Monday, October 04, 2010

Winterizing Your Car

Winterizing Your Car Basics
Winterizing your car with some important Preventive Maintenance procedures is by far the most important step you can take to prevent breakdowns and increase the life expectancy of your car. This applies to all makes and models and are very easy to follow even if you have two left thumbs. With freezing temperatures and chemicals on the road there are ways to beat old man winter from taking down your vehicle when you need it the most.

Check your Antifreeze Level Protection.
Your engine coolant is one of the most important fluids in your engine. If it isn't mixed properly and has more water than antifreeze you're in for trouble and in for a huge repair bill. Make sure it's mixed at least 50% water and 50% antifreeze. A handy tool to test the coolant protection is available so it can be adjusted if required. Garages have this tool or you can get your own at any parts store.

Changing your coolant along with a flush procedure every 2 years is recommended. Coolant breaks down and becomes acidic which eats away at gaskets and engine parts, so a flush and change will prevent this from happening.

Check Your Tires
Checking your tire condition, tire pressure and tread depth is important to keep you on the road (literally). Going cheap on tires will come back to haunt you when you hit a heavy snowfall. Investing in 4 mud and snow winter tires will give you the confidence you need to keep you rolling.

Tire pressure is the most important check you can make especially when they are cold since you lose tire pressure in cold weather.The National Highway Transportation Safety Board recommends 2/32" tread depth to be safe. I would at least double that recommendation to keep ahead of road hazards and flats.

Change Your Wipers
There's nothing worse than driving through a snow storm with a streaky wiper. You want to install a winter wiper blade that won't gum up with snow and ice. Winter blades have a solid wrap of rubber around the entire body so snow and ice can't accumulate around the wiper frame. Every winter season calls for wiper blade replacement so you won't get caught driving blind through an ugly snow storm.

Check Your Windshield Washer Fluid
Make sure you have winter washer fluid meaning it will not freeze when the temperature drops below freezing. Never add water to your washer reservoir. Also check your washer nozzles for proper operation before you leave home. You don't want to be reaching around and wiping off your windshield while driving because of plugged up or defective washer nozzles. Carry an extra jug of washer fluid in the trunk because you'll wish you had when you run out.

Other important checks for winterizing your car include:

-Cleaning battery posts. Sulfation build up (that green stuff) will cause resistance and a no start condition when the demands of cold weather hits. It doesn't hurt to get a battery load test as well. This will tell you what kind of condition your battery is in and will possibly save you a service call.

Do you belong to a Auto Club? I think they're a great investment. I locked my keys in my truck one time and was quite impressed with the service. They have all the right tools for breaking into a vehicle. Not only do they give you confidence but save you from worrying about what to do if you break down. Check out your local automobile association for more details.

-Checking the belt tension and condition. check for any deterioration and proper belt tension. Some front wheel drive vehicles require special tools to change a fan belt. My GM 3.4 liter needs a hoist to suspend the engine in the air to remove the front motor mount so the belt can be replaced. "When in doubt change it out"

-Engine, transmission and power steering oil levels. Check oil levels and change oil according to your vehicle owner's manual. Know your fluids and where to check them.

Blast From The Past:   Why it's important to know your vehicle.
I remember when I worked at a busy truck stop and this nice young couple stopped saying their transmission was not shifting properly. I could not even look at it being very busy but asked if they checked the transmission oil level. They told me it was right up. The next day after they paid for a hotel room I checked the trans level and it was right down below the stick. It took a few liters of oil and shifted fine after that.

The driver  thought the power steering oil reservoir was where you checked the transmission level. The car owners were embarrassed to say the least. They had learned an important lesson to learn the basics of their vehicle and prevent unnecessary breakdowns.

-Inspect coolant hoses for leaks and that spongy feeling. The rubber will eventually breakdown on coolant hoses so they have to be checked out on a regular basis for leakage and a soft spongy feeling which indicates it's time for replacement.

These are basic checks when it comes to winterizing your car but so important when it comes to preventing a breakdown on your vehicle. Every Fall is a good time to carry out these checks. Winter is a killer on vehicles that owners neglect to get checked over. These steps are for the most part inexpensive and will greatly reduce the odds of an unexpected failure.

Here are some other posts you might be interested in: 

How To Choose The Right Auto Repair Shop
How To Be Environmentally Responsible While Maintaining Your Vehicle
Tire Care Precautions


migaz said...

This is good info to print out & post on the wall as a reminder & to share with family & friends that may or may not be so car savvy. Thanks!

mikee said...

Thanks for the blog and all the info you share. I have a question concerning the air brakes on a school bus. Our maintainance guy has said that water won't hurt the system and the dryer does not need to be changed, just drained every day. I am concerned that with winter coming up, am I going to be facing possible brake failure?

John Whelan said...

He's right about draining the water every day but the air dryer must be serviced periodically. The dessicant filter inside may be at it's limit if it hasn't been changed for a long time. Also make sure the heater at the bottom of the dryer is working. It gets power from the ignition circuit.

John Whelan said...

Thanks Migas, You're right about that. Basic information can go a long way on saving money and headaches.

mikee said...

what if they don't service it? there are some busses that have only been drained for years.the only time they actually fix something is after it fails. They only fix the brakes after they cam over, and I'm concerned.
The purge valve is plugged and not releasing. How much does that cost if I decided to just change it and the filter myself? Is that something I can get at Napa or AutoZone, or do I have to go to Frieghtliner? Thanks for your input.

John Whelan said...

If they don't fix it the entire air system will either gum up with sludge or freeze up in the winter.

The air dryer kit (dessicant filter) can be purchased at any truck shop or heavy duty parts dealer. They run around 20 to 25 bucks canadian.

You will also need a purge kit to replace the bottom end pieces(not sure about that cost in your area).

The heater down below may be an extra cost as well. Usually they are OK unless it's deteriorated.

I don't like hearing stories about brakes going into cam over. That's no way to run a piece of equipment. Especially if it's carrying passengers.

I agree you need to be very concerned especially if you're the driver behind the wheel.

John Whelan said...

Go to the top of the page on my blog and on the left side you will see a search box. enter 'air dryer' I have a post on how to service one. It's an AD9 model by Bendix (very common).
Good Luck