23/07/2024

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Winter Car Care – Safe Winter Driving Starts with Proper Car Preparation

5 min read
Winter Car Care – Safe Winter Driving Starts with Proper Car Preparation

As winter takes hold, keeping your car in proper running order becomes a challenge. It does not have to be that way! Here are a few tips that can turn the tables on old man winter and make winter motoring easier for you and your family.

Install winter radials. This tip should be considered first and foremost. If you do not use winter radials, you have no idea how difficult you are making life for yourself. Once installed, the difference is not nuanced, it is MASSIVE. Modern day winter radials use very sophisticated rubber compounds and tread patterns which are a “no-compromise” solution to ice and snow. All-season radials, on the other hand are an enormous compromise which makes them a 30% winter tire at best. The rubber compound in all-season radials has to be hard enough to survive those summer days where the road surface is scorching hot. Once temperatures dip well below freezing, your all-season tread compound is frozen solid and essentially useless on ice and snow. How good are winter radials? My wife’s front-wheel drive sedan is equipped with winter radials. It will out accelerate, out handle and definitely out brake my four-wheel drive pick up with all-terrain tires in almost all winter driving situations. Many of you may be concerned about the price of winter tires, but consider a couple of things. Firstly, what is the cost of an accident? It sounds clichéd, but can you put a price on that? I firmly believe that if most motorists used winter tires, thousands of accidents could be prevented every year. Secondly, these tires will last many seasons and your summer tires will be left idle for a large portion of the year. After the initial cost, you will not have to replace tires nearly as often. You then have optimum traction year-round. Have you been thinking of trading your van or car for an SUV? Try this solution first! You may find that your car rules the road with winter radials. If you have an SUV, consider adding these for much better braking and control. I am not going to endorse any particular brand, but I will offer one bit of advice. When it comes to tires of any type, cheaper is not better. Buy the best you can afford and you will be rewarded with better handling and longer tread life. Do not forget to check tire pressures regularly. As the mercury dips, so does your tire pressure. At -30F you can spot dozens of motorist driving around with half inflated tires.

Install synthetic oil throughout your vehicle. Because of its wax content, conventional motor oil starts to solidify as temperatures dip below 0F. Many synthetic 5W-30 motor oils will still flow down to -55F! This is vital when you crank your engine at -30F. It can take up to 2 minutes for conventional oil to travel up to your cam bearings at these temperatures. Ouch! In those situations where your battery can barely muster the power to crank over the engine, synthetic motor oil can be the difference between getting on your way or being left stranded. Synthetic automatic and manual transmission fluids will also flow to extremely low temps compared to conventional lubes. At about -35F, conventional ATF’s have reached their pour point limits, while many synthetic transmissions fluids flow down below -60F. Synthetic manual transmission fluids are functional below -40F, where conventional fluids are solid by -15F. Simply put, you will experience easier shifting and much longer component life. Let’s not forget about your differentials. Conventional gear lubes solidify in extreme cold. This means that when you venture out, the gears in your differential are cutting a path through a solid block of what is supposed to be oil. Synthetic gear oils stay fluid to provide proper lubrication and improved efficiency. If your power steering pump can use automatic transmission fluid (check your manual), replace the conventional fluid with a synthetic ATF and eliminate that dry “whine” noise that your power steering pump makes after a cold start up. If your vehicle requires a specialized power steering fluid, determine if the original product can be replaced with a synthetic option. To sum up, synthetics will deliver easier starts, much better winter operation, longer component life and maybe even a little better fuel economy. You will also appreciate the switch over to synthetics during the hot summer months as synthetic lubricants combat high heat every bit as well as they improve performance in the winter.

Have your antifreeze tested by a qualified shop on an annual basis. The additives in antifreeze can deplete over time and a simple analysis can identify this. Avoid the risk of overheating, freeze-ups and cooling system corrosion.

Make sure that your battery and block heater are functioning properly. If you suspect that your battery is not offering enough cranking power, check to see if the posts and connections are corroded. If they are clean, then have the battery tested by a shop. Find the source of the problem and simply never tolerate a weak battery. As for the block heater, if you cannot hear it working, it probably is not. In most vehicles, you should be able to hear it percolating away. In many cases, replacing the male plug end on the block heater cord will solve the problem. If not, most any shop should be able to solve the problem.

Yellowed and oxidized plastic headlight lenses can be repaired. Winter brings less daylight hours and more inclement weather. You depend on your headlights every day, but as your car ages, some headlight lenses can take on a cloudy, yellowed appearance which can hinder their performance. I used to believe that the solution was to replace the whole headlight, but that is not always the case. This scourge is generally only on the surface and can often be removed. There are a number of specialized kits available for this problem, but I have had some success by polishing the lens with some chrome or metal polishes that are available everywhere. It takes several applications and a lot of buffing, but the results are worth it. Some people have had good luck with polishing compounds and buffing wheels. There are specialized plastic polishes out there as well. Do a search on “polishing plastic headlights” for more info. It can be helpful to simply remove the whole headlight housing and work inside. Before jumping headlong into this project, try working on a small corner of the light to make sure that you are not doing any damage to the lens.

Regularly apply windshield water repellent to your windshield. There are a number of different variations of these products on the market. Frost and ice will scrape off your windshield like butter and slushy splashes will be repelled instantly. Also if your wiper blades are chattering and doing a poor job, replace them immediately with a new set. Fresh blades are always a treat in poor weather.

I hope that these tips are helpful in removing some of the frustration of winter motoring and hopefully makes your travels a little safer this winter.

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