Seasonal changes affect how mechanized machinery works— temperature drops and increased moisture influence the inner workings and general functionality of vehicles as well.
This is especially true of vehicles left uncovered and exposed to extended periods of frigid temperatures and wet weather.
The double punch that winter delivers to cars can cause all kinds of problems for car owners. These problems also tend to get very expensive. We have included a general winterizing guide as a helpful resource to help car owners possibly avoid some of the problems that preventive maintenance can address.
Engines are susceptible to damage during severe cold, especially at startup. Internal engine metal gets extremely cold, and the oil thickens. Thickened, cold oil cannot deliver immediate, adequate lubrication protection for these internal parts.
To help alleviate this problem, use temperature-appropriate engine oil for your particular car make and model. Your Owner’s Manual can provide the correct viscosity for your engine’s winter oil.
If you do not have a manual, you can search your car on the internet, or your car technician can give you guidance here. The point here is to change your oil from a seasonal perspective. Use the seasonally required oil for maximum protection during cold months.
Another helpful engine protection tip is to not rev your engine on those cold morning starts after the car has been sitting overnight. With current ignition technology, it is not necessary to give your car an extended warm-up period. However, it is a good idea to give it more warm-up time during the colder months.
Engine oil is not the only fluid to adjust for cold months. Engine coolant should be tested and changed if testing reveals that the protective properties are compromised. Do not attempt to get through a severely cold winter with only water in the radiator— your engine needs the added protection only engine coolant gives.
Driving in ice and snow is going to require frequent braking, especially in heavy traffic. Check and test brake fluid. Replace it if needed. Ditto for power steering fluid. Also have your brakes checked at each wheel.
As inconsequential as it may seem, check and refill the windshield washer fluid container. Make sure the washer itself is working properly. Also, check the wipers for signs of wear. Feel them for hardness or cracks, and check your windshield for streaks when they are operated.
Test the washer mechanism for good, strong flow when pressing the washer function. Vision is frequently impaired while driving during stormy winter months. This makes a windshield washer even more critical for a clear, clean windshield.
The engine is dependent upon belts to drive the engine and hoses deliver vital fluids to assure that the engine receives these essential fluids.
Check the engine belts for signs of fraying, splits or cracks, or unusual looseness. The components used to make belts also get very hard during extended periods of cold weather. This hardening makes them more vulnerable to breakage.
Speaking of belts, check your current mileage and compare it to the recommended mileage interval for timing belt or serpentine belt change.
Different cars recommend this important service at different intervals, around 60 to 75,000 miles. This is a belt service you do not want to discover too late that you needed. When it breaks, the car stops, and it will not restart.
Car tires are another too-often overlooked maintenance detail. Most drivers limit their tire service to glancing to make sure all four are inflated before driving off. This is the kind of negligence that can come back to catch you when you least expect it.
During winter, tires lose air pressure as the weather gets colder. Continuing to drive on under-inflated tires can cause handling issues, especially in ice and snow. Additionally, under inflation causes premature and uneven tire wear. This wear ultimately shortens the life of tires.
Even the exterior should be winterized. Sleet, ice and snow are damaging to car paint finishes. If your car is parked outside and uncovered during these months, the damage can accumulate.
To help shield your car finish against such damage, apply a fresh coat of wax. Simply follow the directions on the can to add this layer of paint protection. Apply protection product to vinyl and trim as well.
If you are one of those car owners who use the garage to store everything but the car, consider changing that.
One of the best winter protections to give cars is housing them. Whether the garage is heated or not, parking the car inside still gets it out of the direct cold. Cold wind for sustained periods is one of the worst kinds of cold to expose a car to.
Everyone hopes this does not happen, but should the car completely stop working on an abandoned or isolated road, be prepared. Remember that timing belt mentioned earlier?
During winter months, store a cold protection kit in the car. Include a blanket, flashlight, or even some food and water if you live in remote areas of the country.
Following the winterizing tips above can help get both you and your car through severe winters— neglecting to do them can potentially be disastrous.