Winter is coming, and that means facing snow, ice, and frigid temperatures. By taking a few steps now, you can prepare your car for the season, so you can minimize the chance of breakdowns and accidents.
Put Together an Emergency Kit
Even if you avoid sliding off the road, a blizzard or severe accident can leave you stuck for hours. Make sure you have these items on hand:
- Phone charger
- Kitty litter
- Road flares
Modern antifreeze can last up to 150,000 miles, but age will cause it to break down, requiring replacement at least every 5 years. Old antifreeze not only increases corrosion inside your car’s coolant system, it’s also less resistant to freezing, putting your engine at risk of cracking or pushing out freeze plugs as the ice pushes on the walls of the coolant channels. If you’re not sure about the state of your car’s coolant, pick up an antifreeze tester from your local parts store. This tester can draw coolant from the radiator or overflow tank and show you its freezing point.
If you add coolant or change it yourself, make sure it’s mixed correctly: straight antifreeze is usually designed to be mixed in an equal ratio with distilled water, while 50/50 mix should be added directly to the coolant system without being diluted.
Battery and Oil
The chemical reactions inside your car’s battery are slowed down by temperature, reducing available power. While there may still be enough power to run accessories, the starter is a “reactive” load, requiring a large amount of power to get started. Oil also gets thicker in cold temperatures, increasing the power needed to turn the motor over. Together, these factors can keep your car from starting.
First, take a look at the battery: there should be a warranty sticker on top. If the warranty time has passed, getting a replacement now will keep you from being stranded.
Some batteries are maintenance free, while others need to be topped up with distilled water from time to time. If your battery has plastic caps on top, pull them off to check the water level. There should be markers inside showing the water level; overfilling could cause the electrolyte to drip out of the battery, corroding the metal battery pan and any parts beneath it. If you have a maintenance-free battery, it has a system to capture water boiled off during charging. These batteries will have a small window on top indicating the battery health, and a sticker next to it showing what each color indicates. For most batteries, a yellow window means the battery is due for replacement.
If your car’s engine can use multiple oil weights, consider using the lightest recommended formulation. Consider switching to a synthetic oil, as they stay thin at lower temperatures than conventional oils.
Your car will be easier to start if it’s already warm. An engine block heater warms the coolant for easier starts and less time to get the engine up to running temperature, reducing fuel consumption and getting heat into the cabin faster. A battery blanket protects the battery from cold. Some versions have an electric heater to pre-warm the battery before starting. If you have the space available, parking your car in a garage to shield it from the elements.
Wipers and Fluid
Consider switching to winter wipers: they’re designed for cold weather with thicker blades and boots that help shield them from ice and snow.
When topping up the wiper fluid tank, make sure you’re using a winter formulation. Summer formulas, which go on sale this time of year, can freeze at low temperatures.
Winter tires may be seen primarily as a way to increase traction on slick surfaces, but they’re also made with rubber compounds that stay pliable at low temperatures. Switching to winter tires when temperatures dip below 40°F will improve handling and reduce braking distances, even if there isn’t any snow on the ground.
Switching from a daily driver to a beater this season? A trickle charger can keep the battery from losing its charge during storage, so it won’t need to be replaced next year, while a fuel stabilizer will keep the fuel from going stale, which can lead to hard starting, lacquering and corrosion.
When water and iron mix, it creates rust. Add in some road salts, and the water can attach the metal faster, turning your car’s body panels and frame into a crumbly mess. Stopping rust requires complete coverage with a rustproofing agent: if rust starts at any point, it can spread beneath the rustproofing and paint. If you want to drive your car for years to come, bring it into Merton Auto Body before the first big winter storm. Our experienced auto body technicians can get the coverage needed to keep corrosion at bay.