Winter can be harsh with frigid temperatures; snow ice and freezing rain and dreary skies. Just as we must take precautions to remain safe during the winter weather, your car needs the same attention.
“Peace of mind is important, especially in the winter. After all, none of us want to be stranded out in the cold,” said Doug Feltz, who is an automotive technician at the SVG Auto Clinic of SVG Motors. “Regular maintenance is especially vital for your car in colder months.”
Check Your Battery
When the mercury plummets, your vehicle’s battery is especially impacted. Cold temperatures reduce its cranking power. For example, when the temperature is 0° F, a battery only has around half the cranking power it has at 80° F.
If the battery is more than three years old and shows signs of weakness, replace it with a reputable model.
A tired battery may just need charged. You can have the battery professionally tested at a service station, auto parts store or repair shop. If it is defective or worn out, it’s best to replace it before it goes completely dead, especially in the winter months.
Change Your Oil and Check the Hoses
Cold weather beats up your engine. Motor oil thickens when cold, making it harder for the engine to turn over. Ideally, you should use multi-viscosity oil that has a “W” in the viscosity index, signifying that it’s formulated for winter use. Typical formulas that are recommended for modern engines include 5W-20, 5W-30, and 10W-30, which provide good oil flow at low temperatures and can often be used year-round. When you have the oil changed, replace the oil filter as well to ensure the system has the maximum amount of flow.
Also, while the car is in the shop, have the radiator and heater hoses inspected for cracks, leaks, or contamination from oil or grease. The hoses should be firm yet pliable when you squeeze them. Scrap them if they feel brittle or overly soft.
The cooling system should be flushed and refilled as recommended. Periodically check the level, condition, and concentration of the coolant. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water is usually recommended. This will keep your coolant from freezing until temperatures are well below zero. Colder conditions, however, can call for a 60/40 or 70/30 ratio. Under no circumstances should you use a higher antifreeze-to-water ratio than this.
If you do it yourself, remember to never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled.
Consider New Tires
Do not wait until you are spinning and sliding in the snow to discover your tires are worn out. Your safety depends on tire traction, and winter-grade tires tend to be in short supply when the snow begins to fall.
In the Miami Valley, a new set of all-season tires are effective. Snow tires are not necessary. Remember that it’s safest to replace all four tires at one time.
Check Your Fluids and Filters
Make sure you check that the transmission, brake, power steering and windshield washer fluids and the aforementioned coolants are filled to proper levels. You should use de-icer windshield washer fluid which will help clear light ice and frost while preventing re-freezing.
Contaminants can get caught in your air filters and will eventually get caught inside your vehicle and cause problems. If you see any debris caught on the filter, it’s a good idea to get the filter replaced.
Tests indicate that even the best-performing wiper blades start to lose their effectiveness in as little as six months. Streaks or missed expanses of glass are sure signs that the blades are ready for retirement.
While it’s possible to stretch their life by cleaning the rubber edge of the blade periodically with a paper towel and glass cleaner, it isn’t safe to do that all winter. Instead, buy new blades, and even consider replacing them twice a year.
Keep an Emergency Kit On Hand
Always carry an emergency kit with you. Recommended items for the kit include gloves, boots and blankets; flares; a small shovel and sand or kitty litter; tire chains; a flashlight and extra batteries; and a cell phone and extra car charger. Put a few “high-energy” snacks in your glove box as well.