Each new season brings with it special challenges for keeping a vehicle in top condition. With winter looming on the horizon, it’s time to start thinking about the maintenance needed to keep a vehicle running all season long. Cold weather can be rough on a car’s engine, so it’s important to get the right maintenance before the winter season begins.
Inspect Your Tires
Consider getting new tires to prepare a vehicle for changing winter conditions. Snow and slick roads can make it difficult to control the vehicle, and it could put the lives of every passenger in the vehicle at risk. For areas that don’t get significant amounts of snow, the best option is to install a pair of all-season tires. When replacing tires, keep in mind that the vehicle will perform the best when all four tires are replaced at the same time. Snow tires are great for areas that get a lot of snow, but they do have shorter read life and may not provide the same smooth driving experience as all-season tires.
During the actual winter season, it’s important to check tire pressure weekly. Temperature fluctuations can have a negative impact on tire pressure in the winter. Because air contracts as it gets colder, the tire pressure may become too low. Since tire pressure can drop from 1 to 2 pounds for every 10-degree reduction in temperature, it’s important to continually check the tire pressure throughout the entire winter season. Proper air pressure helps the vehicle to handle effectively, get better gas mileage and improve steering.
Replace Air Filters
This applies to both the engine air filter and the cabin air filter. Not all vehicles have a cabin air filter, so it’s best the check the owner’s manual to see if a particular vehicle has one installed. In most cases, the cabin air filter is located near the glovebox, and it can be easily changed with some basic tools. Keeping the filters in the vehicle changed can help improve gas mileage and prevent other issues later on down the road.
The engine air filter catches contaminants that might otherwise get inside the vehicle. It’s a good idea to replace the filter regularly. A good air filter won’t cost very much, and installing it only takes a few moments. Most engine air filters won’t even require any special tools. If a vehicle does have a cabin air filter, replacing it can help to keep the air inside the cabin clean. In most cases, cabin air filters are also easy to access. However, some older vehicle models may require removing the dashboard.
Perform Battery Maintenance
It’s not always necessary to replace the battery in the vehicle, but it’s a good idea to inspect it before the cold weather hits. Most batteries die in the heat of summer or the extreme cold of winter. Checking the battery regularly can help avoid a breakdown situation in freezing temperatures. Cold weather can reduce the cranking power of a battery by a significant amount. When the thermostat hits zero, a car battery loses about half of its cranking power compared to moderate 80 degree Fahrenheit temperatures.
Important components of the car battery that should be inspected include the fluid level. If the level is low, make sure to use only distilled water. Some newer batteries don’t require any maintenance, so it’s important to check for information on the specific car battery to know what to look for. Car batteries that are older than three years old should be tested at a service station. Once a battery hits four years of age, it’s time to start thinking about replacing the battery.
Inspect Your Windows
One of the biggest mistakes people make in the winter is to try to use the wiper blades to clear ice from the windows. This is going to ruin your perfectly good wiper blades, and it’s going to take much more time than using a simple ice-scraper. Check the wiper blades to see if they need to be replaced before winter sets in. Wiper blades should be replaced about every six months. Replacing the blades in November and April ensures that the blades are in top condition year-round. Consider using the newer beam-style wiper blades on the vehicle. These blades tend to work better in cold climates since there is no spring to freeze up. These blades conform to the shape of the windshield and typically last longer than other styles of wipers. It’s also a good idea to replace any of the windshield washer fluid with a blend that is designed for winter use. This helps prevent the fluid from freezing, and it can keep the wipers running in top condition and ready for use in the most extreme cold.
On the inside of the vehicle, make sure the heater in the dashboard is functioning properly. If the heater is clogged or blocked by anything on the dashboard, make sure to clear a way so that the heater can do its job keeping the windows free of fog during the defrost mode. If the vehicle is parked outside, consider getting a weatherproof car cover. This can save the paint from fading away and help to keep debris and other elements from harming the vehicle. A car cover can also help prevent the car windows from freezing over, and it will protect the vehicle from the effects of harsh wind and flying objects that can damage a vehicle in extreme weather conditions.
Checking the Engine
The type of oil used in the vehicle may change depending on the location where the vehicle is used. An oil and filter change is warranted before the winter cold sets in, and dirty oil can end up wreaking havoc on the engine. In general, oil should be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, and vehicles that use synthetic oil can get away with even longer intervals. Synthetic oil also performs better in cold weather than conventional oil, and any vehicle that accepts conventional oil can use synthetics. It’s true that early synthetics had issues with leaking, but this is no longer the case with newer synthetic oils.
The viscosity grade of the oil used for a winter vehicle is also an important factor. Oils that have a grade of 5W-30 are better for cold climates. This oil grade can actually be used year-round for general engine protection. Using 5W-30 allows the oil to flow more quickly in cold weather, and it can help reduce strain on the vehicle’s engine. This becomes especially important for vehicles that are older and have high mileage. While checking the engine oil, it’s also a good idea to inspect all of the belts and hoses in the vehicle. Since cold weather can reduce the lifespan of belts and hoses, it’s important to replace any cracked or faded components. If one of the belts in the engine breaks, it’s going to end up costing much more money to fix the vehicle. The cost of a belt is relatively cheap. Vehicles that have an interference engine will definitely experience engine damage if a belt breaks.
By taking the time to evaluate your car before the winter months hit, it’s possible to avoid many preventable emergencies. If you’re vehicle is due for major maintenance, it’s a good idea to take care of that before the cold weather comes bearing down. Get your tires aligned, check your brakes for signs of wear and get a complete inspection to make sure you’ve caught any potential issues. By taking care of these issues now, you can enjoy a long and safe winter while safe in the knowledge you’ve done everything you could to prepare your vehicle.
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