WINTERIZE YOUR VEHICLE
As Canadians, we’re no strangers to harsh winter weather. But that doesn’t mean the cold, snow or freezing rain won’t take a toll on your vehicle. The best action you can take against this toll is to winterize your vehicle.
Here are some helpful ways you can do just that, ensuring a long and happy life for your vehicle:
Keep it Clean
By far one of the best things you can do for your car in the winter months is to have regular visits to the car wash. The salt and grime from Canadian roads during the winter will cause erosion and rust on your vehicle.
Making sure you dry your car properly is just as important as washing it. For proper drying techniques, follow these guidelines:
Don’t wash in extreme cold (temperatures lower than -20 degrees Celsius) as your car is likely to freeze before you are able to dry it off
Try to wash in the middle of the day or warmer parts of the day where the sun can help keep your car warm
Bring a microfibre or no scratch cloth to dry water from some areas to prevent freezing. Pay attention to windows and mirrors; doors jambs, hinges, locks, weather stripping; trunk latches, hinges and jambs; fuel tank hinge and area; and your hood latch
If possible, store your vehicle in a heated garage following your wash to allow your vehicle to fully dry.
Applying wax is also important in the winter months. It will help prevent road salt, dirt and grime from adhering to your vehicle.
Belts and Hoses in the Winter
The belts and hoses responsible for your engine running can become weak in the cold. If one snaps while you’re driving, you may have to call a tow truck. Check them regularly to ensure proper functioning.
When you check your hoses, squeeze them near the clamps (when your engine is cool) to check for softness. Look for cracks, tears, nicks and bulges. Keep an eye on coolant levels, too. If you see colourful streaks in your engine, it could be coolant leaking from a hose.
When you check your belts, look for frays, cracks or belts that look slick or glazed.
There’s nothing quite like a fresh set of windshield wipers when you need them the most — change your wipers at the beginning of the cold weather season to make sure you’re always prepared. Be sure to fill up your windshield washer fluid, too. It’s a good idea to use a winterized washer fluid that contains a de-icer.
Before you get your winter tires put on for the season, be sure to double-check the tire tread. You don’t want to be driving on bald tires when it’s icy out! Also, be sure to regularly check your tire pressure. Low tire pressure can negatively affect your ability to control your car.
Winter Driving Skills
You may want to brush up on your winter driving skills.
Maintain a safe distance from other cars and be sure to drive slowly and carefully. If your vehicle enters a skid, ease off the brake or accelerator and stay calm. Look and steer into the direction you would like to go without oversteering. If you’re skidding on ice in a straight line, shift your car into neutral or compress your clutch. And always, don’t drive in unsafe conditions or if you aren’t confident in your winter driving abilities!
Winterize Your Vehicle Fluids
Your vehicle’s fluids can be impacted by extreme temperatures.
The colder it is outside, the thicker your oil will be. As oil thickens, it can become difficult for your engine to properly circulate it. Use a winter-specific motor oil such as SONIC® Synthetic for gasoline engines or CO-OP® D-MO® Synthetic for diesel engines.
Anti-freeze is also a very important cold-weather fluid. Check the composition of your fluid with an anti-freeze tester — the anti-freeze mixture in your radiator should be about 50:50.
Try to keep your tank as full as possible to avoid letting your fuel lines freeze.
Starting up in Extreme Cold
There are a lot of things that can go wrong with driving in the winter — one of the most irritating is not being able to start your car!
Extreme cold can affect your battery. When temperatures drop, it takes more current from your battery to get started. You may want to have a mechanic run a battery load test. Make sure your battery is clean, without any noticeable corrosion.
It’s hard to find a vehicle in the Prairies that isn’t equipped with an engine block heater to keep things running smoothly in the coldest months of the year. Remember to plug in your vehicle if it will be parked in the cold for long periods of time. Because your car only needs to be plugged in for three to four hours, we recommend investing in a block heater timer, available at Co-op Home Centres. It’s a smart (and often overlooked) way to ensure you’re not using more electricity than you need.
Does your vehicle refuse to heat up in the winter? It could be a number of things, one of which may very well be a blocked heater core. You can fix this with a fluid flush — you’ll want to flush it a few times with water or air to remove the blockage. When in doubt, consult a mechanic.