You wouldn't go outside in 10 degree weather for a morning run without warming up your body first, so you can't expect your car to operate properly without the same treatment. Winterize your car to keep it in optimal condition this year.
When the weather changes from warm to cold it affects your vehicle and the way it runs. All of the liquid running through the engine thickens as it sits overnight, the tubes start shrinking in the cold weather, and the tires stop getting traction on the snowy roads. So how do you properly take care of your car during the cold and lonely winter nights? You winterize it, just as you would your boat, Jet Ski, or tractor.
We all know it's important to get the proper routine maintenance checks for your vehicle throughout the year, and especially before winter, but that isn't enough to keep your car on the road. Besides getting your oil changed, your brakes checked and your fluid levels filled you need to take it one step further.
Different Engine Oil for Different Seasons
Changing your oil on a regular basis is one of the most important things to upkeep on your car because if it isn't done the engine can seize up and stop working – which is an expensive repair. Changing the oil, however, is just the first step of the process. When the weather outside is warm, or even mild, the oil is thin and can run through the engine without any issue; but as the temperature falls the oil thickens making it harder to get into the vital engine parts where it needs to be.
We recommend using thinner oil for this time of year. For example, if your car usually calls for 10W-30 in normal weather, you may want to switch to 5W-30 in the cold. This will make the oil thinner and allow it to flow through the engine in a timely manner without over working it. If you're ever worried about switching the type of oil you're used to using, you can refer to the owner's manual, or consult a mechanic.
Your Engine Coolant is More Important than you May Think
Even if you don't know anything about cars, you can pretty much guess that the engine coolant is used to prevent your vehicle from overheating – just by the name – but it actually acts as more than that in the winter. Before the snow starts really falling and you're trapped in snow drift, you should change your current coolant with a coolant that has ethylene glycol. This will help protect your engine from any corrosion it could encounter over the next few months with the snow and salt.
When you're switching out the coolants, be sure to keep in mind that each engine has different required coolant to water ratios. While it's most common to see an engine require a 60:40 ratio, they do vary and you should always consult your owner's manual or an experienced mechanic before just pouring anything into the reservoir.
Your Battery May Not Hold up this Winter
Your car's engine is not the only stubborn and bull-headed part of your car when it's cold. The battery is also temperamental when it comes to starting when it's been sitting in a cold garage, or on a cold lonely street all night. You can help prevent this from happening by getting your battery inspected thoroughly before winter comes, and if it's not in good condition or seems to be losing some power capacity you should look into buying a new car battery.
The tubes and cables under your hood can shrink up, get hard and possible crack or break during these cold days and nights, so you should check them over once a week, or so. The terminal should fit pretty tightly in the compartment and have no loose connections – which could cause the battery to short out. After you have made sure it is fitting securely without anything coming undone you need to check the battery fluid. This is done by simply uncovering the refill hole and looking in. If it looks low, like below the bottom of the cap, add some distilled water.
If you're not going to take the battery into a mechanic, or at least to someone who knows a lot about car batteries, then you need to learn how to check if there is still a large amount of voltage left. This can be done by turning your engine off (you don't want to get electrocuted) and looking at the built in hydrometer. This is a small gauge on the actual battery itself that shows you how much voltage is left in before it needs to be replaced. If your battery is somewhat old, and it doesn't have the hydrometer on the top, then you can buy a hand-held one and attach it just as you would jumper cables. You will know if the voltage is full, half or discharged by the following numbers:
- 12.6V-12.8V – fully charged
- 12.2V-12.4V – half way charged
- 11.8V-12.0V – uncharged and should be replaced
If you can't get your hands on a hydrometer, or into a mechanic, check the manufactured date stamped on the battery; if its more than a of couple years old it's likely not fully charged.
Snow Tires are Important for Any Vehicle
All-season tires are great to have on your vehicle, but in the winter time they rarely work as well as tires made for the snow. Driving in wintry conditions is not an easy task to take on, so snow tires are extremely important to have. If you live in an area where the snow falls really hard or you live on a dirt road, you may even want to get snow tires with studs to help you gain traction. If you are going to change your tires – which we recommend – be sure to switch all four because only switching two can cause damage to all the tires and wheel and uneven tread.
Protect your Windshield and Door Locks
When getting your car ready for winter many people forget one major thing (until they try to get into their car), the door locks and windshield. While you should always have an ice scraper in your vehicle for emergencies, having a good windshield washer fluid will help tremendously. It can help melt the ice so you don't have to scrap so hard, and it can also help keep the window clean while driving behind cars kicking up dirty wet snow on the highway.
Door locks can easily freeze in the winter time leaving you locked out of your car if you don't have automatic ones, and if you break your key in the door you are looking at a hefty price tag to get a new one and get the old out of the lock. If this happens to you and you're not at home or near a source of warm water you can buy a can of de-icing spray – but don't store it in your car because, well that just won't do you any good if you're locked out of it. Keep a can at home and at work so you always have it handy.
As We See It
When you set aside the extra time to prepare your car for winter you will become more comfortable with taking those road trips to family events. Don't be the person that ends up spending more money on car repairs than their holiday presents this year, and take extra precaution. If your current car isn't worth the extra time spent on it – we can help you.
You can turn your old car in at one of our partnered dealerships for a great price and get a new car loan. Worried because you have bad credit? That's no problem when you work with Auto Credit Express. Our network of dealers accept customer with any credit score and history and will be able to get you into a car today. Fill out our online car loan application today to get started.