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How to Maintain a Car in Winter

car winter maintenance

No matter how cold those winter nights were last January and February, you woke up the next morning, ate a hot breakfast, dressed snugly and were able to get going. Your car probably wasn’t that lucky though. Here are a few simple tips to increase the chances that you’ll make it to work when it’s 20 degrees below zero while your neighbor is stalled or stuck in a snowdrift. Here’s how to maintain your car in winter.

Treat your car batteries with care and make sure they’re dependable batteries, too. One of the biggest reasons why cars don’t start is because people buy cheap or poor quality batteries instead of heavy-duty ones.

Take checks of the water and perhaps the battery itself before the winter begins to determine how much life there is in it, especially if it’s two years and older. But when it’s 15 to 20 below zero, even the good batteries can be useless if they’re just too cold to run.

To properly maintain your car in winter, consider using oil heaters, or a light bulb underneath the hood or even a blanket on the battery in order to maintain some warmth inside. Speaking of inside, try disconnecting the battery with care, of course, and a wrench and take it in for the night. In the morning, reconnect the battery and just turn the ignition.

Sometimes batteries fail to start because of corrosion. Baking soda on the terminals will remove the corrosion, but for preventive measures, use vaseline, axle grease or just about any grease-based substance to keep the terminals clean. Along with the battery, there are other areas underneath the hood that you cannot neglect if you want to properly maintain a car in winter. Keeping the car properly tuned is very important, and with a tune-up kit, a little help from a car-care book or pamphlet, you can do it yourself and save money.

Make sure fan belts are tight and check the spark plug wires and distributor cap. They are non metallic and can disintegrate from the heat inside, especially in cars with electronic ignitions.

You should also check your radiator hoses for cracking and collapsing. Hoses can become brittle in the cold temperatures. Make sure the exhaust system is working properly because, a car that stalls on a road or highway can emit deadly fumes if it has an ailing exhaust.

For proper winter car maintenance, you may also consider flushing out the radiator to get rid of rust and other corrosives which could strain the water pump and other areas; merely adding the proper mixture of water and anti-freeze will keep the radiator from freezing, but won’t help lengthen the life of the system itself.

Summertime driving requires heavier 20 and 30-weight oils, and the reverse holds true in the wintertime. A multi-viscosity oil is best in the winter with a five or 10-weight preferable. Saving money by buying sale-priced heavier oils is no bargain as cars often fail to start because the heavy oil freezes and can’t go through the engine.

Another way to keep oil from freezing is to plug in a dip-stick warmer. Take out the dip stick and plug in the warmer. You need an electrical outlet, of course, to generate the warmer.

Okay, you’ve now taken care of everything under the hood, now what about under the car itself? There isn’t much you can do to prevent road salt from eating away your car except rinse the underside with a spray hose and, on warmer days, look for a car wash that’s open for business. New cars properly rustproofed aren’t as susceptible to road salt as are older models. If your crumbling vehicle is suffering from a case of terminal rust, take it to a body shop, have the rust scraped off and put panels on the car to keep it from totally disintegrating. You must not neglect this if you want to properly prepare your car for winter time.

Some rustproofing outlets can take care of older cars without using panels, however, depending on the condition of the cars. Once the motor, the battery, the radiator, the fan belt and the rust has been checked, it’s time to put on the tires, and if you feel a need to put on the caps, do so.

Radial snow tires provide up to 15 percent more traction than regular snow tires, but debunked are the claims of some people that summer radials can be used in place of regular snow tires. The summer radials do give more traction, but they don’t have the cleaning power of snow tires. Snow sticks to the radials and you lose the surface of the tires. It’s better to put on snow tires in the hilly, mountainous areas, too.

There’s no shortage of good snow tires and they are very important for maintaining your car in winter. However, drivers should be cautioned against buying the 70 or 60 series tires with the idea that wider is better. The 60 series tires are wider but they don’t cover as much area on the road as the 70s and 78s. They won’t give you as much traction in the snow.

Safe Winter Driving Tips

When preparing your car for safe winter driving, make certain your brakes are equalized. Otherwise you are apt to skid when braking on an icy patch of highway.

Unevenly worn tires can produce skids and spins in winter. When tires with good treads are used in combination with smooth tires, unequal traction results and a skid is more likely to happen.

When applying brakes on a slippery roadway, do it smoothly with light, intermittent pressure on the pedal. Drive with enough caution so that you won’t have to slam on the brakes.

Basically, a trouble-free winter maintenance and driving can be a reality if you remember that the more you take care of your car, the more it will take care of you. And if you are really concerned with how to maintain your car in winter you will take the aforementioned tips seriously.

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