Proper winter car maintenance is essential during the winter season if you want to keep your car in top condition and drive safely.
Ignoring this fact may cause you problems and headaches (car won’t start, slipping off the road, coolant freeze etc.)
As all drivers know, winter tends to be very harsh, both to the car and driver. Low temperatures, ice and snow, salt on the road are just some of the things that can cause problems if you’re not prepared.
Besides knowing how to drive in winter conditions, here are some tips for winter car winter maintenance that will help:
• Winter tires
Besides the battery maintenance, this is the MOST important thing you have to check before the winter season. Remember, the only thing holding you to the road are the tires. All the high-tech helpers installed on the car such as ABS, ESP etc. will not keep you on the road if the tires are worn out.
Most important things you should check:
– season marking on the tire: make sure the tires are for the winter season (on all tires there will be a season mark on the visible side of the tire).
-depth of the tire tread: if the tire tread is worn out you’ll have no grip on the road rendering the tire useless.
-tire age: although a tire can have a deep tread this doesn’t mean it’s safe. Check the manufacturing date on the visible side of the tire. If it’s too old (over 3 years), immediately make a replacement. Tires tend to lose their characteristics over time even if they weren’t driven much. This can lead to having to replace a flat tire.
• Car battery condition and maintenance
Make sure that your battery is in top condition. Check that the battery cells have the proper level of electrolyte (the fluid inside the battery cells). If there’s a shadow of a doubt (weak cranking, dim lights, possible problems with the electronics) replace the car battery right away or try to recharge it. The last thing you need are problems with starting your car (on a snowy road or blizzard, before work, with kids in the car etc.).
• Coolant check
Checking the engine coolant is very important. If the coolant doesn’t have proper freezing resistance it can cause a lot of engine damage and problems with maintenance (for instance a cracked engine block). You can do this check on your own with a simple coolant meter. Do the check-up when the coolant is still cold (possibly in the morning). If the level is low, add some coolant, just don’t over do it. Make sure that the coolant resistance temperature is between -20 (minimum) and -40 degrees Celsius. If it’s on the verge of -20 degrees Celsius change the coolant to avoid risk of freezing.
Wash the car on a regular basis. One of the worst enemies of the car body is the winter season. All of the moist, dirt and especially salt on the road will harm the car body paint and lacquer. This means risk of corrosion (rust) which can be a big and costly maintenance problem. Washing your car thoroughly and removing all the dirt, salt and snow will reduce that risk. Also, if you have any rust issues on the car body solve them before the winter season or it will get drastically worse. If possible, apply protective wax coating to the car body.
• Winter equipment
This isn’t exactly maintenance, but nevertheless, it has to be mentioned in the car winter season.
Make sure that you have it all, especially if you’re going on a longer trip. The basic car winter equipment is obligatory by law in most countries anyway. In your car, you should have:
-wheel snow chains, if you get in deep snow (this is a must-have in winter season, obligatory by law in almost all countries)
-basic tool kit, for minor repairs
-ice scraper and brush – there are cheap and handy combinations of these two that you can buy almost anywhere, if possible also have a mini shovel.
-flashlight-make sure you buy a more quality one, so it doesn’t let you down in a critical situation
If the windshield wipers start to smudge or squeak during usage, this is a sure sign that you should replace the windshield wiper blades. Worn out wiper blades cause lack of visibility thus putting you in danger. This is a maintenance that is easy to do and relatively cheap but means the world in winter driving.
• Fuel additives
Fuel in the tank tends to “thicken” during low temperatures. Fuel additives stop this from happening making a winter start and driving more easy (this goes double for diesel fuel and engines) You can buy these additives almost everywhere and the application is simple ( fill up the gas tank with fuel and pour the additive inside).
• Floor mats
Although this may not seem as a part of winter car maintenance, the floor mats are actually very important. It’s unbelievable how much mud. snow and dirt can be brought inside the cabin. If these come in contact with the carpets or floor panels moist begins to appear. This again produces, (besides an unhealthy environment in the passengers cabin) the possibility of floor panel corrosion. Especially if there’s a scratched or damaged part of the panel. This can lead to future costly maintenance problems.If you can, use only thick rubber mats. Although they are more costly than the half plastic-half rubber ones, in the long run they’re cheaper. Especially since they offer better protection. Also, buy floor mats that have a heightened rim so that the melted snow and mud from outside doesn’t reach the floor carpet.