To paraphrase a classic adage, “winter is coming”. Just as one would refit one’s clothing style to fit the heat of summer or the cold of winter, cars should also be refurbished to preserve their functionality in periods of cold weather. Those who fail to understand this principle risk their physical health. According to the FHA, 1,800 people die every year in car Healthy in winter and accidents in the US every winter, and 116,180 injuries are suffered during winter accidents.
Adapting cars for winter conditions is therefore important as a basic course of safety: more than that, however, it is vital for those inclined to financial frugality. The costs of buying appropriate fluids and oils, replacing mechanical equipment like brakes and wipers, and similar small-scale purchases could reduce long-term costs by triple- or even quadruple-digits.
Furthermore, where these adaptations can help avoid mechanical failures and loss of life, they will be entirely worth the time and energy spent therein. In collaboration with industry experts, we discuss eight practices that can prepare vehicles for winter conditions. Here’s a bonus tip! Consider getting carmats to protect the interior of your vehicle against dirt and grime.
Check on your car batteries
Winter has a track record of disabling car batteries as it creates pressure on their systems, as Harry Haynes from Pep Boys discusses. He notes that motor oil congeals under these conditions, forcing motors to overperform to compensate. Haynes thus advises that owners get their car batteries tested – in particular, to ensure that their terminals remain non-corroded. He also notes the possibility of seeking technical help to assess and suggest refits where necessary, especially for those batteries older than 3 to 4 years. Old batteries can have lower capacity than is needed for winter drives and are more vulnerable to shorting out under winter conditions.
Maintain your tire pressure
Winter’s frigid conditions can also make tire pressure problematic. Haynes points out that deflation is likely should a threshold of 32 degrees be crossed, and advises that tires be maintained at least once a week. This will prove beneficial to your car’s mileage efficiency and lifespan of its tires, both of which are negatively impacted by reduced tire pressure.
Maintaining appropriate levels of tire pressure will generally improve steering for cars, but it is particularly pertinent to driving in poor conditions. In general, fluctuating tire pressures can also result in increased erosion and damage to the rest of the car, which makes maintaining appropriate levels of pressure all the more important.
Purchase the Correct tires
Tires are central to finding one’s way around safely when operating cars; hence, purchasing tires capable of avoiding skidding and keeping traction with road surfaces is equally necessary. Woody Rogers notes that advanced protection mechanisms hardwired into automobiles are entirely incapable without appropriately conditioned tires.
“A robust tire design tailored to adherence to roads in cold weather preserves personal safety – it offers higher-quality control, it reduces the lengths required to halt one’s vehicle, it provides better control in extreme climates, physical barriers like ice, snow, and half-melted ice, and tilted conditions. It works optimally in the poorest of conditions.”
Check on your brakes
Rogers acknowledges that brakes are faced with particularly excessive stresses in winter conditions, and comments on the wisdom of seasonal or bi-seasonal overall maintenance for these systems. “Snow results in significant levels of humidity – added on to salt, rotors can develop patches of rust which debilitate their functions. Winter, while being a single season, contains diverse environments for drivers, and may contain dry and wet environments, slush, dense or compact snow, and ice.”
Brakes are particularly important when dealing with particularly wet environments: according to a study done in the US, braking distances can be thrice as long in wet and cold conditions compared to normal ones, and this makes having functional and instant braking mechanisms all the more important in the event of an accident. Haynes also identifies brake fluids as being vulnerable to corrosion by winter rains. “Brake fluids become polluted by the addition of minuscule water particles that harm its functions.”
Haynes goes on to suggest the addition of new fluids, particularly brands that are qualified for application in winter conditions, to brakes. He also points out that winter washer fluid is a necessary buy – other variants of brake fluid are liable to congeal and crystallize in winter climes. This is not a problem unique to brake fluids alone – antifreeze, oil, and transmission fluids require the engines to run for 10 minutes before driving can be safely attempted.
At the advent of winter, it is desirable to refit eroded tires, but should they be in relatively good condition Haynes suggests rotating them. He notes that users should maintain their tire grooves, and swapping front and back tires to put the more deeply-grooved tires at the rear is important to keep spinouts at bay in conditions of large snowfall. Tires in better shape, Haynes notes, are ultimately more desirable in the rear. Tires can also be replaced in their entirety if one wishes to play it safe: like most parts of a car, they wear off rapidly when used or exposed for long periods of time.
Ensure your wiper blades are replaced regularly
Wiper blades can be replaced relatively cheaply, with sets of acceptable quality going for below 20 US dollars, and external replacement is affordable for those unsure of the technicalities of manual installation. Due to the way they can rapidly deteriorate under winter conditions, this set of equipment should not be ignored – Haynes points out how the advent of winter creates conditions of heavy snowfall and ice formation that damage and quickly render blades inoperable. He recommends, therefore, using a new set.
Top up your gas tank
Finally, topping up one’s tank to maximum capacity is crucial to preserve automobiles. Significant volumes of air in gas tanks will contribute to the accumulation of moisture, reduce the purity of gasoline and create unnecessary pressure on car pumps and other sets of internal equipment. Freezing will significantly increase the damage this moisture deals with. Hence, filling gas tanks to maximum capacity for cars that will be occasionally used during this season can avoid the damage moisture can result in.
Many of these issues are interrelated, and cannot be fixed in isolation: for instance, water freezing can negatively impact both the steering and the braking mechanisms, while loose connections or inappropriately handled alternators can themselves be caused by poor handling to car batteries. Hence, we believe these practices can help prolong and improve the lifespan of cars when performed all at once – and we hope owners will benefit from them as much as we have.