Eight Checks To Avoid Winter Car Problems
The low temperatures, slippery roads and poor visibility makes driving difficult in winter. What you don’t want is a breakdown or an accident that leaves you stranded in bad weather and possibly in the dark. Cold temperatures are tough on vehicles. Fluids become thick, rubber parts become hard, batteries are less efficient and engines have a harder time starting up. While the weather is not in your control, you can minimise the chances of car problems by checking your car before winter sets in.
1. Avoid Starting Problems
Batteries work best in warm weather. The cold winter temperatures reduce their efficiency and performance. It’s risky to drive with a battery that is problematic, low on charge or at the end of its life.
Get the condition of your battery checked well before the onset of winter. This is very important if your battery is over three years old, your vehicle is used sparingly or you mostly drive short distances. Getting it checked gives you a chance to top up the electrolyte and get the battery fully charged. This reduces the possibility of starting problems in winter. If your battery is close to the end of its life, it’s better to replace it. Such batteries are unpredictable and may die at the worst possible moment leaving you stranded.
2. Check The Coolant
The coolant is a mixture of water and antifreeze in equal proportion. In places with very harsh winter, you may need to change this slightly. The antifreeze prevents the coolant from freezing. However, its components deteriorate with age and use. Check the condition of the coolant before winter and replace it if needed.
3. Are Your Tyres In Good Shape?
You need good tyres to maintain your grip on wet and slippery roads. A worn tyre can result in a skid making you lose control over your vehicle. Before winter starts, check the tread depth of all your tyres, including the spare. Special winter tyres are recommended if you are in a region where the mercury drops below 7°C. Winter tyres stay more flexible and perform better at low temperatures than regular tyres.
Even good tyres won’t perform well if they are not properly inflated. In cold weather, tyres tend to lose pressure. Underinflated tyres reduce your ability to control the vehicle besides increasing fuel consumption. Check tyre pressures more frequently in winter. Don’t forget to check the spare tyre. Always check tyre pressures before your trip if you intend to drive long distances.
The importance of having good brakes on bad winter roads cannot be overstated. You don’t want to drive in winter with worn out brake pads or faulty brakes. If you have even the slightest doubt about your brakes or the ABS, get it checked and fixed without delay.
5. Engine Oil
Check the level and condition of the engine oil. Top it up or replace if needed.
6. Wipers And Lights
Visibility is poor in winter and it becomes worse with rain or snow. You will depend a lot on your wipers and it makes sense to ensure that they are functioning well. If a wiper is operating, but not clearing the windscreen, you may need new blades. Check the level of the windscreen washer fluid and top it up if necessary.
Lights and indicators are critical. You need them to see the road and be seen by other drivers. Check for and replace worn out lamps. Clean your headlights if they have become yellow or foggy.
7. The HVAC System
You need the HVAC system to keep the cabin warm and the defroster to clear foggy windows. Check it and get it serviced if needed.
Clean or change cabin filters if they are too dirty. They clean the air as it enters the cabin. If they are clogged with dirt or other material, hot air coming from the heater may dislodge the dirt and send it into your car.
8. Rubber Parts
Cold weather is tough on rubber parts. They become hard and lose some of their flexibility. A critical rubber component in your car is the engine belt. A damaged belt can snap in winter and leave you stranded. Check all moving rubber belts and get them replaced if needed.
A pre-season car check is ideal to avoid winter car problems. The best way to do it is to get your vehicle checked by a good mechanic or garage. If you are getting your car regularly serviced, you are less likely to have winter car problems.
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