becoming more and more important to buyers since some manufacturers seem to have no trouble adding them to all their cars, while others still consider some features are best reserved for vehicles higher up in their range.
Once you’ve experienced these features, which we’ve assembled into a list below, you’ll wonder how you lived without them all those years before; here’s our pick of the ten desirable automotive features to keep you warm in winter.
You may not have seen a heated windscreen before in a car, because it’s not all that common a feature, but it works pretty much like the rear screen defogger and defroster.
The only difference is the fact that for the windscreen, you can’t have visible lines distracting you right in your field of view, so very fine, almost invisible wires are used.
You can still see them, but they are arranged vertically, not horizontally as they usually are for the rear screen, and they are really useful because they spare you from having to scrape the ice buildup the screen. You can just do some basic cleaning of the side windows, then you can just sit inside the car, press some buttons, get warmed up and wait for the ice to melt, a process which is even quicker if you have the next feature on the list.
Heated windscreen wipers
Manufacturers don’t usually offer these from the factory on any new car that I was able to find, but there is a wide variety of aftermarket solutions which promise an easy install and immediate results. These systems are very simple and essentially comprised of a pair of wipers that have a heating element embedded in them, and when you purchase the kit, you are also given a power module that you need to hook up to the battery.
This style of wiper usually works automatically, if temperatures dip below a certain threshold, but only when the ignition is on.
They are not particularly expensive, and if you are fed up with having to scrape ice off your windscreen every morning, it’s definitely a quick and easy mod that’s surprisingly effective. Although, when you do install them, you really need to spend a bit of time to make sure the wiring is properly connected and routed around the engine compartment.
Heated windscreen washer nozzles
Unlike heated wiper blades, heated windscreen washer nozzles are a feature you may see fitted on cars from the factory.
They don’t really heat up the liquid as it’s squirted onto the screen, as you might think, and their sole purpose is to not freeze up and prevent the flow of that good blue stuff.
You can fit aftermarket ones to your car, and they’re not a very difficult install, since they are usually very easy to take out. Just like with the heated wiper blades, the trickiest part is doing the wiring and making sure it’s clean and safe so that it doesn’t ruin your clean looking engine compartment.
Heated side mirrors
Most cars have heated side mirrors that usually turn on along with the rear defroster. Some cars have separate buttons for you to only turn on mirror heating, but most don’t. As you may imagine, the heating elements they have embedded prevent them from fogging up and also help melt ice.
The ice melting part is more important here, because oftentimes during winter you can’t get at the ice that builds up on the mirror.
The scraper is either too big, or the mirror itself is a bit of an awkward shape to get at, and you end up driving around with only partly cleared mirrors because you couldn’t reach ice in the corners or around the edge.
Heated steering wheel
Only luxury cars sold in cold climates used to have heated steering wheels, but nowadays you can get one in a Kia Rio supermini. Granted, Kia (and Hyundai) is a bit ahead of the curve when it comes to democratizing some of these luxury features and adding them to as many of their vehicles as possible.
Now you may think that having a heated steering wheel isn’t as important as seeing out of the windscreen or in the mirrors, and actually, you’re right; it’s not.
However, if you’ve ever put your bare hand (with no mitts on) on a freezing cold steering wheel and compare that feeling to grabbing onto a nice toasty leather-wrapped helm - you will understand why so many people want this feature in their car and why it’s really growing in popularity.
Heated seats are probably the most common heated feature on this list and for good reason - they make all the difference on those freezing mornings when you start up the car and the engine is way too cold for the heater to work. In this instance, the seats that warm up in a matter of seconds are really nice and effective (in most cars, that is).
It seems that their strength varies from car to car, as does the speed with which they heat up on a cold day.
In some cars, they heat up quickly but don’t heat up that much, while in other cars they heat up more slowly, but build up to what feels like a much higher temperature. In some cars, you have two or three strength settings, and while you may start on the highest setting, you wind it down as it warms up. Otherwise, it ends up being uncomfortably hot.
Most cars that offer heated seats only have the feature available for front occupants; a heated back seat is far less common in mainstream cars (and a bit more common in luxury cars), but just like rear climate controls (which again were reserved only for luxury cars) they are appearing in more and more regular cars.
You won’t see heated armrests in a Kia Rio, though. These are genuinely only available in high-priced luxury cars, and even those will not offer it as standard. But if they are fitted to a car that already has a heated wheel and heated seats, then they really complete the experience and turn your car into a bit of a mini-spa.
Just like all other interior heated elements, you activate armrest heating by hitting a button, and there is often more than one heat setting.
Some cars only have the center armrest heat up, but the most luxurious ones of them all also have heated armrests on the front doors.
The only car that I know of with rear armrest heating is the Rolls Royce Phantom, and that only has it on the door armrests, not the center one. The Phantom even has the lower part of the C-pillar warmed too, so you’re essentially cocooned by heated surfaces in one of those, even in the back.
Heated (and cooled) cupholders
What do you do when you want to keep your take-away tea warm in your car in winter? Well, you spec your car with heated (and usually also cooled) cupholders.
These are obviously not only useful in winter when they warm your beverage, but also in summer when they use the air-con to keep it cool.
Some manufacturers have these heated and cooled cupholders illuminated, to let people know something is going on down there. It’s definitely a straightforward system that does what it’s supposed to, although it’s probably one of the least common out of all mentioned on this list.
The easiest way to get your car warmed up in winter is to have it start sometime before you are ready to start driving. This feature allows owners to preprogram a time for the car to start its engine, enough time for it to already be nice and tasty inside by the time you get to it.
And if the car is warm you will be more comfortable inside, it will be easier to de-ice, and you will also be able to exploit the engine more since it already warmed up.
This feature is fairly common now, and it shouldn’t be confused with an auxiliary heater - it’s essentially just a timer telling the engine to start. But it may become increasingly common in the future as more and more all-electric vehicles are sold. EVs use a ridiculous amount of energy when operating outside their ideal temperature, so with this type of vehicle, it’s even more important to have it warm by the time you start, not only for your personal comfort inside but also for the extra driving range you gain.
And since EVs are growing in popularity, more and more people will be pre-programing their cars to be warmed up and ready. This adds another benefit that the electric car starts warming itself up while still being plugged in and charging, thus really maximizing driving range in winter (when batteries can lose between 30 to 50 percent of their warm weather capacity).
Auxiliary heating (also called “block heater”)
Block heaters have a very self-explanatory name - they essentially heat the core of the engine, the engine block through an electric heating element embedded in the block itself. But these systems don’t usually draw current from the battery (not something you want to do in winter, really), so instead, they are charged through an external cord plugged into a regular outlet.
They keep the engine block warm throughout the night, when temperatures often plummet, all in order to help the engine start in the morning.
The colder the climate, the more common these are because, in some parts of the world, you would not be able to get the engine to turn over without one.
Neck warmer (Airscarf)
Mercedes patented what it calls Airscarf for its drop-top cars in the 1990s, and now you can have it on any of its convertibles.
It is essentially an outlet for the car’s heating system that blows warm air on the back of your neck and head in order to keep that part of your body warm and, in theory, allowing for top-down motoring in the dead of winter.
Nowadays some other manufacturers offer similar systems, so you won’t only find in in Mercedes vehicles, which is really welcome news, because if you’ve ever been in a convertible that has it and it was even just a bit chilly out, you’ll know just by how much they boost comfort.