10 Winter Car Care Tips to Keep You Safe on the Road
Driving in winter weather can be nerveracking. We've compiled ten areas of your car that should be inspected before winter driving - so you know you have the best opportunity to safely navigate the roads this season.
Tread provides traction which is necessary to keep the car connected with the road. This is especially important during wet and cold weather. Rain, snow, ice, or even mud can cause uncontrollable conditions without the right amount of tire tread.
As temperatures drop or fluctuate, the air inside your tires does as well. Decreases in temperature cause air to contract which lowers the air pressure in your tires. Checking tire pressures regularly is important especially when temperatures are constantly fluctuating. We recommend checking tire pressure when tires are cold.
Brake Fluid pulls moisture in from the air. Over time this moisture degrades the fluid so that it cannot properly function as designed. In the winter, moisture in your braking system can freeze causing a serious safety concern. Inspecting the brake fluid for moisture content is critical each year and especially as you enter winter weather.
Brake Pads, DISCs
Stopping a vehicle requires friction. You depress your brake pedal, the hydraulic fluid causes the brake caliper to press the brake pad against the disc. The rubbing of the pad against the disc creates friction which converts the kinetic energy into heat in the brake pad. (This heat can get up to 950 degrees or more!) Brake pads must be made of special materials that won't melt at those temperatures. A worn pad will not stop safely in winter driving conditions.
Oils & Fluids
Power Steering Fluid
Hydraulic fluid gets thicket in colder weather. A failing power steering pump can be completely demolished in cold weather because thicker fluid is harder to pump through the system. Low level fluid means there is a leak somewhere and leaks mean air can get in and out of the fluid which introduces contaminants.
Coolant / Antifreeze
Coolant strength is most important in winter months. If the coolant isn't strong enough to withstand freezing temperatures, a cold bout means all that watered down coolant could freeze and damage your engine block (that means you need a new engine.) The right level and strength is what we're checking for.
Engine oil should be clean and content free, at the right level, and not discolored or burned. We use mostly synthetic oils which work well in the winter. Conventional oils have molecule size differences which may not always flow as easily through the engine's lubrication system. Synthetic oils have the same sized molecules to avoid this issue. We're checking for level and color/content upon inspection.
One top safety item in the winter is lighting. You want people to be able to see you when they're driving behind you. You also want to be able to see in front of you as you're driving. It's darker earlier in the day so lighting is critical during winter months. We check all lighting and even perform headlight restorations to get rid of the oxidization present.
Windscreens & Wipers
Another safety impact is an inability to see through your windscreen (windshield as the Americans call it). We check the visibility through the windows (cracks, chips, etc). We also look at the wiper blades on the front and rear screens. We're looking for streaking on the screen and tearing/cracking in the blades. In our area, wipers should be replaced every six months. Severe cold weather destroys wiper blades. (OH, and never use the wipers to try to remove ice from the windscreen. You could rip the wiper blade off or worse, destroy your wiper motor and/or transmission.)
Starting & Charging System
Batteries often leave people stranded in the winter. A cold battery has reduced cranking power, and cold temperatures thicken motor oil, making it harder to turn the engine over. Modern electrical and fuel systems can mask a weak battery by starting an engine with a minimum of cranking, but when a weak battery is further compromised by cold conditions, it is more likely to fail. This is why you may never experience a non-start situation but you may be told by a shop that your battery is bad. We check the battery to make sure it's good to last the harsh winter temperatures.We also test the alternator at the same time to make sure it's working properly.
With cars having 30,000+ car parts today, these are the top ten areas that can leave you stranded in the winter. If you'd like to see this inspection process, we created this quick video for you! Our goal is to keep you SAFE on the road.