How to prepare your car for winter
Winter puts additional stress on your car’s electrical, heating, fuel and ignition systems, so it’s important to prepare your car for winter before the really cold weather hits. Here’s what to check before winter.
Prepare your car for winter by checking your battery
Your car battery generates power through a chemical reaction and that reaction slows down in cold weather even in a new battery. So it produces less power when it’s cold. Ironically, your cold engine needs more cranking power to spin the engine with cold oil. Less power available but more powered required is a bad scenario for an old worn out battery.
That’s why it’s so important to having your car battery tested before cold weather hits. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can tell a car battery’s condition just by checking voltage. That only tells you that the battery is good on the day you tested it. It can’t predict how it will work weeks from now. Most auto parts stores will test your battery for free with a state of the art tester. Those testers look at the current state of charge, internal resistance and capacitance and perform a simulated load test. The resistance, capacitance and load tests are much more reliable predictor of your battery’s condition.
If the battery results are on the edge, replace your battery now before it leaves you stranded.
Learn how to test a car battery
Learn how to clean battery terminals
Learn how to test your car’s alternator
Learn how to install a new car battery
How long do car batteries last?
What IS an AGM battery?
Prepare your car for winter by checking the serpentine and other drive belts
You use a lot more power in winter to run your wipers, blower motor,
rear window defogger, headlights and seat warmer. That means your alternator must work harder to produce the power and recharge the battery. The alternator is driven by a belt, and if that belt or the automatic belt tensioner is worn, it’ll slip and reduce alternator output.
Polygroove belts are often called serpentine belts. But that’s a bit misleading. To be designated as a serpentine belt, it must drive engine components from the front and backsides of the belt. Other polygroove belts look like serpentine belts, but only drive on the ribbed side.
Older polygroove belts were made from neoprene didn’t stand up to heat very well. You could check a neoprene belt simply by looking for cracks in the ribs. But car makers switched to ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) rubber belts around 1995. EPDM belts don’t crack like neoprene, so you can’t check their condition visually. You MUST use a belt wear gauge.
What happens when a polygroove belt wears?
A polygroove belt is nothing more than a traditional “V” belt that’s shrunken down in size with multiple ribs spaced side by side. When a “V” style belt wore, the belt would ride lower in the pulley causing slip and squeal. When the “V’s” on a polygroove belt wear, the “V” no longer contact the pulley. Instead, the belt drive the pulley from the belt backing. That causes slip and noise, resulting in lower alternator output when you need it most. Plus, the noise and vibration accelerate bearing wear. If your drive belts are worn, replace them before winter.
Learn how to check the wear on a polygroove belt
Check your coolant
Coolant wears out and when that happens it loses its anti-freeze capabilities, along with its ability to protect against corrosion. Worn out coolant can freeze inside the engine, expand and cause catastrophic engine damage.
So check your car’s coolant freeze protection and its anti-corrosive properties. If it’s worn, get a cooling system flush. That’ll remove any crud in the system and heat put out maximum heat from your heater.
Replace your headlights
Headlight bulbs have a limited lifespan and their light output dims as they age. In fact, you’ll get about 20% less light from a 2-yr old headlight bulb compared to a new bulb. Since you spend more time in the dark in winter, you’ll be using your headlights more often. So replacing them before they lose 20% of their output is critical to your safety. Also, always replace headlights in pairs. After all, both headlights burn the same amount of time.
Replace parking, stop and turn signal bulbs at the same time as headlights
It’s harder for other drivers to see you in winter conditions, so having operational parking, turn, stop and side market lights is critical to avoid being in an accident. Since parking, license plate and side market lights are on the same number of hours as your headlights, it’s good practice to replace all of them when you change headlight bulbs. While you’re at it, change the turn signal and stop lights too.
Check tire tread depth
You need good tire tread depth in winter to get good traction and improve stopping distances. Forget about “penny trick” you see online. Buy an actual tire tread depth gauge at any auto parts store and measure the depth yourself. If your tread is 4/32” or less, you’re due for new tires. If you try to skate by on old worn out tires, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing—skating.
When to buy new tires
How to buy new tires
What’s the difference between economy and premium tires?
Do you really need a tire pressure sensor rebuild when you get new tires?
Should you buy a road hazard warranty?
How does outside temperature affect tire pressure?
Is tire rotation really necessary?
Change your wiper blades
Traditional wiper blades clog up with snow and ice and cause streaks. So switch to winter wiper blades. They stay clog free and you’ll need that clean squeegee operation to get you clear vision at night and when it’s snowing.
Pack an emergency winter survival kit
©, 2018 Rick Muscoplat
Posted on by Rick Muscoplat