I need some help from some one who has actually driven the Alcan north to valdez in January. What are the proper tires. do I have to have studs or just good snow tires. What tips do you have for winterizing a 97 Lexus 450
Other than changing to cold weather oil and possibly synthetic gear oil you should be fine as far as vehicle perparation goes. Don't forget a very good battery, this is where you're going to need all those CCA's. A shovel, tire chains, and cold weather survival stuff.
I live in Yukon, about 1000 km or so from Valdez. The Alaska Highway is usually well maintained but can be very icy, I mean hard packed snow that turned frozen solid. They put some sand and gravel and that's it. January is the coldest month, especially the end of the month. We had a week long ice fog in Whitehorse last winter at -46 degrees. Unless you want to risk crakcing all your hoses and seals you stay home...
I didn't even try to start my trucks last winter at that temperature. I eventually had to so I plugged it and it took 8 hours before I could start it and it was warm enough.
Things you need : oil pan heater, block heater AND battery heater. All hotels up here offer plug-ins for guest vehicles. If you have to stop overnight somewhere you don't have power to plug it, take your battery with you. Make sure your cooling system is in perfect condition and rated to -50, check all your fluids and change for the coldest temperature stuff you can find (synth of course).
If you can plug it every night than you shouldn't have a problem to start in the morning. you don't need chains, but you need good winter tires, studded is recommended if you drive off the main roads. Everything is icy here in winter.
Good luck ....don't get cable get a set of high quality diamond shape chains. Years ago I was trying to get up a fairly steep hill in the snow with cable chains on. I was there for about 30 minutes then out of desperation I took off the cable and I went right up.
The Blizzak DM-Z3 features a directional tread design to help maintain good traction on wet and slush-covered roads while its zigzag sipes and independent tread blocks provide the edges to help bite through snow. It also features Bridgestone's Link Multicell Compound which is glass fiber reinforced to enhance vehicle stability on dry roads while it helps disperse water to reduce the risk of slipping on the thin surface film of water that makes ice so dangerous.
If you don't want to use studs check out this tire--it is great for compact snow and ice driving. They provide excellent grip and stopping on ice. By the way your trip sounds like fun
As stated above get real chains for all 4 tires--last year costco had a nice set.
I'm not saying this because I sell the stuff, but get some protection on all forward facing lights and bring a spare coupla bulbs. It's pretty dark up there for a month or so, and I've heard the flying gravel with no center divider eats a lot of lenses and windshields. Might also consider some kind of strategy for covering your grille/radiator against this and also because it's a common way to help the engine operate at proper temp at extreme low temps.
Also, true winter washer fluid and run the rear until you've displaced any summer stuff, and real winter wipers with the full rubber boot as well as a spare. Spray the door/hatch seals with silicone so they don't freeze shut. Locks with graphite. Run a couple bottles of HEET through as this would not be a good time to find out you've got some water lurking in your tank/lines. Bleed brakes for the same reason (inc. LSPV valve) - frozen calipers suck. Don't operate windows at cold temps unless required.
Do a bit of research as cold weather does some funky things when it's as cold as you're going to find. There used to be a guy on the 80sCool list who was from some Siberian area and had several 80s. He knew all the vulnerable items on the 80 and his stories about extreme cold were interesting. Never put his parking brake on, etc.
Just to add to IdahoDoug's comment. You may really want to consider getting 2 or 4 large Hella Driving lights to make driving more comfortable in the dark, lessen fatigue and have adaquate time to avoid the animals that wander onto the road (remember packed snow/ice mean very long stops, no quick turns, and because of the distances relatively high speeds (60-70mph)).
MOST IMPORTANT: Make sure you have food, clothing, sleeping bags, etc., to take care of yourself for 48-72 hours with no heat in -50f weather. If you break down, it can take a long time for someone to come along and help. YOU MUST BE SELF SUFFICIENT IN THE EVENT YOU BREAK DOWN OR CRASH.
If possible travel in a caravan with a second and even third vehicle. If you have an incident, you have help, a way to get pulled out of a snowbank, or a ride to safety.
As the others said, vehicle prep is important. Change all fluids to synths (0w-30 engine oil), M1 ATF, M1 Gear lubes, new ATF in the power steering, flush coolant and put in max allowed for low temps (generally 70/30). Is your battery new? If it is more than 1 year old, replace it. The radiator blanket is great to have to get operating temps up so you have some heat from the heater.
Finally, as others have stated, snow tires are manditory. The different compounding, tread, and additional siping, of dedicated snow tires makes them handle much differently. A dedicated snow tire will allow you to maintain/recover control of the vehicle long after you are beyond help on an A/T or mud tire. Check out the Scandinavian brands of snow tires.
You might want to provide a few more details - like how much experience you have in this kind of weather, etc. The reason I mention this is that when I first noticed your post I thought - if you have to ask, you may not want to go on this kind of trip.
I drove my LC (60) in the Arctic for five years and learned a lot about the problems with winter driving in very cold temperatures (eg -40 and colder). You need to think about a lot more than fluids and tires - all the heaters noted above are critical. In remote areas, you also need a way to warm the truck without power (we used to carry a 'tiger torch' and stove pipe to warm the engine, oil and battery). Be prepared to have all of your belts fail as well - potentially the same with your hoses, power steering pump, etc. I went on numerous caribou hunts over the years and something on one of the vehicles or snowmachines would always break. The point is that these kinds of conditions are very hard on vehicles (although these were all on 'ice roads' vs the highway)
As others have noted, ideally you should have a number of trucks with you - big safety in numbers. My wife and I spun-out and off the road on one of the highways in the NWT when it was colder than -45 and ~2AM. We put on our emergency gear and had to wait for a tanker to pull us out. You will absolutely need proper winter gear and not the cheap stuff. Boots - like the army duffle style, high end winter bags, thermarests, good down coats, etc. Even after years of winter camping, I did a trip two years ago when it hit -35C - I had forgotten what it was like to sleep in a tent in that temp!
If you really want to do this and are serious, a number of my friends did a long trip to Yukon last winter to do the Dempster highway and I could connect you to them for tips. They were well prepared (including HF radio, sat phone and 5 trucks IIRC and a boatload of spares to cover most of the major components).
Now, after all that - winter in the North is amazing - you will love it if you go. If you've done this all before, experienced winter camping, going with lots of trucks...then have a great time!!
I didn't get my 80 until after I moved out of Minnesota, but I did have a 4runner in some fairly cold weather. This was a 1990 with about 160,000 miles. I used synthetic oil in the engine, but everyhing else was dino stuff. Never really had any problems with it in the winter. Use the yellow washer fluid and put armor all or somethign on the window seals. That's about all I ever did and I never had a problem starting it in temperatures from -25 to -40 F.
The worst I was in was -55 F with a 91 Audi station wagon. Had to get a jump 'casue the battery was dead, but it ran fine after that.
Definatley bring winter survival gear. Every year people die from trying to walk relativelty short distances in weather that isn't all that cold (0 to -15 F) I ALWAYS have a space blanket, three days of food and water, and a first aid kit. In the winter, I'll bring appropriate clothes as well. Road flares can pull double duty as a good fire starter too.